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Sexual Harassment

Policy Overview

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center explicitly prohibits any form of sex discrimination or sexual harassment by any member of the university community against another member of the university community. Members of the community include administrators, faculty, staff, students, residents and fellows.

Sexual harassment has profound and detrimental effects on individuals' work or academic performance as well as to their self-esteem. Additionally, sexual harassment often contributes to an offensive work or academic environment within the school/department that ultimately impedes MD Anderson Cancer Center's mission to be a progressive, humanistic institution of higher education in the health sciences.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Beyond its illegality, sexual harassment is a behavior that is contradictory to the mission and goals of this university and will not be tolerated.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment.

Three criteria will determine whether or not an action constitutes sexual harassment:

  • If submission to the conduct is either an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment or student admission

  • If submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for an employment decision or student evaluation that affects the person who rejects or submits to the conduct

  • If the conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an affected person's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile environment or offensive work or academic environment

Anyone working or studying at MD Anderson who commits any action defined in this policy can be considered to be a perpetrator of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment occurs in a variety of situations that share a common element: the inappropriate introduction of sexual activities or comments into the work or learning environment. Sexually harassing behavior may include men harassing women, women harassing men, men harassing men and women harassing women. The conditions listed in the first two categories fall into the quid pro quo (this for that) category of sexual harassment. That is, they each involve relationships of unequal power (i.e., supervisor/ employee, faculty member/ student) and contain elements of coercion. Some examples of this form of sexual harassment include the following:

  • Demanding sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt promises of preferential treatment regarding an individual's employment or academic status

  • Demanding sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt threats of retaliation in regard to an individual's employment or academic status

The third category of sexual harassment is generally referred to as "hostile environment." While this category may also involve relationships of unequal power, it often involves relationships among peers, as when repeated sexual advances or demeaning verbal behavior have a harmful effect on an individual's ability to study or work effectively. Examples of this type of harassment include the following:

  • Sexually oriented comments about the body, appearance or lifestyle

  • Display of sexually explicit graphics, cartoons, pictures, photographs or objects that are unrelated to the workplace or course of study and are exploitative or demeaning in nature

  • Repeated requests for social/sexual encounters or favors the recipient deems unwelcome

  • Suggestive or unwelcome physical contact

  • Physical assault

Consensual Relationships

Consenting romantic and sexual relationships between a faculty member and student or between supervisor and employee are considered inappropriate and unwise.

Faculty members exercise power over students, as do supervisors over employees, whether in evaluating them, making recommendations for their promotion or future employment or conferring on them any other benefits. Others may be adversely affected by the relationship in that it places the faculty member or supervisor in a position to favor or advance one student's or employee's interest at the expense of others.

Consenting romantic and sexual relationships are in conflict with the relationship of authority that exists between a faculty member and his or her student and between a supervisor and his or her employee, and thus are viewed as damaging to the university environment.

Under conditions in which a relationship of authority exists between married individuals, a similar case for preferential treatment could be made. For these individuals, the nepotism rules are in force, as described in the Regents' Rules and Regulations, Part I, Chapter III, Section 5. Complaints lodged about consensual relationships by nonparticipating individuals will be treated as third-party sexual harassment complaints.

Procedure: Introduction

Individuals who believe they have been sexually harassed may file either informal or formal complaints regarding the action(s) to resource persons appointed annually by the president. A complainant may file a complaint with a resource person from any operating unit, and names and other pertinent information on resource persons available to hear sexual harassment complaints will be readily available in university publications.

Resource persons-sexual harassment complaints will be trained to sensitively and effectively counsel with a complainant and will weigh many factors in their counseling, including subjectivity and the context of a situation. The university will take measures to ensure the protection of the complainant against reprisal by the accused perpetrator in either an informal or a formal sexual harassment complaint procedure.

Informal Complaints

If an informal complaint-sexual harassment is filed, the role of the resource person is to assist the complainant by several possible means and in strict confidence. These means include:

  • Educating the complainant about sexual harassment, MD Anderson policies regarding sexual harassment and the options for action available to the complainant

  • Discussion about the situation and provision of strategies regarding confronting and making the accused aware that the conduct is unwelcome and that it should stop

  • Referral of the complainant to confidential counseling regarding the situation

In the case of an informal complaint, the complainant is not required to provide specific information about the incident or the accused.

Formal Complaints

If a formal complaint-sexual harassment is initially filed, or if a complainant chooses to change an informal complaint to a formal complaint, the complainant must file a full, signed account of the alleged incident(s) and the date(s) on which the alleged incident(s) occurred with the resource person. The accused will be notified in writing and asked to provide a written, signed response to the accusation. The accused may seek assistance from another resource person.

At the request of either the accused or the complainant, the resource person(s) may mediate between the two parties to seek resolution of the perceived problem. If the two parties cannot arrive at a solution, or if one of the parties does not wish to participate in mediation-sexual harassment complaint, the resource person involved will begin the steps necessary for a full investigation into the matter. To further an investigation into the alleged incident, an investigation board-sexual harassment of three available resource persons will be convened within 10 working days for a closed hearing.

The determination of the investigation board will be referred to the appropriate administrative authority in which the accused is organizationally located (the immediate supervisor for classified and administrative and professional  employees and faculty, the dean of the appropriate school for students and the departmental developmental director of residency programs for residents). It is then up to that administrative authority to determine whether action is warranted and, if so, to apply the appropriate action. The supervisor will notify Legal Affairs of the action taken in response to the findings of the investigation board.

Individuals who engage in acts of sexual harassment are subject to disciplinary action deemed appropriate by MD Anderson, and disciplinary action shall proceed according to the appropriate standards and guidelines.

All records of sexual harassment complaints will be maintained in confidential files by Legal Affairs.



© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center