AAEO Investigates Civil Rights Allegations

AAEO administers an equal opportunity complaint procedure, including investigating allegations of prohibited discrimination and harassment brought by OHSU staff, faculty, students, patients, and employment applicants.

OHSU policy strictly prohibits discrimination and harassment based on any protected class.If you believe either you or someone else has experienced prohibited discrimination and/or harassment, please contact . To report a concern anonymously: OHSU Integrity Hotline 877-733-8313 (toll free; 24 hours/day; 7 days/week).

What is included in prohibited discrimination and harassment?

State law, federal law, and OHSU policy set forth criteria under which one is prohibited from discriminating against or harassing another individual on the basis of (but not limited to):

  • Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Disability
  • Race/Color
  • Family Medical Leave Act (use of)
  • Religion
  • Oregon Family Medical Leave Act (use of)
  • Retaliation
  • Gender
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Marital Status
  • Sexual Orientation / Gender Expression
  • Military/Reserve Status
  • Veteran's Status
  • National Origin
  • Whistle Blower
  • Worker Compensation System (use of)

What constitutes prohibited discrimination and harassment?

In general, prohibited discrimination and harassment is any verbal, visual, physical, or any other kind of conduct that is connected with an individual and based upon one or more protected classes (race, gender, religion, etc.) which impacts the terms or conditions of employment, receipt of services or academic activities, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Prohibited discrimination and harassment violate OHSU policy and is not tolerated.

Prohibited discrimination and harassment can occur between an employee and a manager; between co-workers; between faculty members; between a staff member and outside contractor or vendor; between a faculty member and staff or student; between a staff member and patient; between men and women; or between members of the same gender.


Sexual harassment

A subset of prohibited discrimination and harassment is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favor, and any other behavior of a sexual nature. There are two general types of sexual harassment, quid pro quo and hostile environment.


Quid pro quo

Quid pro quo ("this for that") harassment occurs when employment or academic decisions or expectations (hiring, promotions, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance standards, grades, access to recommendations, assistance with school work, etc.) are based on an employee or student's submission to or rejection of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other behavior of a sexual nature. Examples may include: demanding sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or grade or disciplining an employee who refuses sexual advances.


Hostile environment

A work or learning environment is "hostile" when unwelcome verbal, non-verbal, or physical behavior of a prohibited nature is severe or pervasive enough to unreasonably interfere with an employee's work or a student's learning, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. An employer, teacher, co-worker, vendor, or fellow student can create a hostile environment. A single incident or a few incidents may not necessarily rise to the level of prohibited harassment; however, a single extreme incident could constitute prohibited discrimination or harassment. Each matter needs to be evaluated individually. Examples may include: jokes or insults, unwelcome flirting, pornography, unwelcome hugging and/or kissing, or repeated invitations for dates.

A third person offended by harassing behavior among willing participants may, if sufficiently severe or pervasive circumstances exist, be a victim of prohibited harassment.


Retaliation policy

State law, federal law, and OHSU policy prohibit retaliation for reporting discrimination or harassment, and/or filing a complaint of prohibited discrimination or harassment, or participating in the investigation of such a complaint. Retaliation is a serious offense that can result in disciplinary action.

This protection exists even if a complaint is eventually dismissed or is deemed to lack merit. (However, intentionally false accusations will not be tolerated, and a person will be held accountable for making intentionally false claims of prohibited discrimination or harassment.)

Colleagues or students who assist others in raising a complaint of prohibited discrimination or harassment or give testimony or documentary evidence in support of a complaint, are similarly protected.


What to do if . . .

If you feel you have been harassed or discriminated against

  • Keep notes of what happened: when, where, what happened, and who was present.
  • Concerns regarding harassment or discrimination can most often be resolved directly with the person engaging in the prohibited behavior. When such resolution is not possible or appropriate, concerns may be brought to any academic or administrative official of OHSU, AAEO, Human Resources, or other appropriate OHSU department.
  • Please, contact to inform us of the situation.
  • Send, deliver, or fax your completed complaint form to , along with any notes or materials you would like us to review. It is helpful for AAEO to have a written statement from you addressing the detailed nature of your allegations, including what occurred, who was involved or witnessed the incident(s), when, where and why the incident(s) occurred.
  • Keep AAEO informed of subsequent developments, particularly threats or retaliatory conduct.

If you are accused of inappropriate conduct

  • If AAEO receives a complaint naming you as a respondent, AAEO will contact you.
  • AAEO will investigate the complaint fairly and impartially. The investigator will act as independent fact-finder to determine if the allegations are substantiated.
  • Be open and honest when questioned about the alleged conduct and explain its context.
  • Do not withhold or attempt to conceal the truth.
  • Refrain from retaliation. Remember that people have a right to file complaints, even if the respondent does not believe the complaint is valid.

If you are in a position of authority (manager/supervisor, department chair/director, dean)

  • Encourage employees and students to come forward with questions, concerns, and complaints.
  • Distribute relevant policies to all faculty and employees periodically or when there are modifications to the policy.
  • Encourage attendance at informational sessions designed to raise awareness about prohibited harassment, and remind faculty, students, and employees periodically of the need to maintain a harassment-free workplace and learning environment.
  • Attend trainings offered by AAEO and others on the topics of prohibited discrimination and harassment and encourage your supervisory staff to attend.

If someone approaches you who thinks he or she has experienced or witnessed prohibited discrimination or harassment, you should take steps to address their concerns. Contact AAEO at 503-494-5148 or immediately to inform us of the matter and to seek our advice. The information you have received may place OHSU on notice and trigger an obligation to investigate the matter, determine whether prohibited conduct has occurred and, if so, OHSU may need to take steps to stop the prohibited conduct. Take every complaint seriously and ensure that others do as well.

Some useful tips:

  • Determine if you are being asked for advice or to take action. Ask, "What would you like me to do?" or, "How would you like me to help you?" This will help you avoid misunderstandings and will help the complainant clarify his/her objective in approaching you.
  • Be respectful of the complainant. Do not dismiss the complaint as trivial. Don't tell the complainant to "grow a thicker skin" or say that the respondent "means well, but sometimes slips." What may seem unimportant to you may be offensive or threatening to another person who has different life experiences or less power.
  • Acknowledge the courage needed for the complainant to approach you and the difficulty of the situation. If the complainant cries, remember that tears have various meanings and in professional settings are often a sign of frustration and anger. Acknowledge the person's emotions without labeling them, by saying something like: "This must be difficult for you."
  • Ensure that no retaliation occurs. Fear of retaliation is common among those who have been harassed or discriminated against and is often the reason they do not bring complaints forward. Reassure the complainant and explain that OHSU has a process in place to address prohibited harassment and retaliation complaints. This process is primarily administered by AAEO.
  • Keep allegations confidential except on a "need to know" basis. However, you should not promise confidentiality to a complainant. You and OHSU are obligated to address complaints, and promising confidentiality to a complainant might interfere with the ability to address complaints.
  • Be neutral. Avoid comments such as, "I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it" or "Oh, she does that to everyone," which may sound as if you are defending the accused. Also avoid comments such as, "Well, you're so young and pretty" or "You shouldn't have been in the lab by yourself at night," which may sound as if you are blaming the complainant.
  • Report the matter to AAEO. AAEO will help you determine whether further investigation or action is needed. Comply with OHSU complaint procedures.
  • Remember that conversation and counseling between you and another individual are not privileged communications. These conversations can be elicited in the course of legal or administrative proceedings that might ensue.
  • Understand a complainant is not expected or required to report allegations of prohibited conduct to a supervisor, manager, or administrator when that person is also the respondent. See the 
    Harassment policy for the complete list of potential departments to report harassment.


If you are a colleague or peer

  • Listen to the report of alleged prohibited harassment sympathetically but objectively.
  • Ask the individual if s/he wants to report the behavior. If requested, assist the individual in reporting the behavior.
  • Direct the individual to AAEO.
  • Be aware that you and the person reporting the alleged prohibited harassment are protected from retaliation.
  • Keep allegations confidential, except as necessary to report. Confidentiality protects the interests of the alleged respondent, the person making the report, and protects you from responding to a complaint of retaliation.