Resolution 2018:7:00 To Adopt Temporary Harassment and Grievance Policy

In accordance with Resolution 12:17:6 “Refer Development of a Temporary Harassment Grievance Policy for 2018 to the Steering Committee” the Steering Committee of Philly DSA was charged with drafting a Temporary Harassment and Grievance Policy (TGHP). This policy was presented to the Local at our July General Meeting wherein a motion was made to postpone adopting the policy until a hearing could be held. This hearing took place on September 19. The policy is now scheduled to be debated as a main motion for our October General Meeting.

Temporary Harassment Grievance Policy

Every member of Philadelphia DSA has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and the right to engage in the ordinary organizing functions and operations of the Local as defined in its bylaws. Harassment of another member is prohibited and grounds for dismissal from the Local. Submission to harassment must not be explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of continued membership in the Local. The refusal of any member to submit to harassment may not be explicitly or implicitly the basis of any deliberation of the Local.

Current Disciplinary Provisions of Our Bylaws

In Article III, Section 2 the bylaws of Philadelphia DSA provide directions for expelling a member. This harassment grievance policy is not an alternative to the provisions of Art. III.2. Any member seeking the expulsion of another member must submit charges to the Steering Committee (SC). The full text of Art. III.2 is included here for reference:

Removal of Members
If a full member is found to be in substantial disagreement with the principles or policies of national DSA, or if they are found to be consistently engaging in undemocratic or disruptive behavior, the Local may vote to expel them from DSA. In order for such a finding to be made, another DSA member must formally prefer written charges against the member in question to the Local Steering Committee, which shall set the date of a Local meeting for deliberations on the charges. The member in question must receive a copy of the written charges and notice of the meeting a minimum of two weeks before that meeting takes place. Expulsion of a member or affiliate member requires a two-thirds vote of the Local meeting. An expelled full member may appeal to the National Political Committee of DSA.

Harassment may or may not meet the standard for grounds for expulsion stipulated in our bylaws. The SC may not expel a member for harassment. If a complaint of harassment is determined to be credible by the SC in accordance with the process stipulated in this policy it may, in lieu of a submission of charges from an individual member, determine that a credible complaint of harassment is grounds for the Local to deliberate expulsion and schedule a meeting of the Local to do so in accordance with III.2.

Further, any member wishing to forego the procedure stipulated in this harassment grievance policy and to submit charges for expulsion may make use of the procedure stipulated in III.2.

Definition of Harassment

Harassment occurs when a member engages in conduct that has the purpose or effect of degrading another member; or has the purpose or effect of creating a degrading, offensive or humiliating environment for another member; or has the purpose or effect of inhibiting a member’s capacity to participate in the ordinary functions and operations of the Local as defined in the Constitution of DSA and the bylaws of DSA Philadelphia. Harassment can occur even if or the person(s) affected are not witnesses of the harassing behavior.

Harassment may include (but is not limited to) the following conduct: unwelcome attention, physical or verbal intimidation, stalking, inappropriate physical contact or proximity, the use of offensive or derogatory gestures, the use of offensive or derogatory language such as slurs and degrading humor; and includes (but is not limited to) engaging in these behaviors based on a member’s sex, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, physical appearance, disability, race, color, religion, national origin, class, age, or profession. Harassing conduct can occur in public and private settings and may include verbal or written statements in any medium including electronic and online communications.

Democratic Socialists of America is committed to creating a space that is welcoming and inclusive to all members. The following policy provides guidelines to ensure that everyone is able to organize without fear of harassment, abuse, or harm.

Harassment Grievance Officers

DSA Philadelphia shall appoint at least three of its members to serve as HGOs for a term of one (1) year. There is no limit to the number of terms a member can serve as an HGO. In the event of vacancies the Steering Committee shall appoint an interim either to fulfil the remainder of the vacated term.

Harassment Grievance Officers will be responsible to:

  1. Maintain, along with the Steering Committee, strict confidentiality related to complaints filed by the Local while they are in process;

  2. receive, acknowledge receipt of, and archive all documents related to a complaint of harassment;

  3. notify and deliver to the accused any complaint of harassment and request a written response

  4. conduct any necessary investigation of the claim;

  5. present findings to the Steering Committee in a written report and, if necessary, a

    recommendation for disciplinary action.

  6. If necessary, the HGO may recommend parties do not contact each other for the

    duration of the investigative process.

  7. Deliver a yearly report to the Local that details:

    1. How many reports were made
    2. How many were taken to disciplinary process
    3. How many disciplinary actions were taken
    4. Any recommended changes for making the presort system more effective.
    5. This report will not include personally identifying information of any parties in the dispute.

HGOs and SC members must be recused from considering any complaint in which they are accused or the accuser of harassment. The SC will appoint an interim to replace an interested HGO in such a case.

Reporting Harassment

Members of DSA Philadelphia may file a formal complaint against any other member of the Local to a designated Harassment Grievance Officer or Officers (HGO). A complaint must include the name(s) and contact information of the parties and a description of the incident(s) of harassment.

No limitation can be placed on the time that elapses between the alleged incident(s) of harassment and the filing of a complaint or on the ability of members to submit a timely complaint of harassment. The Steering Committee shall develop and permanently publish the names of HGOs, a secure address to which complaints of harassment can be submitted to HGOs, instructions on what information a complaint of harassment should include and instructions for filing an appeal of a penalty approved by the SC in a case of harassment.

Processing a Complaint

HGOs will acknowledge receipt of a complaint of harassment within three (3) business days (M-F) of a submission. Accused member(s) must be notified of the complaint within seven (7) days of this receipt. This notification must include a complete copy of the complaint and request a written response to the complaint, either affirming or denying its substance. This response must be submitted within seven (7) days of the notification. If the accused does not respond to the notification, the HGO(s) will inform the Steering Committee and recommend disciplinary action be taken as defined below.

If the accused replies and denies the substance of the complaint, HGOs must investigate the complaint by interviewing other members with direct knowledge of the substance of the report and requesting documentation from the accuser, the accused and any witnesses of the alleged harassment named in the complaint. All documentation and a recording or transcript of all interviews must be made and preserved by the HGO(s) as a record of the investigation.

HGOs must determine whether a complaint is credible, not credible or unsubstantiated and report their finding in writing to the SC within thirty (30) days of the complaint being filed. If a complaint is determined by the HGO(s) to be credible, they must also include a recommendation of appropriate disciplinary action in their report to the SC. HGOs may, with written notice to the accuser and the accused, notify the SC of a complaint and its substance at any time after it is filed.

Complaints will be assessed by the HGOs and SC on a case-by-case basis. The final disposition of each complaint will be made by the SC after reviewing the written report and recommendation of the HGO(s). The SC must find the complaint credible or not credible. The SC will find the factual allegation in a report is “credible” if it more-likely-than-not occurred. A credible complaint of harassment requires that an appropriate penalty also be approved.

The SC is authorized to impose the following penalties if a complaint is determined to be credible: 1.) up to two (2) years definite suspension from committee membership, candidacy in elections for positions in the Local; attending meetings and other chapter or organizational events of the Local; 2.) filing charges against the member as grounds for expulsion in keeping with Art. III.2 of Philadelphia DSA’s bylaws.

Appeals

If a penalty of expulsion is imposed, the expelled member can appeal to the National NPC of DSA (see bylaws Art. III.2). Any penalty of definite suspension and its terms may be appealed by either party. Appeals against a penalty of definite suspension are made to the Local membership and must be filed with the Co-Chairs within thirty (30) days of receiving written notice of the SC’s imposition of the penalty. Appeals against a definite suspension must include the grounds on which the appeal is made. Grounds for appeal are limited to the following:

  1. The behavior of the accused did not meet the standards as defined by this policy;
  2. Procedural errors, misconduct, or conflicts of interest affected the fairness of the outcome;
  3. The penalty Steering was disproportionate to the violation committed.

Appeals against a definite suspension will be heard at the next General Meeting occurring after thirty (30) days of the filing of the appeal or at a Special Meeting of the Local called for this purpose. The grounds of the appeal must be presented at the meeting as written, a rebuttal from the SC is also permitted before moving to a vote. The appeal may not be debated. Appeals against a definite suspension or its terms require a 2⁄3 majority to pass. In the event that an appeal is approved by the Local the SC must determine a more appropriate penalty within thirty (30) days. These may also be appealed in the same manner except for appeals that result in expulsion which must be appealed to the National DSA NPC.

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 include 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(s) who will determine whether to factor the claim of retaliation into the original complaint or to treat it as an individual incident.

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