University of Kentucky

Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity

FAQs regarding Sexual Harassment and other forms of Discrimination

The Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity is always available to listen and advise.

Call us at (859) 257-8927
OR
If you prefer, send an email.

AskEO@email.uky.edu is an active email address available for people seeking information regarding AA/EO issues at the University of Kentucky. The Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity strives to respond to specific questions received through AskEO within 48 hours Monday through Friday.

AskEO@email.uky.edu is NOT the appropriate vehicle for making discrimination complaints or allegations of sexual or racial harassment. The University of Kentucky is seriously committed to eliminating any form of discrimination. People with complaints of any nature should contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity as soon as possible at (859) 257-8927.

Following, are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions at the University of Kentucky regarding discrimination complaints. *

Who may make a complaint of sexual harassment or discrimination?

Any member of the UK community may report complaints of harassment or discrimination.

Sexual harassment, a form of discrimination, can occur in all types of circumstances and relationships including those between or among individuals of different sexes or of the same sex; in relationships of unequal power (for example, between supervisor and employee, faculty member and student, employee and job applicant); and in relationships of equal power (for example, between fellow employees or fellow students).

Racial harassment is a form of discrimination based on race, color or national origin. It can include many types of actions and results when different treatment occurs without a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason or when an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment is created.

Other forms of discrimination may be present when different treatment occurs or when an intimidating or hostile environment is created without a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason.

Can I anonymously report sexual harassment?

Because allegations of sexual harassment and all forms of discrimination are considered serious and could result in corrective action, anonymity is not permitted. However, the privacy of persons who make complaints of harassment will be respected and discretion is exercised. Disciplinary action may not occur based on an anonymous complaint.

What should I do if I feel I have been sexually harassed?

Any member of the University community who believes he/she has experienced sexual harassment or any form of discrimination may seek information and advice by contacting the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity. Anyone experiencing discrimination at the University of Kentucky is encouraged to file a complaint.

How do I file a complaint?

Individuals who have experienced sexual harassment or discrimination in any form may initiate a complaint by contacting the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity. At that time every effort is made to address a complainant's concerns some of which may include; personal safety, workplace climate, retaliation, counseling needs, etc. Each situation is unique and must be addressed as such. The Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity is responsible for providing information, advice, and prompt and equitable resolution to discrimination complaints.

A complaint may also be initiated by talking to any dean, director, department head, manager, supervisor, faculty member, or other person with supervisory responsibility at the University, who will help resolve the matter and contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity.

Must sexual harassment and other discrimination complaints be made in writing?

No. Complaints may be made by speaking to a representative in the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity. However, a staff member in the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity may request that you prepare a written statement setting forth the particulars of the complaint.

If an investigation ensues, representatives of the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity will document statements from individuals. Upon concluding interviews, parties may be asked to review notes and verify the accuracy of their statements.

Are discrimination complaints kept confidential?

It is not possible to guarantee absolute confidentiality or anonymity. The privacy of persons who make complaints is respected and discretion is exercised. The confidentiality of each party involved in an investigation, complaint or charge is observed, to the extent possible provided it does not interfere with UK's ability to investigate the allegations or take corrective action. Due process requires that the alleged harasser know the allegations, know who made them, be allowed to respond to the charges and offer a defense before any disciplinary action occurs.

What can I expect if I make a complaint of sexual harassment?

The university takes complaints seriously and works to investigate promptly and fairly. By reporting the incident and requesting that action be taken, you are asking the University to initiate an investigation. During the investigation of a complaint, due process is observed. Reasonable efforts will be made to interview the alleged victim, the respondent, and any other persons believed to have pertinent factual knowledge. At all times during the course of the investigation and thereafter, steps will be taken to ensure confidentiality to the extent possible. Upon completing the investigation, recommendations to the appropriate administrative official(s) will be made. If there is evidence to suggest that the policy regarding sexual harassment has been violated, disciplinary action up to and including dismissal may be recommended.

How does UK determine what is a hostile environment?

Sexual behavior in the workplace is described in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance as unwelcome when an individual, who does not solicit or incite the conduct, regards the conduct as undesirable and offensive. Inappropriate or unwelcome conduct is evaluated by the effect of the behavior on the recipient, not the intent of the harasser. The same evaluation is used to assess allegations in employment and academic settings.

A hostile environment is one in which unwelcome behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the condition of the work or learning environment. The conduct in question is evaluated from the objective standpoint of a reasonable person in similar or like circumstances.

Many factors are taken into account when determining whether behavior has the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Every situation is unique and must be evaluated as such. Consequently, the circumstances as a whole are weighed to conclude whether a hostile environment exists. Consideration must be given to the frequency of the conduct, its severity and the context in which the alleged behavior occurred.

How does the University determine if sexual harassment has occurred?

In determining whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment, University officials look at the record as a whole and at the totality of the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual behavior and the context in which the incident(s) occurred. A determination must be made from the facts on a case by case basis.

Findings of racial harassment and other forms of discrimination depend upon the nature, frequency, and severity of the alleged conduct and the context in which the alleged conduct occurred. All facts regarding the complaint will be examined to determine if different treatment resulted or whether the totality of the circumstances of the discrimination created a hostile or offensive environment.

Is there a time limit in filing a complaint of discrimination?

There is no time limit for bringing a complaint of discrimination; however it may be difficult to substantiate any allegations after significant time has passed. Therefore, prompt reporting of complaints is strongly encouraged.

In all internal University of Kentucky formal procedures for handling complaints of sexual harassment the complaint may be filed within 180 calendar days from the date of the alleged violation(s). In the event the complainant files a complaint after the 180 calendar day limit has expired, the Provost or Executive Vice President shall determine whether extenuating circumstances warrant investigation of the complaint under the applicable formal procedure.

What if I am treated badly for making a complaint of sexual harassment or discrimination, or for participating in an investigation?

Each member of the University community has the right at any time to raise the issue of discrimination and make a good faith complaint without fear of reprisal. Retaliation is strictly prohibited by university regulation and is a serious offense. Retaliation may be found to exist even in the absence of a finding of discrimination.

Every effort is made to prevent retaliation directed at a person who has filed a complaint or participated in an investigation. If a person is found to have engaged in or attempted any form of retaliation, they will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination or expulsion, even in the absence of a discrimination finding.

What will happen to a person who is determined to be responsible for discrimination?

Any member of the University community who engages in any form of discrimination shall be subject to disciplinary action and appropriate sanctions up to and including termination or expulsion.

Can I bring a friend or someone I trust with me when making a report of sexual harassment?

Yes, a complainant may choose an individual to accompany them at any or all stages during the procedures.

What should be done upon learning of an incident of sexual harassment involving another person?

Each dean, director, department head, manager, supervisor, faculty member, or other person with supervisory responsibility is required to help resolve matters regarding possible sexual harassment and contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity for assistance. Other members of the UK community who become aware of allegations of harassment should encourage the aggrieved individual to report the alleged harassment to the appropriate official above, or to the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity. All members of the UK community are required to cooperate in the investigation of sexual harassment complaints.

What should I do if I feel I have experienced some form of discrimination?

Acts of discrimination or harassment inhibit members of the university community from productively fulfilling their charge at the University of Kentucky. If you feel that you have been harassed or discriminated against, contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity at 257-8927 for information and assistance.

 

* The issues surrounding discrimination are often complex. Consequently, uncertainty is likely. Discrimination is characterized by a broad range of actions, behaviors and circumstances that can be overt or hidden, direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional. Because of its nature, there is no blueprint or formula that can define discrimination exactly. In fact, even though situations involving alleged discrimination can be similar, the facts of no two cases are ever precisely alike. Therefore, it is important that the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity consider carefully and extensively all factors when providing advice, information and resolution to complaints. The University of Kentucky holds everyone—staff, faculty, and students—accountable to a standard of conduct that prohibits discrimination and harassment, with the goal being to provide a model for resolution that balances sensitivity with fairness. The Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity provides specific advice and direction depending on the nature and circumstances surrounding each individual complaint or inquiry.