Addressing Abusive Conduct in the Workplace

The University of California, Berkeley is committed to promoting and maintaining a healthy working environment in which every individual is treated with respect. The Abusive Conduct in the Workplace Policy addresses Berkeley's responsibilities and procedures related to Abusive Conduct and Retaliation for reporting, participating in an investigation, or other process provided for in this Policy.

Please Note:

Our campus has a number of policies geared towards ensuring a respectful environment and ensuring that any problems, should they occur, will be promptly addressed by the applicable office (e.g., Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, Disability and Access Compliance, etc.). This includes the UC Sexual Violence and Sexual Harrasment Policy, the Discrimination, Harassment, and Affirmative Action in the Workplace Policy, the Whistleblower Policy, and reporting Hate Crimes. While this particular webpage only pertains to the Abusive Conduct Policy, please know that whether the conduct of concern falls under this Policy or another, it is okay to report it/seek help from any of the offices mentioned here, as they all follow a similar process and will communicate and/or refer as needed.

Who is covered under this Policy?

This Policy applies to all University employees (including Staff, Academics, and student employees), unpaid interns, and third parties.

How is “Abusive Conduct” defined?

  • Abusive Conduct may take many forms, including but not limited to conduct involving physical actions and/or verbal, non-verbal, electronic, or written communication. It is harassing or threatening behavior that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive conduct in the Workplace that denies, adversely limits, or interferes with a person’s participation in or benefit from the education, employment, or other programs or activities of the University. The conduct creates an environment, whether intended or not, that a reasonable person would find to be intimidating or offensive and unrelated to the University’s legitimate educational, employment, and business interests.

  • For the complete set of definitions, please refer to Section II: Definitions of the Policy.

What are examples of Abusive Conduct?

Examples include but are not limited to the following types of conduct that otherwise satisfy the definition in Section II of the Policy:

  • Use of abusive and/or insulting language (written, electronic or verbal).

  • Spreading false information or malicious rumors.

  • Behavior, language, or gestures that frighten, humiliate, belittle, or degrade, including criticism or feedback that is delivered with yelling, screaming, threats, implicit threats, or insults.

  • Encouraging others to act, singly or in a group, to intimidate or harass other individuals.

  • Making repeated or egregious comments about a person’s appearance, lifestyle, family, culture, country of origin, visa status, religious/spiritual/philosophical beliefs, or political views in a manner not covered by the University’s policies prohibiting discrimination.

  • Teasing or making someone the brunt of pranks or practical jokes.

  • Interfering with a person’s personal property or work equipment without a legitimate business or educational purpose.

  • Circulating photos, videos, or information via e-mail, text messages, social media, or other means without a legitimate business or educational purpose.

  • Making unwanted physical contact or encroaching on another individual’s personal space, in ways that would cause discomfort and unease, in a manner not covered by the University’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy.

  • Purposefully excluding, isolating, or marginalizing a person from normal work activities for non-legitimate business purposes.

  • Repeatedly demanding of an individual that the individual do tasks or take actions that are inconsistent with that individual’s job, are not that individual’s responsibility, for which the employee does not have authority, or repeatedly refusing to take “no” for an answer when the individual is within the individual’s right to decline a demand; pressuring an individual to provide information that the individual is not authorized to release (or may not even possess).

  • Making threats to block a person’s academic or other advancement, opportunities, or continued employment at the University without a legitimate business or educational purpose.

  • Sabotaging or undermining a person’s work performance.

What are examples of conduct NOT considered Abusive Conduct?

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Providing performance appraisals to employees, including negative appraisals.

  • Delivering constructive criticism.

  • Grading student performance, including negative assessments.

  • Coaching or providing constructive feedback.

  • Monitoring or restricting access to sensitive and confidential information for legitimate business reasons.

  • Scheduling regular or ongoing meetings to address performance issues.

  • Setting ambitious performance goals to align with departmental goals.

  • Investigating alleged misconduct or violation of University policy.

  • Counseling or disciplining an employee for performance, engaging in misconduct, or violating University policy.

  • Engaging in assertive behavior.

  • Having a disagreement.

  • Making unpopular statements or articulating positions on controversial issues.

  • Participating in debates and expressing differences of opinion about academic decisions.

  • Participating in a formal complaint resolution or grievance process.

  • Exercising academic freedom, including comments about scholarship, instruction within the classroom, different approaches to curriculum, opposing opinions about policy issues, or academic achievement, even if the content is considered insulting by the recipient and even if delivered passionately.

How to Report Abusive Conduct

Abusive Conduct Policy Reporting Responsibilities for Managers and Supervisors

Managers and supervisors who observe suspected Abusive Conduct or receive a report of Abusive Conduct must immediately submit a report [see Section V.C.2].

Reports of Sexual Violence/Sexual Harassment and/or protected category Discrimination

If a person is targeted because of certain protected characteristics, consult with the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD).

Campus Resources