Harassment And Grievance Policy

Central NJ Democratic Socialists (“CNJ DSA”) is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for everyone, regardless of gender, race, or class, to organize without fear of harassment. We aim to design a space that amplifies and protects marginalized voices by developing a policy for reporting grievances based on the harassment policy Resolution 33 which was passed at the DSA National Convention in August 2017, while adding several extra protections not guaranteed by the Resolution and an eye towards restorative justice, healing, and victim support.

DSA’s national harassment policy can be found at: https://www.dsausa.org/about-us/harassment-policy-resolution-33/

Section 1.0 Policy Overview

A. Scope Of This Policy

Prohibited behavior. Members shall not engage in harassment on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, physical appearance, disability, race, color, religion, national origin, class, age, or profession. Harassing or abusive behavior, such as unwelcome attention, inappropriate or offensive remarks, slurs, or jokes, physical or verbal intimidation, stalking, inappropriate physical contact or proximity, and other verbal and physical conduct constitute harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a member’s continued affiliation with DSA;
  • Submission or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for organizational decisions affecting such individual; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile environment interfering with an individual’s capacity to organize within DSA.
  • Other protected classes. Harassment based on categories not encompassed by those listed section (a) will be evaluated at the discretion of the Harassment and Grievance Officer (“HGO”) and Steering Committee (“SC”) representatives.
  • Members may also file grievances not directed at a specific individual, such as hostile environments and other systemic issues. Investigation in these cases shall center and seek to support the grievant in determining the appropriate remedy.

B. Reporting Harassment

Complaints. Members may follow the standard complaint process as set out in the following sections if they believe they have been harassed by another member. Time Limitations. There will be no time limits requiring the grievant to file a report within any amount of time after the alleged harassment has occurred.

C. This document describes the complaint procedure adopted by CNJ DSA. If any grievant does not feel that their concerns can be adequately addressed by CNJ DSA, they may pursue a complaint with National Grievance Officers and the NPC without going through the Chapter procedure first.

D. The SC of CNJ DSA will publicize this policy and make HGO contact information available to membership as often as possible, including, but not limited to: Chapter- wide emails, meeting agendas, social media, and online chapter communication platforms.

Section 2.0 Harassment and Grievance Officers

A. Membership shall elect two members to serve as HGOs. Due to the gendered nature of many harassment complaints at the National level, no more than one HGO may be cismale. HGOs may not be SC members, but may run for Steering Committee when their HGO term has ended. Election of HGOs will follow standard procedures outlined in the Chapter bylaws. HGOs will serve staggered two-year terms.

B. HGO Responsibilities

  • Receive, acknowledge receipt of, and archive grievant reports
  • Contact the accused to notify them of the accusations, request their written response, and archive any written response
  • Conduct any necessary investigation of the claim
  • Present their findings to the Steering Committee with a written report.
  • If necessary, take disciplinary action and report the discipline administered to the Steering Committee.
  • Present an anonymized version of the report to deliver to membership after conclusion of an investigation. The HGOs may make exceptions to anonymity in service of the restorative justice process, in the case of any member who has been removed from the chapter permanently or temporarily as a result of the investigation.
  • Compile a yearly report that details:
  • How many reports were made
  • How many were taken to the formal disciplinary process
  • How many disciplinary actions were taken
  • Any recommended changes for making the reporting system effective, preferably informed by survey of membership

C. Removal of an HGO.

An HGO may resign at any time. If an HGO fails to perform their duties fairly, diligently, and ethically, there may be cause for removal. The SC may remove an HGO by majority vote after the HGO is informed of the cause for removal and given the opportunity to self- advocate to the SC.

Section 3.0 Complaints

A. Making A Complaint The SC will establish a confidential email for submitting complaints, which is monitored only by the HGOs. Login information will be changed at each new term or sooner. The SC will make a complaint form available upon request that is linked to the HGO email.

On the form, the grievant may have the option to submit the complaint as an emergency, in which case an expedited investigation will take place. If a grievant objects to both HGOs viewing a complaint, they may contact one HGO directly and confidentially. The identities of all involved parties will remain confidential to everyone who is not an HGO, including the SC (and at the request of the grievant, disclosure may also be denied to the HGO not currently investigating the case), pending the outcome of the investigation, except as necessary for a complete investigation. Multiple complaints against one person may be consolidated into a single investigation. Any grievant may veto this consolidation. Grievants have the right to a proxy or representative of their choosing to speak on their behalf and act as the primary contact with HGOs throughout the investigation.

B. Recusal

An HGO is required to recuse themselves from any investigation involving either a complainant or accused who is a close friend or family member of the HGO, or with whom the HGO has an extensive working relationship or past or present romantic or sexual relationship. An HGO should also recuse themselves if other conflicts would present an appearance of impropriety. Such potential conflicts may be raised by any party or by any member of leadership at the outset of an investigation and may be determined by other

Section 4.0 Responding To A Complaint

A. Informal conversation/mediation

Some complaints may be resolved without the need for a formal grievance process. In this case, there may be an informal conversation between parties mediated by an HGO. In an informal mediation, all parties must attend voluntarily and express a desire for resolution; the HGO remains neutral; each person has the ability to state their perspectives uninterrupted; the mediator may follow the general structure of affective questioning; and the goal is to find a solution to the conflict that is primarily developed and mutually agreed upon by all parties. a final summary of the conversation is made available to the SC, but the SC does not participate in the results of the mediation.

B. Filing Official Grievance.

After a written report has been submitted, whether through the email hotline or otherwise:

  1. The HGO(s) will contact the grievant within three days to acknowledge receipt of the complaint and set up a conversation.
  2. The HGO(s) will contact the accused member within five days to notify them that a report has been filed against them and request a written response to the report either affirming or denying its substance.
  3. The accused will submit their written response within seven days of being notified. If the accused fails to meet this deadline or request an extension, the HGO will consult the grievant first regarding appropriate disciplinary measures.
  4. If the accused denies the substance of the report, the HGO will set up a conversation. The HGO overseeing the dispute will have the option to investigate the report by:
    1. interviewing other members with direct knowledge of the substance of the report;
    2. requesting documentation from either the grievant or accused or any other parties directly involved; or
    3. employing any and all other means deemed necessary, with the utmost respect for the confidentiality and emotional needs of the parties, within a time period not to exceed ten days.
  5. When victims are closed out of the disciplinary process, they are re-victimized. In order to avoid replicating the oppressive structures of our current judicial system, before reaching a conclusion, the HGO(s) will schedule a final conversation with the grievant following the general guidelines of post-conflict affective questioning. The purpose is to amplify the voices of victims and consider their needs and perspectives when moving forward with disciplinary action or otherwise.

C. The HGO(s) responsible for investigating the dispute will determine whether the report is credible and take appropriate disciplinary action, if necessary, as soon as practicable, without exceeding thirty days. The HGO(s) may notify SC of the accuser’s report and its substance at any time after the report is filed, but must give written notice to both the accuser and the accused member before doing so.

Section 5.0 Remedies and penalties

A. Determinations

All reports will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the HGO(s) associated with the accuser’s reporting channel. The ultimate determination in each case will be made by the HGO(s).

B. Standard for Determining if a Report is Credible

The HGOs will find a factual allegation is “credible” if it more-likely-than-not occurred.

C. Remedies and Penalties

  1. If the HGOs find a factual allegation to be credible, they are authorized to carry out disciplinary action, which may include:
    1. A formal discussion between the accused and the HGOs and/or Steering Committee to develop a plan for repairing the harm;
    2. Suspension from committee meetings and other chapter or organizational events;
    3. Removal from chapter committee(s);
    4. Removal from the chapter; and
    5. Any and all other relief deemed necessary and just by the HGO(s).
  2. The SC will enforce any suspensions or expulsions in accordance with chapter procedures.

Section 6.0 Appeals Process

A. Either party may appeal the final result of the grievance by filling out an appeal form, available upon request from an HGO or the Steering Committee. Appeals must be filed within thirty days of receiving written notice of the decision. The limited grounds for appeal are:

  1. Either party believes the behavior was not interpreted using the standards for harassment set out in Section 1a;
  2. Procedural errors, misconduct, or conflicts of interest affected the fairness of the outcome; and
  3. The remedy or penalty determined by the HGOs was disproportionate to the violation committed

B. Appeals will be heard by the Harassment and Grievance Officers of North or South Jersey DSA, provided they have adopted a policy agreeing to this arrangement. They will follow Central Jersey’s grievance policy in deciding the appeal.

C. Nothing in this policy can limit a member’s right to file an appeal directly with the national organization.

Section 7.0 Retaliation

This policy prohibits retaliation against any member for bringing a complaint of harassment pursuant to this policy. This policy also prohibits retaliation against a person who assists someone with a complaint of harassment, or participates in any manner in an investigation or resolution of a complaint of discrimination or harassment. Retaliatory behaviors includes threats, intimidation, reprisals, and/or adverse actions related to organizing. If any party to the complaint believes there has been retaliation, they may inform the HGO who will determine whether to factor the retaliation into the original complaint, or treat it as an individual incident.

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