(Updated 2018)

In support of our mission to bring the full value of exposure science to research and decision-making to improve human health and the environment, ISES is committed to fostering the exchange of information and ideas and the enhancement of professional expertise among members and across disciplines in a healthy, harassment-free environment. The Society strives to create an equitable environment where diverse voices are active in all aspects of our organization. This requires a culture of inclusion in which all individuals feel respected and are treated fairly. As such harassment of any type will not be condoned in any ISES sponsored endeavor (i.e. meetings, calls, projects, etc.).

We understand that achieving equity is a continuous iterative process, and we seek to maintain the highest standards of ethics, transparency, and accountability in our Society.

Harassment is unwelcome comments or conduct based on gender, race, nationality, religion, disability, sexual orientation, age, or other legally protected characteristics. A hostile environment is created when such actions unreasonably interfere with work performance or create an intimidating or offensive environment for the person who is being harassed. This conduct can severely diminish a person’s productivity and self-esteem, both in and out of a work environment.

In addition to the person who is directly harassed, other persons who are impacted by the harassment (by hearing or viewing it) are also considered victims. They too might find the environment intimidating or hostile, and it might affect their performance. In this way, bullies and harassers can affect many more people than just the target.

Harassment can take on many different facades. Harassers may make offensive jokes, call their victims names, threaten others physically or verbally, ridicule others, display offensive photographs, or impede on another person’s work throughout the day. While people are often most familiar with the concept of sexual harassment in the workplace, there are many other types of harassment.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is defined in federal guidelines as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and non- sexual conduct is still unlawful if it is severe and pervasive and singles one out because of one’s gender. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general. Although the law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, ISES does not tolerate this behavior. Sexual harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be a member of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

There are many different types of harassment, which can be written, verbal, or physical behaviors. The U.S. State Department’s policy on sexual harassment acknowledges that the following behaviors may be considered as sexual harassment:

  • Sexual pranks, or repeated sexual teasing, jokes, or innuendo, in person or via e-mail;
  • Verbal abuse of a sexual nature;
  • Touching or grabbing of a sexual nature;
  • Repeatedly standing too close to or brushing up against a person;
  • Repeatedly asking a person to socialize during off-duty hours when the person has said no or has indicated he or she is not interested (supervisors in particular should be careful not to pressure their employees to socialize);
  • Giving gifts or leaving objects that are sexually suggestive;
  • Repeatedly making sexually suggestive gestures;
  • Making or posting sexually demeaning or offensive pictures, cartoons or other materials in the workplace;
  • Off-duty, unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that affects the work environment.

Research confirms the magnitude of the issue of sexual harassment in academic environments and in disciplines with low diversity (see the report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine), where the lack of established support networks can lead to feelings of vulnerability and professional insecurity. This professional misconduct often preferentially targets women, although men can also be victims of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can dramatically impact the personal and professional well-being of scientists or allied colleagues, especially when people misuse their positions of power and influence against those in more vulnerable positions.

The most well-known federal law regarding harassment in academia is Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (referred to as Title IX), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, in educational programs and activities. Sexual harassment of students is made illegal under Title IX. All public and private educational institutions that receive any federal funds must comply with Title IX. Title IX protects students from harassment connected to any school- sponsored academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs or activities, regardless of the location. Title IX protects both male and female students from sexual harassment by school employees, other students, or non-employee third parties.

Sexual harassment is also a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., makes it unlawful for employers to make employment decisions (e.g., hiring, firing, promotion, and compensation) on the basis of sex or to limit, segregate, or classify employees or applicants on the basis of sex. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments; employment agencies and other labor organizations; and the federal government.

Other relevant Laws (source: AAPA anti-harassment policy, described below) include:

  • The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. §249, makes it a crime to willfully cause bodily injury to another person because of actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  • The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reauthorized in 2014 with specific stipulations for issues concerning campus sexual violence (the so-called SaVE Act provision).
  • Many states have or are in the process of adopting legislation specifically regarding sexual misconduct in academic settings.

For the purposes of the ISES annual meeting and in-person interactions among members, we define harassment as including (but not limited to):

  • Verbal comments that reinforce social structures of domination related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion
  • Sexual images in public spaces
  • Deliberate intimidation, stalking, or following
  • Harassing photography or recording
  • In the conference setting, sustained disruption of talks or other events
  • Inappropriate physical contact
  • Unwelcome sexual attention
  • Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior

Conference participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. We expect society members, conference participants, and their guests to follow these rules at all ISES sponsored events, venues, and event-related social activities.

National Women’s Law Center – Frequently Asked Questions about Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

How to Listen when Someone You Know Discloses Sexual Harassment or Assault

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

American Association of University Women (AAUW) – Know your Rights at Work

If you are a victim of sexual harassment or assault or know someone who is, and would like to speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online. Converse con alguien que está capacitado para ayudar, llame a la Línea de Ayuda Nacional Online de Asalto Sexual al 800.656.4673 o al chat en línea en hotline


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