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Harassment or Discrimination?


The University of Rhode Island strives to create an inclusive environment and achieve equal opportunity for all members of the URI community. To this end, it is imperative to create a workplace free of harassment or discrimination. It may be unclear as to whether certain conduct or practices constitute harassment or discrimination. The following definitions may be helpful in making this determination.

  • Discrimination. The URI Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, and Diversity defines discrimination as  “an intentional or unintentional act which adversely affects employment opportunities because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, marital status, or national origin, or other factors such as age.”
  • Harassment is defined by the Department of Labor as conduct that subjects an employee to “unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on the employee’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or sexual orientation that adversely affects the work environment of the employee; or when an employment decision is contingent on an employee accepting or rejecting the unwelcome conduct.”
  • Sexual Harassment.  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, constitute sexual harassment when: 1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of instruction, employment, or otherwise full participation in University life; 2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for decisions related to employment or academic performance or progress; or
    3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work, residential or academic environment. Further information on URI policy and procedures for dealing with incidences of sexual harassment can be found at the Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, and Diversity website.

If you believe you have experienced harassment or discrimination, there are several steps you should consider taking.

  1. Be specific. Document incidences of concern to you.  The more information you have, the better.
  2. Don’t keep it to yourself.   Whether you decide to take a formal or an informal route to solving the issue, don’t keep it to yourself.  If you have a mentor whom you trust, that is a good first step.  If you do not have a mentor formally assigned to you, either ask to have one assigned or, if that option is not available to you, find someone you trust on your own.  Share your concerns with them and ask for their advocacy and support.  Often, targets of harassment or discrimination do not trust their instincts, and having the feedback from a trusted outside party can be important.
  3. Contact the URI Bias Response Team.  This group gathers information about bias incidents and supports those who have witnessed, or are the target of, an act of bias.  Their support includes informal advocacy, advice, and referral.
  4. Go to the URI Diversity website, which lists a variety of committees and other resources who can be contacted that deal with these issues.
  5. The URI Equity Council is forming a Harassment Committee, and can be contacted.
  6. Contact the Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, and Diversity, which has an Incident Reporting Formavailable to report any violations. Formally reporting harassment or discrimination must involve this office. 


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