PEN International sexual harassment policy

PEN International sexual harassment policy

PEN International regards the dignity and autonomy of all people as a core value of the organisation. PEN International is committed to ensuring that all employees, volunteers, members and other people related to PEN International are free from sexual harassment in places and at events associated with PEN International, including at PEN International congresses.

PEN International recognises that people may have different expectations and standards when it comes to comments and behaviour. Acknowledging this PEN International has established this policy to set out the standards of behaviour required from all PEN International staff, Board and members.

PEN International will not tolerate behaviour that is considered sexual harassment under this policy. PEN staff and members who contravene this policy will face consequences, including disciplinary action, up to and including termination of their employment or engagement, exclusion from PEN International activities, and prohibition from registration and attendance at future PEN International activities and events.

What is sexual harassment?

A person sexually harasses another person if they:

  • make an ‘unwelcome sexual advance’;
  • make an ‘unwelcome request for sexual favours’; or
  • engage in other ‘unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’,

and a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

‘Conduct of a sexual nature’ includes:

  • subjecting a person to any act of physical intimacy;
  • making, orally or in writing, any remark or statement with sexual connotations to a person or about a person;
  • making any gesture, action or comment of a sexual nature; and
  • any predatory behaviour of a sexual nature – involving one person targeting another with unwelcome sexual conduct.

Sexual harassment is not only against PEN International policy, but may also breach legislation in the UK and other territories in which PEN International conducts its business. Legal action can be taken against individuals who breach such legislation.

Motive or intention is irrelevant

Sexual harassment is unwelcome, uninvited behaviour which is offensive from the viewpoint of the person being harassed. It does not matter that the offender did not mean or intend to sexually harass the other person. In other words, an offender’s ‘innocent intent’ is irrelevant.

Examples of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment can involve any physical, visual, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature including both one-off incidents or a series of incidents. It also includes workplace behaviour or behaviour in connection with work, for example, at a Christmas party or at a work function outside of work hours.

Depending on the circumstances, some other examples of sexual harassment are:

  • displays of sexually graphic material including posters, pictures, calendars, cartoons, graffiti or messages left on boards or desks;
  • electronic mail messages, voice mail messages, screen savers, any material of a sexual nature downloaded from the internet, or viewed on a computer, offensive telephone calls, faxes, or gifts;
  • deliberate and unnecessary physical contact, such as patting, pinching, fondling or deliberately brushing against another body, attempts at kissing;
  • leering or staring at a person’s body;
  • inappropriate ‘humour’ such as smutty or sexist jokes or comments;
  • innuendo, including sexually provocative remarks, suggestive or derogatory comments about a person’s physical appearance, inferences of sexual morality or tales of sexual performance;
  • repeatedly asking someone out, especially after prior refusal;
  • intrusive inquiries into a person’s private life or in reference to a person’s sexuality; and
  • repeatedly asking someone out via text message, Facebook, Twitter or other on-line communication.

What is not sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is not behaviour which is based on mutual attraction, friendship and respect. If the interaction is consensual, welcome and appreciated, it is not sexual harassment.

Behaviour can breach this policy even if it is not unlawful

We may decide that behaviour breaches this policy even if a complaint has not been raised. For example, storing and viewing sexually explicit images on a computer or other digital device may constitute sexual harassment under this policy, even if a complaint has not been made against the offender. This behaviour is still unacceptable, even if it is not unlawful, and may result in disciplinary action being taken, up to and including termination of employment or exclusion from participation at current and future PEN International activities and events.

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