Harassment Incident Handling for Staff

This procedure adopted from the Ada Initiative's guide titled "Conference anti-harassment/Responding to Reports”.

Understand our Code of Conduct


Understand what we expect from an attendee reporting a harassment incident.


Taking reports

When taking a report from someone experiencing harassment you should record what they say and reassure them that you take seriously, but avoid making specific promises about what actions the organizers will take. Ask for any other information if the reporter has not volunteered it (such as time, place) but do not pressure them to provide it if they are reluctant. Even if the report lacks important details such as the identity of the person taking the harassing actions, it should still be recorded and passed along to the appropriate staff member(s). If the reporter desires it, arrange for an escort by conference staff or a trusted person, contact a friend, and contact local law enforcement. Do not pressure the reporter to take any action if they do not want to do it. Respect the reporter's privacy by not sharing unnecessary details with others, especially individuals who were not involved with the situation or non-staff members.

Try to get as much of the incident in written form by the reporter. If you cannot, transcribe it yourself. The important information to gather includes the following:

  • Identifying information (name/badge number) of the participant doing the harassing
  • The behavior in violation
  • The approximate time of the behavior
  • The circumstances surrounding the incident
  • Other people involved in the incident

Prepare an initial response to the incident. Depending on the severity/details of the incident, please follow these guidelines:

  • If a fear for anyone's safety exists, summon security or police
  • Offer the victim a private place to sit
  • Ask "do you have a friend or trusted person who you would like present?" (if so, arrange for someone to fetch this person)
  • Ask them "how can I help?"
  • Provide them with your list of emergency contacts if they need help later
  • Unless physical safety concerns currently exist, involve law enforcement or security only at a victim's request

What NOT to do during an initial response:

  • Do not overtly invite them to withdraw the complaint or mention withdrawal. This suggests that you want them to do so, and constitutes coersion. "Assuming your consent, I will [pursue the complaint]" suggests that you will, by default, pursue it and thus does not coerce withdrawal.
  • Do not ask for their advice on how to deal with the complaint. Conference staff bear this responsibility.
  • Do not offer them input into penalties. Conference staff bear this responsibility.
  • Do not share details regarding the incident or those involved without specific permission from the victim. This includes sharing with other staff.

Once a staff member has received a report, immediately meet with the conference chair and/or event coordinator. This meeting should attempt to determine the following:

  • What happened?
  • What, if anything, do we intend to do about it?
  • Who will do those things?
  • When will they do them?

After the staff meeting and discussion, have a staff member (preferably the conference chair if available) communicate with the alleged harasser. Make sure to inform them of the report received about them.

Allow the alleged harasser to give their side of the story to the staff.

If the report stands, inform the alleged harasser of any warnings or sanctions.

Some things for the staff to consider when dealing with Code of Conduct offenders:

  • Warning the alleged harasser to cease their behavior and that any further reports will result in sanctions
  • Requiring that the alleged harasser avoid any interaction with, and physical proximity to, their victim for the remainder of the event
  • Ending a talk that violates the policy early
  • Not publishing the video or slides of a talk that violated the policy
  • Not allowing a speaker who violated the policy to give (further) talks at the event now or in the future
  • Immediately ending any event volunteer responsibilities and privileges the alleged harasser holds
  • Requiring that the alleged harasser not volunteer for future events your organization runs (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
  • Requiring that the alleged harasser refund any travel grants and similar they received (this would require an explicit condition on the grant at the time of its award)
  • Requiring that the alleged harasser immediately leave the event and not return
  • Banning the alleged harasser from future events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
  • Removing a alleged harasser from membership of relevant organizations
  • Publishing an account of the alleged harassment and calling for the resignation of the alleged harasser from their responsibilities (potentially required for incidents of alleged harassment by an event leader or staff who refuse to stand aside from the conflict of interest)

Give accused attendees an avenue of appeal if desired, but in the meantime the report stands. Do not encourage an apology from the alleged harasser.

While respecting the privacy of individual attendees, inform those aware of the initial incident that it violates our policy and that we have taken official action. When speaking to individuals (those aware of the incident, but not involved with the incident) about the incident, omit details.

Depending on the incident, the conference chair, or designate, may decide to make one or more public announcements. If necessary, this may take the form of with a short announcement either during the plenary and/or through other channels. No one other than the conference chair or someone delegated authority from the conference chair should make any announcements. This announcement will not include any personal information about either party.

If the incident angered some attendees, apologize to them that the incident occurred. If hard feelings remain, suggest they write an email to the conference chair or to the event coordinator.

If at all possible, make reports directly to Jason Green at +1 (614) 349-6349 or Brian Costlow at +1 (740) 919-1291.