Evergreen Staff Procedures for Handling a Code of Conduct Violation

This procedure has been adapted from the PyCon Staff Procedure for incident handling , from Readercon Procedures for Addressing Reported Violations of the Code of Conduct, and from the Ada Initiative’s guide titled “Conference anti-harassment/Responding to Reports”.

Be sure to have a good understanding of our Code of Conduct policy, which can be found here:http://evergreen-ils.org/code-of-conduct/

Procedures for Conference Staff

If the initial report is received by conference staff, the conference staff should:

  1. Ask whether the person making the report needs medical care and call 911 if they do.
  2. Ask the person what can be done to make them feel safe in the moment.
  3. Ask the person to relocate to a designated quiet space or the a quiet space of a person’s choosing (such as a hotel room or their friend’s room).
  4. Invite the person to call a partner, friend, or other supporter if they don’t already have someone with them.
  5. Tell the person that they are going to make a call to summon a designated responder to talk to them further.
  6. Conference staff should immediately connect the attendee with one of the trained Evergreen incident responders to handle the report. All conference staff should receive cell phone numbers for each of the incident responders prior to the start of the conference, along with times they will be unavailable to respond (e.g. when they are presenting a program)

Procedures for Responders

If the initial report is received by an incident responder, the responder should follow steps 1-4 above. If the report is made by phone, the responder should stay on the phone with the reporter until they are in the same place.

Incident responders should ask the reporter to describe the incident and write down the information in a written report.. Report forms are available at http://goo.gl/forms/gn41KnnhL9 and will also be available in paper form to help you gather the following information:

  • Identifying information (name) of the participant doing the harassing
  • The behavior that was in violation
  • The approximate time of the behavior (if different than the time the report was made)
  • The circumstances surrounding the incident
  • Other people involved in the incident

Prepare an initial response to the incident. This initial response is very important and will set the tone for the Evergreen Conference. Depending on the severity/details of the incident, please follow these guidelines:

  • If there is any general threat to attendees or the safety of anyone including conference staff is in doubt, summon security or police
  • Offer the victim a private place to sit
  • Ask “is there a friend or trusted person who you would like to be with you?” (if so, arrange for someone to fetch this person)
  • Ask them “how can I help?”
  • Provide them with your list of emergency contacts if they need help later
  • If everyone is presently physically safe, involve law enforcement or security only at a victim’s request

There are also some guidelines as to what not to do as an initial response:

  • Do not overtly invite them to withdraw the complaint or mention that withdrawal is OK. This suggests that you want them to do so, and is therefore coercive. “If you’re OK with it [pursuing the complaint]” suggests that you are by default pursuing it and is not coercive.
  • Do not ask for their advice on how to deal with the complaint. This is a staff responsibility.
  • Do not offer them input into penalties. This is the staff’s responsibility.

Addressing the Complaint

Once something is reported to an incident responder, the responder should immediately meet with the Safety Committee. If the reporter of the incident or the alleged harasser is a member of the Safety Committee, they should recuse themselves from this meeting and any subsequent discussion on how to address the complaint. The main objectives of this meeting is to find out the following:

  • What happened?
  • Are we doing anything about it?
  • Who is doing those things?
  • When are they doing them?
  • What do we want to communicate with the alleged harasser?

After the staff meeting and discussion, have an incident responder  communicate with the alleged harasser. Make sure to inform them of what has been reported about them.

Allow the alleged harasser to give their side of the story to the staff. After this point, if the report stands, let the alleged harasser know what actions will be taken against them. An additional meeting of the Safety Committee may be required before a final decision is made.

Some things for the staff to consider when dealing with Code of Conduct offenders:

  • Warning the harasser to cease their behavior and that any further reports will result in sanctions
  • Requiring that the harasser avoid any interaction with, and physical proximity to, their victim for the remainder of the event
  • Ending a talk that violates the policy early
  • Not publishing the video or slides of a talk that violated the policy
  • Not allowing a speaker who violated the policy to give (further) talks at the event now or in the future
  • Immediately ending any event volunteer responsibilities and privileges the harasser holds
  • Requiring that the harasser not volunteer for future events your organization runs (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
  • Requiring that the harasser refund any community-funded travel grants and similar they received (this would need to be a condition of the grant at the time of being awarded)
  • Requiring that the harasser immediately leave the event and not return
  • Banning the harasser from future events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
  • Providing a report to the harasser’s employer in cases where the harassment occurred in an official employee capacity, such as working while paid event staff, while giving a talk about their employer’s product, while staffing an exhibit booth, while wearing their employers’ branded merchandise, while attempting to recruit someone for a job, or while claiming to represent their employer’s views.
  • Removing a harasser from membership in relevant organizations
  • Recommendation from the Safety Committee to remove the harasser from a leadership position in the community. This recommendation would be made to the group with the authority to make this decision (e.g. the EOB in the case of an EOB member, the developer community in the case of a core committer/release manager, etc.)
  • Publishing an account of the harassment and calling for the resignation of the harasser from their responsibilities (usually pursued by people without formal authority: may be called for if the harasser is the event leader, or refuses to stand aside from the conflict of interest, or similar; typically event staff have sufficient governing rights over their space that this isn’t as useful)

Give accused attendees a place to appeal to if there is one, but in the meantime the report stands.

Keep in mind that it is not a good idea to encourage an apology from the harasser. Forcing a victim of harassment to acknowledge an apology from their harasser forces further contact with their harasser. It also creates a social expectation that they will accept the apology, forgive their harasser, and return their social connection to its previous status.

If the harasser offers to apologize to the victim (especially in person), we suggest strongly discouraging it. If a staff member relays an apology to the victim, it should be brief and not require a response. (“X apologizes and agrees to have no further contact with you” is brief. “X is very sorry that their attempts to woo you were not received in the manner that was intended and will try to do better next time, they’re really really sorry and hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive them” is emphatically not.)

If the harasser attempts to press an apology on someone who would clearly prefer to avoid them, or attempts to recruit others to relay messages on their behalf, this may constitute continued harassment.

Communicating with the Community

It is very important how we deal with the incident publicly. Our policy is to make sure that everyone aware of the initial incident is also made aware that it is not according to policy and that official action has been taken – while still respecting the privacy of individual attendees. When speaking to individuals (those who are aware of the incident, but were not involved with the incident) about the incident it is a good idea to keep the details out.

In most cases, the conference chair, or designate, should make one or more public announcements describing the behavior involved and the repercussions. If necessary, this will be done with a short announcement either during the plenary and/or through other channels. No one other than the conference chair or someone delegated authority from the conference chair should make any announcements. No personal information about either party will be disclosed as part of this process. A sample statement might be:

“<thing> happened. This was a violation of our policy. We apologize for this. We have taken <action>. This is a good time for all attendees to review our policy at <location>. If anyone would like to discuss this further they can <contact us somehow>.”

If some attendees were angered by the incident, it is best to apologize to them that the incident occurred to begin with. If there are residual hard feelings, suggest to them to write an email to the conference chair or to the event coordinator. It will be dealt with accordingly.


Post-event procedures

Following the Evergreen conference, the Safety Committee will:

  • Solicit post-conference feedback to evaluate whether the conference provided a safe place for attendees and to determine if Code of Conduct violations are not being reported.
  • Review Code of Conduct incidents that occurred (if any) to determine if there are any ways they can improve the handling of such incidents. The intent of this review is not to reconsider action taken for the specific incident. Instead, it is an opportunity to identify ways to improve the procedures for responders and the Safety Committee .
  • Conduct an annual review of the Code of Conduct and procedures to identify any changes that are required.