[updated April 2016]
UUCSS members repeatedly place community, the concept of organizational and interpersonal support and acceptance, high as a value for this congregation. The UUCSS should be a safe haven for all members, friends, and employees: women, men, children, young adults, the elderly, people of all races and ethnicities, gays and lesbians, heterosexuals, the physically and emotionally handicapped, and people of varying political persuasions. The following guidelines seek to insure that management of conflict within the congregation preserves the community, continuing to support and accept all parties to the conflict.
An ombuds officer will offer to assist in resolving conflict among UUCSS members and friends, according to the terms of this policy. The ombuds officer shall be appointed by the Board President, with the approval of the Board, and shall be responsible to the Congregation. The appointee will be a UUCSS member of established tenure. He or she shall serve a term of two years.
UUCSS will provide conflict resolution training of short-course type to the ombuds officer once each term, unless the incumbent declines based on existing qualifications and training. The ombuds officer shall develop a position description for approval by the Board and shall suggest improvements to it as needed.
Members, leaders, and staff of UUCSS are reminded to review the Denomination principles for guidance when in conflict.
The UUCSS Sexual Harassment Policy
We – members, friends, and employees of UUCSS – are called to respect the dignity and value of each other. In this regard, sexual harassment, which creates a climate of fear and mistrust and acts to disempower the harassed, will not be tolerated.
Definition: Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s participation in a church sponsored program or employment.
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for church-related or employment decisions affecting that individual.
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s ability to participate in church-related activities or their work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive church related or work environment.
Specific behaviors that may constitute sexual harassment include:
- unwanted sexually oriented humor or language
- comments about sexual behavior and/or preferences
- sexually oriented comments about one’s clothing or body parts
- repeated requests for dates or sexual activity
- leering or ogling
- intrusive touching including pats, hugs, squeezes, pinches, kissing, and/or brushing against someone
- sexually oriented hand or body gestures
- invading a person’s private space
- sexual images or written materials
- attempted sexual assault including rape
Informal Action: If you, as a member, friend or employee of the UUCSS believe that you have been sexually harassed, you are encouraged to tell the person engaging in the harassing behavior that the behavior is unwanted and unwelcome. Due to the formal and informal power dynamics present in sexual harassment incidents, you may not always feel comfortable addressing the situation face to face. Having a mutual friend there during the discussion may help, or a telephone call may be a desirable option.
Another option for confronting the situation is to write a three-part letter to the person engaging in the unwanted behavior. You should
a. Describe the incident: the type of behavior, the date, time, and location,
b. Describe how the incident made you feel mentally and physically,
c. State clearly that you do not want the person to behave that way around you.
You can also indicate the next step you plan to take if the harassment doesn’t stop. Make and keep a copy of the letter; hand-deliver or mail the original (certified mail recommended).
If confronting the person does not stop the behavior, or if you are unable or unwilling to confront the person, you are encouraged to advise the Minister or a Board-appointed ombuds officer. If the complainant or the accused is the Minister or Director of Religious Education, you should take the issue to the Ministerial Relations Committee or the Director of Religious Education Relations Committee, respectively. Discussion of the accusation should be limited to your counselor (and the relevant Relations Committee), to avoid being unfair to the accused. Bear in mind, if the accused is not informed of the complaint, due process is not possible.
The UUCSS considers sexual harassment an urgent matter and will respond to any complaint or inquiry promptly.
Those of you who follow up with a complaint should be guided by four fundamental principles:
b. Caring for the persons involved
d. Concern for the severity of the issues
Consistent with these principles, persons bringing complaints and grievances, or against whom complaints and grievances may be brought, are assured that collegial confidences will not be disclosed to any, except:
a. As mandated by law.
b. To prevent a clear and immediate danger to a person or persons.
c. Where disclosure of a confidence may be required for defense in a legal action between colleagues.
d. If, and only to the extent that, there is a waiver previously obtained in writing.
The Minister or other selected mediator will meet with both parties to try to resolve the situation to the general satisfaction of those involved. Both parties will receive a written copy of the mediator’s understanding of the meeting, including any agreements made by the parties. If the results of the mediation are unsatisfactory to the complainant, the complainant may take formal action to remedy the situation. (See Section 2.)
Observed Harassment. If you observe an act of apparent harassment on a child, take the initiative to inform the parent(s) of exactly what you saw and tell them about this policy. Refer to Section VIII of these policies for policies of the Religious Education program to avoid or manage harassment of children.
If you observe apparent harassment of an adult or older youth, tell the victim what you observed and tell them about this policy.
3. Formal Action: (Except in extreme circumstances, it is preferred that you follow informal channels before filing a formal complaint.)
a. A grievance or complaint should be made in writing to the Minister, or the designated UUCSS Ombuds officer. Whoever receives the complaint will refer it to the Ombuds officer who will provide a copy of the complaint or grievance to the person against whom it is directed.
b. The Ombuds officer must then select a mediator with the agreement of all parties involved, who will approach those involved in a pastoral manner, seeking a fair and sound collegial resolution. The selected mediator, if one or more of the parties involved believe the situation cannot be handled internally due to a conflict of interest, may be a church leader from another congregation or an outside consultant.
c. UUCSS members shall have full access and full freedom and right to respond to all complaints and evidence cited against them. In addition, they always have the right and option of advice by legal counsel at their own expense, but at no time can they be represented by legal counsel in these internal proceedings.
d. Any formal action in response to a complaint or grievance must be taken by the Board of Trustees, which is delegated, the responsibility for Church administration by authority of Article IV, Section 1 of the UUCSS Constitution. The action must be put in writing and given to all parties involved. It may be in the form of any of the following actions:
i. Advice that the complaint or grievance is unfounded.
ii. Caution, admonition, or reprimand.
iii. Initiation of removal from employment at the UUCSS, or removal of a member from Church leadership and cancellation of relevant privileges.
iv. Request for a restraining order.
e. Any member who considers that he or she has been treated adversely by the proceedings of the Board of Trustees of UUCSS may appeal within sixty days to the UUCSS congregation. This should be done by petition for a special congregational meeting (UUCSS Constitution Article III, section 2.)
f. When an action consisting of probation, suspension, or dismissal of an employee or Board Member has been taken, and no appeal has been made with thirty days, notice of the action shall be given immediately thereafter to the UUCSS congregation.
g. If, following a sexual harassment incident, the Board of Trustees determines that there are major congregational issues; an outside consultant will be brought in to meet with interested congregants to discuss their feelings regarding the incident in an effort to aid the healing process. Confidentiality regarding the details of the incident will be closely adhered to.
Disturbances at Church Events:
Safety Concerns: Every attendee at a church event has a responsibility for the safety of the participants and is expected to take actions as necessary to protect the safety of those present including using the building alarm systems and requesting civil authorities to respond.
Disturbances of Church Services:
The leader of any church service, the Minister, or any member of the Board of Trustees has the authority to maintain the decorum of the service.
The leader of any church service, the Minister, or any member of the Board of Trustees is expected to exercise judgment and to respond to a disturbance in the least disruptive fashion possible.
If necessary, the leader of any church service, the Minister, or any member of the Board of Trustees has the authority to request any person creating a disturbance to leave the premises and may summon civil authorities to enforce this authority on behalf of the church.
In any case where the authority to request a participant to depart the premises is exercised, the person making the request must make a written report to the Board of Trustees. The person involved will also be afforded an opportunity to report to the Board in writing, or in person at the next regularly scheduled Board meeting.
For purposes of this section of church policy, the term “responsible church officer” refers to the following:
i. Any member of the Board of Trustees,
ii. The Minister,
iii. A rental attendant at any event where the church property is rented out,
iv. Any paid staff,
v. Advisors and / or teachers at church youth events,
vi. Any church member who has organized and is responsible for the event where the disturbance occurs,
vii. Any person authorized to use the church property that has organized and is responsible for the event where the disturbance occurs.
b. Any responsible church officer is expected to exercise judgment and to respond to a disturbance in the least disruptive fashion possible.
c. Any responsible church officer has the authority to request any person creating a disturbance at a church event to leave the premises and may summon civil authorities to enforce this authority on behalf of the church.
d. In any case where the authority to request a participant to depart the premises is exercised, the person making the request must make a written report to the Board of trustees. The person involved will also be afforded an opportunity to report to the Board in writing, or in person at the next regularly scheduled Board meeting.
4. Follow Through After the Disturbance:
a. In any case where the decorum of a church service has been disturbed (see clause 2 above) or where a person has been asked to leave the premises as a result of a disturbance at another church event (see clause 3 above), the Minister and Board President should confer with the person involved afterwards to try to reach a common understanding of the issues surrounding the disturbance and seek to avoid future disturbances. Consultation with the Ombudsperson and/or any Safe Congregations Committee or equivalent is also appropriate. The Minister and Board President are expected to seek common ground with the person involved to settle the matter without taking more serious steps. The Minister and Board President should report their progress to the Board of Trustees.
b. If the Minister or Board President, despite making a good faith effort to find common ground with the person involved, believe a similar disturbance is likely to be repeated, they have the responsibility to propose appropriate further actions to protect the safety of the church community and the decorum of church services. Examples of such further actions might include refusing the right to speak at church services, refusing the right to attend church services, requesting a restraining order from civil authorities to keep the person involved away from the church property, etc. The proposal must be presented to the Board of Trustees in a written report. No further actions will be taken without the approval of the Board of Trustees.
c. If the Board of Trustees chooses to act on the recommendation of the Minister or Board President, the person involved should be notified in writing with copies to the Board of Trustees, and other appropriate church officers. This written notification should include the following:
i. A brief description of the history of the incident,
ii. The action approved by the Board of Trustees,
iii. A copy of this policy,
iv. An offer of the opportunity to speak at the next regularly-scheduled Board meeting to appeal the Board of Trustees decision (unless such right of appeal is itself judged to be threat to the safety of church members),
v. The duration of the proposed action, and
vi. The means, which will be used to enforce the action.