Incidents of bias, discrimination and harassment are all acts that target individuals or groups based on their membership in a protected class. Although these types of incidents may be similar, the definitions, responding offices, and disciplinary processes differ. Understanding these issues can help you understand what options are available to address them when reporting an incident.
Protected classes include race, color, religion, sex, national or ethnic origin – including actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics or citizenship, or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identity (including, but not limited to, individuals who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Israeli, Arab, or Palestinian, or who come from or are perceived to come from other regions of the world or are members of another religious group) – age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, caste, or any other characteristic protected under applicable law or University policy.
A bias incident is any consciously, unconsciously, explicitly, or implicitly expressed act that targets individuals or groups based on perceived or actual identity. To be considered a bias incident, the act is not required to be a crime under any federal, state or local law, nor does it have to violate University policy. A bias incident can refer to single or ongoing instances of behavior, action, or practice that marginalizes, demeans, intimidates, or threatens individuals or groups based on an actual or perceived membership in a protected class.
An incident of discrimination is defined as unequal treatment of someone because of their protected class. Discrimination is a violation of Brown’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy when it results in an adverse action or negatively impacts the terms and conditions of an individual’s employment or education, or denies or limits participation in programs, services or activities.
An incident of harassment is defined as conduct that is based upon an individual’s protected class and the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a working, educational or living environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, abusive or offensive. A determination of whether conduct is considered hostile is based on the totality of the circumstances of the situation. Isolated incidents or comments (unless extremely serious) will generally not rise to the level of harassment under Brown’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.
Retaliation is an action that adversely affects a staff, faculty, student, contractor, visitor or other member of the University community after they report potential violations. Such action may include intimidation, reprisal, coercion, threats, discharge, discipline or discrimination in employment. Brown prohibits retaliation against employees who make good faith reports of potential violations of laws, regulations or a University policy, recognizing that employees who report violations must be free from fear of retaliation in support of the University’s mission. Acts of retaliation can also be reported via the online reporting form.