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Human Resources

Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Print Text size

Rice University is committed to a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity.  Each individual has the right to work in a professional atmosphere that promotes equal employment opportunities and prohibits discriminatory practices, including harassment.  Therefore, Rice expects that all relationships among persons in the office will be businesslike and free of bias, prejudice and harassment.  To learn more access the Rice University General Policy No. 815, Equal Opportunity/Non-discrimination/Affirmative Action Policy. 

Equal Employment Opportunity 

Affirmative Action 

Retaliation is Also Prohibited 

Rice encourages reporting of all perceived incidents of discrimination or harassment. It is the policy of Rice to investigate such reports. Rice prohibits retaliation against any individual who reports discrimination or harassment or participates in an investigation of such reports.

Definitions of Harassment 

1. Sexual harassment constitutes discrimination and is illegal under federal, state and local laws. For the purposes of this policy, sexual harassment is defined, as in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines, as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when, for example: (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. To see Rice’s Sexual Harassment Policy, click here.

2. Sexual harassment may include a range of subtle and not so subtle behaviors and may involve individuals of the same or different gender. Depending on the circumstances, these behaviors may include, but are not limited to: unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors; sexual jokes and innuendo; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; commentary about an individual’s body, sexual prowess or sexual deficiencies; leering, whistling or touching; insulting or obscene comments or gestures; display in the workplace of sexually suggestive objects or pictures; and other physical, verbal or visual conduct of a sexual nature.

3. Harassment on the basis of any other protected characteristic is also strictly prohibited. Under this policy, harassment is verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of his /her race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, marital status, citizenship or any other characteristic protected by law or that of his/her relatives, friends or associates, and that: (i) has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment; (ii) has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance; or (iii) otherwise adversely affects an individual’s employment opportunities.

4. Harassing conduct includes, but is not limited to: epithets, slurs or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts; denigrating jokes; and written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group and that is placed on walls or elsewhere on the employer’s premises or circulated in the workplace.

Individuals and Conduct Covered 

These policies apply to all applicants and employees, whether related to conduct engaged in by fellow employees or someone not directly connected to Rice (e.g., an outside vendor, consultant or customer). Conduct prohibited by these policies is unacceptable in the workplace and in any work-related setting outside the workplace, such as during business trips, business meetings and business-related social events.

Reporting an Incident of Harassment, Discrimination or Retaliation 

Rice encourages reporting of all perceived incidents of discrimination, harassment or retaliation, regardless of the offender’s identity or position. Individuals who believe that they have been the victim of such conduct should discuss their concerns with their immediate supervisor, their division director, vice president or dean, the director of Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity, Vice President of Human Resources or Employee Relations.  Please refer to Rice University Human Resources Policy No. 830 for additional information.

Informal Procedure 

In addition, Rice encourages individuals who believe they are being subjected to such conduct to promptly advise the offender that his or her behavior is unwelcome and request that it be discontinued. Often this action alone will resolve the problem. Rice recognizes, however, that an individual may prefer to pursue the matter through informal or formal complaint procedures.

An individual reporting harassment, discrimination or retaliation should be aware, however, that Rice may decide it is necessary to take action to address such conduct beyond an informal discussion. This decision will be discussed with the individual. The best course of action in any case will depend on many factors and, therefore, the informal procedure will remain flexible. Moreover, the informal procedure is not a required first step for the reporting individual.

Formal Procedure 

As noted above, individuals who believe they have been the victims of conduct prohibited by this policy statement or believe they have witnessed such conduct should discuss their concerns with the director of AA/EEO, Human Resources, their immediate supervisor, director, vice president or dean.

Rice encourages the prompt reporting of complaints or concerns so that rapid and constructive action can be taken before relationships become irreparably strained. Therefore, while no fixed reporting period has been established, early reporting and intervention have proven to be the most effective method of resolving actual or perceived incidents of harassment.

Any reported allegations of harassment, discrimination or retaliation will be investigated promptly. The investigation may include individual interviews with the parties involved and, where necessary, with individuals who may have observed the alleged conduct or may have other relevant knowledge.

Confidentiality will be maintained throughout the investigatory process to the extent consistent with adequate investigation and appropriate corrective action. The investigation will only be discussed with others on a need to know basis.

Retaliation against an individual for reporting harassment or discrimination or for participating in an investigation of a claim of harassment or discrimination is a serious violation of Rice policy and, like harassment or discrimination itself, will be subject to disciplinary action. Acts of retaliation should be reported immediately and will be promptly investigated and addressed.

Misconduct constituting harassment, discrimination or retaliation will be dealt with appropriately. Responsive action may include, for example, training, referral to counseling and/or disciplinary action such as warning, reprimand, reassignment, suspension without pay or termination, as Rice believes appropriate under the circumstances.

If a party to a complaint does not agree with its resolution, that party may appeal utilizing Problem Solving Policy No. 429. False and malicious complaints of harassment, discrimination or retaliation as opposed to complaints, which, even if erroneous, are made in good faith, may be the subject of appropriate disciplinary action.

Any employee who has any questions or concerns about discrimination, harassment or retaliation should talk with the director of AA/EEO at x4350 or the director of Employee Relations at x4755.

For further information regarding sexual harassment, please review the following document: Sexual Harassment and Retaliation or visit the EEO/AA website

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