Anti-Harassment Policy

This is the full version of the Midwest Lindyfest Anti-Harassment Policy. This policy was updated on 3/22/2018.

Contact information
The current point of contact for the Safer Spaces Committee, as of 3/22/2018, is:
Liz Niemer, lizniemer@gmail.com, 563-581-5506

Intent of policy / Statement on Harassment
The intent of the policy is to lay out clear expectations for national and local staff, participants, and volunteers for creating a safe social environment for everyone involved. This policy is intended to proactively prevent harassment and effectively deal with harassment that does occur. We strongly believe that preventing harassment and addressing it when it does occur is are integral parts of our organization’s struggle for collective liberation. While the primary goal of the policy is to create safe spaces for everyone involved with Midwest Lindyfest, the policy is also intended to protect Midwest Lindyfest from liability.

Definitions

Definition of harassment
Harassment is any behavior which causes distress, feelings of a lack of safety, or physical harm to another person based on their actual or perceived race, religion, age, gender, gender expression or identity, disability, sexual orientation, citizenship status, place of origin, marital status, or familial status.

Midwest Lindyfest, like everything else in the world, has its own power dynamics. This policy recognizes harassment which occurs from people with more actual or perceived power in the organization directed at those with less.

Sexual harassment of any kind, against anyone, regardless of the identities of the people involved, is covered by this policy.

Harassment does not need to have malicious intent; the impacts on the person reporting the harassment must be addressed regardless of the intent. Displays of derogatory or offensive pictures, graffiti, or materials towards people because one of the identities listed above; demeaning remarks, jokes, innuendos about an employee, participant or volunteer; or remarks about an identity group in the presence of any individual, not necessarily a member of the group mentioned, are also forms of harassment.

Harassment is not:
Consensual banter or romantic peer relationships, where the people involved consent to the interaction, are not harassment. Appropriate performance reviews, constructive feedback and critique, counseling, or discipline by a supervisor or manager are not harassment.

Responsibilities

Responsibilities of participants and volunteers
All participants and volunteers have the responsibility to treat each other with respect and to refrain from discrimination and harassment. They are encouraged to speak up if they or someone else is being harassed, and are encouraged to report harassment to the appropriate person.

Responsibilities of Staff and Volunteers
Each volunteer and staff person is responsible for fostering a safe environment, free of harassment. A safe environment is one where everyone is accepted and allowed to be themselves. No one should be afraid for their physical or mental health in a safe working environment. A safe working environment is not free of all criticism or conflict, but those things are handled with respect. Program leaders and staff must set an example of appropriate behaviour, and must deal with situations of harassment immediately on becoming aware of them, whether or not there has been a complaint filed with the Safer Spaces Committee. A volunteer or staff person who does nothing to prevent harassment or to mitigate its effects may find themselves facing consequences for endangering our guests and putting Midwest Lindyfest in legal jeopardy.

Harassment Types

This policy identifies four primary types of Harassment:

  1. Hostile Environment
  2. Retaliatory harassment
  3. Quid pro quo sexual harassment
  4. Sexual Exploitation

1. Hostile Environment: Includes any situation in which there is harassing conduct that is sufficiently severe, pervasive/persistent and patently/objectively offensive that it alters the conditions of education or experience, from both a subjective (the of the person experiencing harassment) and an objective (reasonable person’s) viewpoint. The circumstances to determine whether an environment is “hostile” could include:

  • The frequency of the conduct
  • The nature and severity of the conduct
  • Whether the conduct was physically threatening
  • Whether the conduct was humiliating.
  • The effect of the conduct on the mental or emotional state of the person experiencing harassment;
  • Whether the conduct was directed at more than one person;
  • Whether the conduct arose in the context of other discriminatory conduct
  • Whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the work performance of the person experiencing harassment.
  • Whether the statement is an utterance of an epithet which engenders offense in the listener, or offends by rudeness

2. Retaliatory harassment is any adverse employment or educational action taken
against a person because of the person’s participation in a complaint or investigation of discrimination, assault or harassment.
3. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature; and submission to or rejection of such conduct results in adverse impacts on one’s ability to continue the work with Midwest Lindyfest one was doing before.
4. Sexual Exploitation occurs when a person takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for his/her own advantage or benefit, or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of the other forms of harassment or sexual assault. Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Prostituting another person;
  • Non-consensual video or audio-taping sexual activity;
  • Going beyond the boundaries of consent (e.g., letting your friends hide in the closet to watch you have consensual sex);
  • Engaging in non-consensual viewing of another person or exposing of oneself
  • Posting sexually explicit photos in public or on social media sites

Jurisdiction

Midwest Lindyfest has the jurisdiction to respond to situations that occur:

During any Midwest Lindyfest programing, including classes, social dances, and late night dances.If the perpetrator is not a participant, instructor, volunteer, board member, or staff member of Midwest Lindyfest specifically, but is a known member of the swing dance community, Midwest Lindyfest will still evaluate the harassment complaints if they are brought to the attention of the Midwest Lindyfest safer spaces committee. Be aware that the Midwest Lindyfest Safer Spaces Committee only has the ability to make decisions about what happens at Midwest Lindyfest.

  • If the person experiencing harassment is not affiliated with the swing dance community, the person experiencing harassment or a witness to the harassment can still report the incident. Midwest Lindyfest values its relationships with local communities and will not have them damaged by harassment from our participants or staff. The Safer Spaces Committee will evaluate complaints of harassment against non-Midwest Lindyfest participants and evaluate whether it makes sense to investigate them.
  • The national (and international) swing dance scene is a tightly-knit community. Midwest Lindyfest does want to be aware of potential persons who are known harassers. The board may consider pre-emptively disallowing someone to register, based on the formal evaluation procedures.

In the course of any national or local Midwest Lindyfest work occurring in person, over the phone, or any forms of electronic communication (email, social media websites, Google documents, etc).


When the person accusing and the accused are both members of the Midwest Lindyfest community, even if the alleged harassment takes place outside of any Midwest Lindyfest activity.


There is no limit on the time frame for reporting harassment. Reports can be made at any time. Midwest Lindyfest may be less able to respond to claims made significantly after an incident has taken place. We may not be able to respond to complaints about people who are no longer a part of the organization.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is an extremely serious issue. Significant personal harm and damage to reputation can come to a party through inappropriate breaches of confidentiality, including harm created by innuendo and gossip. Trust in confidentiality also encourages people to come forward with their complaint.

At the same time, those involved in a complaint have a right to be given enough information so that they are able to respond and to defend their interests. Confidentiality is different from anonymity. An individual complainant that wishes to seek informal or formal resolution must be prepared to be identified to the respondent.

Under this policy, everyone involved in a complaint has a responsibility to ensure confidentiality in all their verbal, written and taped communication, formal and informal, in order to respect the right to fair process for the complainant and respondent.

If every party involved agrees that the confidentiality policy creates more hardship than it resolves, the confidentiality requirement can be lifted. However, every person involved must agree to lift confidentiality or it will be maintained as a requirement.

Anyone can file a breach of confidentiality complaint with the Safer Spaces Committee if they believe that another person has broken confidentiality causing harm to one or both parties.

If people experiencing harassment are looking for completely confidential resources to discuss their harassment, they should talk to a therapist or a spiritual advisor. Midwest Lindyfest cannot neglect to take action if a report or complaint reveals that  there is immediate danger to more members of the Midwest Lindyfest community in the content of the report or complaint.

The records of the Safer Spaces Committee will be very strictly managed. Only members of the Committee who are actively working on a complaint process will have access to those records. Online form reports and complaints will be submitted to one person on the team who will be identified at the top of the form. If, for any reason, the complainant does not want their report or complaint going to that person, there will be an alternative person to speak with whose contact information will be listed on the form. Past records will be stored in a locked, physical location to which one member of the committee as access and deleted from online systems.

Reporting Harassment

There are three ways that people experiencing harassment can react through Midwest Lindyfest:  (1) using informal processes, (2) making a report, or  (3) filing a complaint.

1. Informal Process

People experiencing harassment may use an informal process to respond to harassment directly. The complainant will describe specifically to the respondent what unwelcome behaviours, statements, or materials are making them uncomfortable. The complainant may seek assistance and/or coaching to prepare themselves to speak to the respondent. If the complainant is seeking assistance and/or advice from a staff person, the staff person may provide coaching, at this point, to facilitate resolution. Even if the behavior is resolved independently, complainants are encouraged to make a report to the Safer Spaces Committee so that we are aware of and can address in the future the frequency and types of harassment that occur within the organization.

The respondent should be given an opportunity to stop the behavior and offer reparation(s) to the complainant.

Institutional sanctions or punishments, such as being removed from the event, are not permitted outcomes of informal resolutions.

The person experiencing harassment may prefer to start with an informal resolution process or to use a formal resolution process. If they choose an informal resolution process, they have the right to go on to a formal resolution process if they are not content with the results of the informal process.

2. Reports

People experiencing harassment may make a report to a staff member or a member of the Safer Spaces Committee. A report is a written account of what has occurred that can be made quickly while the experience is fresh in their minds and which they can use later if they choose to file a complaint. Reports can be filed anonymously or with names attached. Reports can be filed by a third party who sees the harassment or who is representing the person experiencing the harassment. Reports do not require further action on the part of the receiving body. Midwest Lindyfest STRONGLY encourages people experiencing harassment to file a report of the harassment even if they do not want the matter pursued further.

Reports of harassment given to program leaders will be turned over to the Safer Spaces Committee; the complainant can request that names and other identifying information be removed before the Safer Spaces Committee receives the report. The Safer Spaces Committee will keep private records of all reports filed for 5 years. If there is anyone on the Safer Spaces Committee whom the reporter does not want involved in the situation, that person will not have access to the records. Reports may also be filed anonymously using an online form, but the Safer Spaces Committee can’t follow up on an anonymous report. Additionally, Midwest Lindyfest reserves the right to pursue a report or complaint of harassment if the information given indicates that the there is a risk to other members of the Midwest Lindyfest community.

3.  Complaints

A complaint of harassment is an official written statement given by the person experiencing harassment (or by a third party on this person’s behalf with this person’s consent) that is used as the basis for initiating an investigation by the Safer Spaces Committee. Complaints require action on the part of the person who receives them. Volunteers are required to pass them on to the Safer Spaces Committee and the Safer Spaces Committee is required to take formal action, most likely in the form of an investigation.

If someone files a complaint, the Safer Spaces Committee may have to contact other people at a local program or in a national team in order to address the situation. If the complaint is specifically against another individual, that person has a right to respond to the complaint, which means it will have to be shared with them. That person is referred to in the rest of the policy as “the respondent.”

In the formal process of responding to a complaint, a member or members of the Safer Spaces Committee will act as investigator to gather all relevant information. If a complainant wants an investigation, the Safer Spaces Committee is obligated to provide one. The investigator will interview the complainant, the respondent, and any witnesses. All people affiliated with Midwest Lindyfest have a responsibility to cooperate in an investigation. Complainants and respondents both have the right to be accompanied by their support person to all interviews.

Interviews by the investigator will be conducted in a consistent way for all parties involved in a complaint. If the investigator is not in the same physical location as the complainant, respondent, or witnesses who are being interviewed, they will conduct interviews over the phone, through video chat, or over email. If the investigator is in the same place as one of the complainant or the respondent, the investigator cannot meet with one and not the other in person. If one of the complainant or respondent does not have access to a certain kind of technology (if one can use video chatting but the other can’t, for example), neither interview will be conducted through that medium. Investigators may record interviews for the purpose of the investigation. Those recordings will be added to the file on the complaint upon the completion of the investigation.

An investigation will involve:

  • getting all pertinent information from the complainant
  • informing the respondent of the details of the complaint and getting their response
  • interviewing any witnesses
  • providing the complainant and the respondent with enough information about the allegations and responses of the other party or of witnesses to allow them to respond
  • determining whether, on a balance of probabilities, the harassment occurred
  • recommending appropriate remedies and penalties.

To preserve the integrity of the reporting process and to avoid further tension and conflict within the group where the harassment occurred, all parties will be informed that they must not speak with anyone, even those also involved in the complaint, about the complaint. To preserve the integrity of the complaint process, everyone involved is required to cooperate with the investigation and maintain the confidential nature of the complaint, unless all parties involved have agreed to waive confidentiality.

Before a final report is given, the investigator will give copies of a draft report to the complainant and respondent so they can comment on the accuracy and completeness of the facts. The draft report shall not be shared with anyone other than support persons, if any are involved. The investigator will revise any questions of accuracy before finalizing the report.

The investigator will bring the report back to the full Safer Spaces Committee. One member will abstain from the process in order to be able to respond to a complaint about the process with a level of distance from the conversation. The complainant and the responder will be informed of any action being taken on the report from the investigator within 5 days of the Committee receiving it.

The rest of the Safer Spaces Committee, without the abstaining member, will make a decision about what action, if any, should be taken. In the case of substantiated complaints, where they are reasonably sure that the harassment did occur as reported, the Committee will decide remedies for the person experiencing harassment and sanctions for the harasser.

Depending on the nature and severity of the harassment, the remedies for a person who has been harassed may include:

  • an oral or written apology from the respondent
  • compensation for hurt feelings


Depending on the nature and severity of the harassment, sanctions for harassers may include any of:

  • Written reprimand
  • The harasser being removed from the event
  • The harasser being banned from further Midwest Lindyfest

Responsibility for making sure that sanctions are carried out will be dependent on the nature of of the sanction. If someone is being removed from the event the MWLF board may need to be involved. However, the Safer Spaces Committee is ultimately accountable for making sure sanctions are carried out.

Unsubstantiated complaints
If there is not enough evidence to support an allegation of harassment, the investigator can not recommend any penalties or remedies. However, the Safer Spaces Committee will work with the complainant to understand what they are feeling and going through. Even if harassment is not proven, the feelings of everyone involved (complainant and accused) will be taken seriously.

Complaints made in bad faith
In the rare event that the complaint was made in bad faith, that is, deliberately and maliciously filed knowing it had absolutely no basis, the complainant will be subject to the same possible penalties as a harasser. The person unjustly accused of harassment will have their reputation restored, and will be given the benefit of any necessary remedies that would be given in a case of harassment.

Retaliation
Anyone who retaliates in any way against a person who has been involved in a harassment complaint will be subject to the same possible penalties as a harasser.

Appeals
Appeals to the decision of the Safer Spaces Committee are accepted on the basis of procedural errors, bias on the part of a member of the Committee, new information that was not previously available, or claims that the decision was arbitrary or not fully reviewed. Appeals will be heard by the member of the Committee who abstained at the earlier phase of the process. If there is no member of the committee who is impartial (due to other experiences or connections to the case), an appeal processor will be selected from a list of pre-approved appeals processors. Appeal decisions are final.

Changes and Sources

Recourse for changing the policy

This policy was put into effect in 2018. If you are interested in giving feedback on this policy, please contact a member of the Safer Spaces Committee. 

Sources

Based on the Macalester College anti-harassment policy and procedure and the Sistering Anti-Oppression plan.