Abusive Conduct in the Workplace: Procedures for the Berkeley Campus

Number One Introduction

Consistent with the Presidential Policy on Abusive Conduct in the Workplace (“AC policy”), the following describes the University’s process for investigating and adjudicating alleged violations of the AC Policy. 

For policy-covered staff employees, corrective action/discipline is governed by Personnel Policies for Staff Members 62 (Corrective Action), 63 (Investigatory Leave), and 64 (Termination and Job Abandonment); Personnel Policies for Staff Members-II 64 (Termination of Appointment), which applies to Senior Management Group (SMG) employees; and as applicable, other policies and procedures. For academic appointees, formal corrective action/discipline is governed by the Academic Personnel Manual (APM), including APM-015 (The Faculty Code of Conduct), APM-016 (University Policy on Faculty Conduct and the Administration of Discipline), APM-150 (Non-Senate Academic Appointees/Corrective Action and Dismissal), and as applicable, other policies and procedures. The AC policy does not supplant disciplinary processes described in the APM or Academic Senate Bylaws or regulations. For represented employees, formal corrective action/discipline is governed by collective bargaining agreements. 

Students can report Abusive Conduct, as a Complainant or a Reporter. A student may be a Respondent in an Abusive Conduct complaint under the AC policy if the conduct occurred in the Respondent student’s capacity as a student employee. If a student is alleged to have engaged in abusive conduct that was not in the course of the student’s employment, the Code of Student Conduct applies instead.

Violations of the AC policy may result in disciplinary measures pursuant to applicable University staff and academic personnel policies and collective bargaining agreements.

This document should be read in conjunction with the UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (“SVSH Policy”), as well as applicable PPSMs, including PPSM 62 , PPSM 63 and PPSM 64, and applicable provisions of the APM, including APM-150

Applicable definitions from the AC Policy are incorporated herein. Other definitions are found in the applicable PPSMs and applicable APMs and are also incorporated herein.

The following policies are available online: 

Future revisions of these procedures will include flow charts for complaints against PPSM covered employees, non-faculty academic appointees, and Senate and non-Senate faculty.

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Number Two Procedures 

2.1 Reporting Incidents of Abusive Conduct

UC Berkeley encourages anyone who is subjected to or becomes aware of Abusive Conduct to promptly report it. Individuals should report conduct believed to constitute Abusive Conduct to their manager, any supervisor, or directly to Employee and Labor Relations (ELR). Chairs and deans, among others, are all considered managers and supervisors. 

To report to Employee and Labor Relations (ELR), please submit a complaint via the online ELR Abusive Conduct Complaint Intake Form. For general inquiries, please email ac_elr@berkeley.edu.

Reports may also be made to the UC Whistleblower hotline

If you are unsure if the conduct you are reporting would constitute abusive conduct, or believe the behavior is both abusive conduct and discrimination, you should contact Employee and Labor Relations (ELR) for consultation. ELR will conduct an initial assessment and re-route the concern to the appropriate office if necessary.

2.1.1. Manager and Supervisor Reporting Obligations

Managers and supervisors (including, among others, Chairs and Deans) who observe conduct that may constitute Abusive Conduct have a responsibility to address and report such conduct immediately. Managers and supervisors who receive a report of Abusive Conduct involving anyone covered by the AC Policy must immediately submit the report to Employee and Labor Relations (ELR) and consult with ELR regarding appropriate next steps, even if the incident(s) appear(s) to be resolved. A report will include all known details, including date, time, location, and the names of the parties. This consultation with ELR will help support the manager or supervisor in responding to the report and may result in the matter being escalated or referred to another office or process, such as for investigation. Consultation will also ensure that the incident is tracked appropriately. 

2.1.2. Anonymous, Third-Party, and Aggregate Reports 

Anonymous reports and allegations from Reporters who are not Complainants will be reviewed and may be investigated. Such reports will be tracked, even if they are not investigated. The response to such reports may be limited if the Complainant does not wish to pursue the complaint or if the University is unable to collect sufficient information to determine whether the alleged conduct occurred or constitutes a violation of this policy.

The University recognizes its responsibility to address all concerns of Abusive Conduct, even when they involve individuals who are not employees. When the Respondent is a third party, Employee and Labor Relations will determine the appropriate manner of resolution consistent with the University’s commitment to a prompt and equitable process. The University’s ability to take responsive action depends on its relationship and level of control over the third party, if any. The extent of the inquiry and responsive steps will depend on the specific circumstances.

Such an inquiry may also be appropriate when there is no identifiable, individual Respondent (such as where the Complainant alleges Abusive Conduct by an organization or a Respondent whose identity is unknown, or conduct by multiple people that rises to the level of Abusive Conduct only when considered in the aggregate). 

2.1.3. Reports of Other Policy Violations 

If the conduct is sex-based, including conduct that is sexual in nature or based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, sex- or gender-stereotyping, or sexual orientation, the University’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (SVSH) Policy will apply. Reports shall be made or forwarded to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD), the campus Title IX Office, as required by and described in the SVSH policy. 

If the conduct is based on one or more protected categories outlined in the University’s Discrimination, Harassment, and Affirmative Action in the Workplace policy, that policy will apply. Reports should be made or forwarded to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) for assessment and response.

ELR may identify allegations of violations of other policies arising from the same set of alleged facts that led to the Abusive Conduct report (such as Affirmative Action in the Workplace, Workplace Violence Policy, Whistleblower, or Research Misconduct). In such cases, ELR may conduct a joint intake with other applicable offices to determine the most effective way to respond to the allegations. 

The investigator of the Abusive Conduct report will gather evidence and make factual findings to assist applicable offices in determining whether other policies or standards were violated and/or refer the policy allegations to the applicable office for investigation. 

2.1.4. Reports Involving Academic Freedom

The faculty and other academic appointees, staff, and students of the University enjoy significant free speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section II of the California Constitution. The AC policy is intended to protect members of the University community from Abusive Conduct, not to regulate protected speech. The AC policy will be implemented in a manner that recognizes rights to freedom of speech and expression. 

When the alleged conduct involves issues related to academic freedom, Employee and Labor Relations will consult with the Vice Provost for the Faculty for relevant academic judgment.

2.1.4. Timelines for Making Reports 

There is no time limit for a Complainant to submit a report. Complainants may report incidents even if significant time has passed. However, the sooner the University receives a report, the better able it is to respond, investigate, remedy, and impose discipline, if appropriate. 

2.2. Confidential Resources 

The University makes confidential resources available to individuals who witness or experience Abusive Conduct. Individuals may consult with these confidential resources at any point, including before making a report. Meeting with any confidential resource is not considered making a formal report and will not lead to an investigation. 

2.2.1. Counseling Services

Within University Health Services at UC Berkeley, confidential resources offer assessment, consultation, counseling, and referrals to the UC Berkeley community. Be Well at Work - Employee Assistance

Faculty & Staff Assistance Programs, also known as Employee Assistance Programs, are confidential resources that provide assessment, consultation, counseling, and referrals regarding work and personal stress or emotional concerns that are interfering with an individual’s ability to work in their professional Workplace or academic setting. At UC Berkeley, Be Well at Work - Employee Assistance provides no-cost confidential counseling and referral for UC Berkeley faculty, staff, visiting scholars, and postdocs. It is also the employee assistance program for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

UHS Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) supports the emotional, psychological, educational, social, and cultural development of all UC Berkeley students through a wide range of multiculturally based counseling, psychiatric, career, consultation, training, and educational services.

2.2.2. Ombuds Offices

Ombuds offices provide confidential, impartial, independent, and informal conflict resolution and problem-solving services. Ombuds services include conflict analysis, strategies to resolve and prevent disputes, identification of options and information, effective communication coaching, mediation, group facilitation, and resource referrals. Individuals experiencing Abusive Conduct may seek confidential assistance from Ombuds offices to discuss strategies and options for moving forward based on the conduct they have experienced. Ombuds may help identify options when the individual is determining which resolution route is best for the situation.

Although Ombuds offices are independent of and do not share information with formal compliance and complaint processes, Ombuds may assist individuals with identifying the applicable offices identified by local procedures and additional location support resources. Staff Ombuds Office

The Staff Ombuds Office provides a confidential place for employees to discuss and clarify concerns, identify options, and discover problem-solving strategies to constructively navigate and overcome workplace disputes and problems. The office serves staff, non-Senate academics, and faculty who perform management functions. Faculty Ombuds

The Faculty Ombuds role is a confidential, informal, impartial resource for Senate faculty experiencing work-related problems and conflicts. Ombuds Office for Students and Postdoctoral Appointees

The Ombuds Office for Students and Postdoctoral Appointees is a confidential, impartial, independent, and informal resource that provides assistance sorting through a campus-related conflict or concern. The office serves all UC Berkeley students and postdoctoral appointees.

2.3. Initial Assessment

As soon as practicable (and in no more than 30 business days) after receiving a report, Employee and Labor Relations will make an initial assessment. The assessment may include a limited factual inquiry to determine how to proceed and whether an investigation is warranted. Employee and Labor Relations may extend this timeline for good cause. 

If an individual’s health and safety are threatened, an immediate response is required. Physical violence or threats of physical violence are extreme forms of Abusive Conduct and should be reported to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Such incidents may also violate workplace violence policies and criminal laws.

For emergencies, call 911 If you are on campus, you may also call the UCPD emergency on-campus alternate telephone number: (510) 642-3333. 

Otherwise, to report a crime or threat, please call (510)-642-6760 or visit UCPD (1 Sproul Hall, UC Berkeley) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To report non-criminal and non-urgent behavior of concern by a student, you may submit a CARE report to the UC Berkeley Students of Concern Committee (SOCC) online. 

2.3.1 Interim/Supportive Measures 

The University will also consider and implement temporary Interim Measures as appropriate to protect the safety of the parties or the University community following the report of Abusive Conduct; to restore or preserve a party’s access to a University program or activity; or to deter further allegations until a policy determination is reached. ELR will consult with the Complainant and, when appropriate, the Respondent, to identify suitable services, accommodations, and other measures.

In determining Interim Measures, ELR will tailor the measures to the circumstances of each case, minimize burdens on the parties, and avoid depriving the parties of educational and employment opportunities as much as practicable. The University provides Interim Measures as appropriate and reasonably available, without fee or charge.

Interim Measures include but are not limited to: change in workstation, schedule, work location, unit, department, reporting line, or position for which the employee is qualified; a no–contact order restricting a party from contacting the other party; and excluding the Respondent from the campus or workplace.

Investigatory leave of a PPSM-covered respondent may be imposed in accordance with PPSM 63. Investigatory leave of a non-faculty academic respondent may be imposed in accordance with APM-150. Involuntary leave of a Senate faculty respondent may be imposed in accordance with APM-016. Investigatory leave of a non-Senate faculty respondent may be imposed in accordance with APM-150.

2.4. Resolution Options 

Resolution of alleged Abusive Conduct may take different forms, including early resolution and/or a formal investigation. Regardless of the outcome, the Complainant shall be notified in writing that the complaint was reviewed and that appropriate steps were taken to reach resolution in the matter. 

Instead of, or in addition to, reporting Abusive Conduct in violation of the AC policy, an employee may file a grievance or complaint. That grievance or complaint must meet all of the relevant requirements, including time limits for filing, under the applicable complaint resolution or grievance procedure (PPSM-70 (Complaint Resolution), APM-015 (The Faculty Code of Conduct), APM-016 (University Policy on Faculty Conduct and the Administration of Discipline), APM-140 (Non-Senate Academic Appointees/Grievances), APM-150 (Non-Senate Academic Appointees/Corrective Action and Dismissal), or applicable collective bargaining agreements). Any such grievance or complaint will be forwarded to the investigator for violations of the AC policy, and the grievance or complaint procedure will be held in abeyance pending resolution under the AC policy, unless the applicable collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise. After completion of the process under the AC policy, the grievance or complaint may be reactivated under the applicable grievance or complaint procedure.

2.4.1. Early Resolution 

The University encourages early resolution when possible. The goal of early resolution is to settle differences fairly, at an early stage, and in an open manner, without retaliation. 

Resolution may be facilitated by a manager or by Employee and Labor Relations. The facilitating manager or Employee and Labor Relations will initiate the early resolution process promptly, typically within 60 to 75 business days after Employee and Labor Relations has made an initial assessment of a report. The facilitating manager or Employee and Labor Relations may extend this timeline for good cause, with written notice to the Complainant and the Respondent of the reason for the extension and the projected new timeline. 

Options for early resolution may include, but are not limited to:

  • Facilitated discussion or mediation 
  • Agreement to counseling, coaching, educational, and/or training programs
  • Negotiating an agreement for corrective action/discipline 
  • Arranging permanent supportive measures

The parties should contact Employee and Labor Relations if the resolution measure is no longer effective in addressing the reported conduct. 

The University encourages early resolution, but it does not require that the parties participate in early resolution prior to the University’s decision to initiate a formal investigation. In some cases, early resolution may not be the best approach, and Employee and Labor Relations may initiate a formal investigation instead. 

Attempts at early resolution and informal conflict management do not extend the time limit established by the employee’s applicable formal complaint resolution or grievance process. 

2.4.2. Formal Investigations 

The Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) is the office responsible for conducting investigations into alleged violations of the AC Policy. Investigations and consideration of disciplinary actions involving academic appointees will be handled in accordance with the University policies applicable to this population. 

Employee and Labor Relations may initiate a formal investigation after a preliminary review of the allegations even in cases where the Complainant does not wish to pursue the complaint. This may occur if Employee and Labor Relations determines that an investigation is necessary to mitigate risk to the campus community. 

Investigative reports made pursuant to the AC policy may be used as evidence in subsequent complaint or grievance resolution processes or disciplinary proceedings, and/or as a basis for the determination of probable cause by the Committee on Charges. Formal Investigation Requirements 

Formal investigation of reports of Abusive Conduct will incorporate the following procedures: 

  1. The Respondent will be advised of the relevant allegations in the complaint and will be reminded that Retaliation is prohibited by the AC policy. 

  2. The investigation generally will include interviews with the parties, interviews with other witnesses as needed, and a review of relevant documents or other evidence as appropriate. University employees who are interviewed, asked to provide information, or otherwise participate in an investigation have a duty to fully cooperate with University-authorized investigators.

  3. Disclosure of facts to parties and witnesses will be limited to what is reasonably necessary to conduct a fair and thorough investigation, consistent with University policy. Participants in an investigation may be advised to maintain confidentiality when essential to protect the integrity of the investigation.

  4. The Complainant and the Respondent may have an advisor present when they are interviewed and at meetings. They may have other support persons present under other policies. Other witnesses may have an advisor present at the discretion of Employee and Labor Relations or as required by University policy or a collective bargaining agreement.

  5. Interim protections or measures may be necessary prior to or during the investigation. These interim protections or measures should be implemented in accordance with local procedures. 

  6. The Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) will complete the investigation promptly, typically within 120 business days of notifying the parties in writing that a formal investigation of the complaint will be conducted. OPHD may extend this timeline for good cause, with written notice to the Complainant and the Respondent of the reason for the extension and the projected new timeline.

  7. Following the completion of the investigation, the investigator will prepare a written report that, at a minimum, includes a statement of the allegations and issues; the positions of the parties; a summary of the evidence; findings of fact; and a determination by the investigator as to whether the conduct at issue violated the AC policy. In determining whether the AC policy was violated, the investigator will apply the preponderance of evidence standard. 

  8. OPHD investigation will submit the report to Employee and Labor Relations, who will recommend next steps, in accordance with local procedures. 

  9. The Complainant and the Respondent will be informed when the investigation is completed and whether or not the investigation has found a violation of the AC policy to have occurred. Actions taken to resolve the complaint, if any, that are directly related to the Complainant, such as an order that the Respondent not contact the Complainant, will be shared with the Complainant. In accordance with University policies protecting individuals’ privacy, the Complainant may be notified generally that the matter has been referred for appropriate administrative action, but will not be informed of the details of the recommended action without the Respondent’s consent. 

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Number Four Frequently Asked Questions 

4.1. What are examples of Abusive Conduct? 

Abusive Conduct may take many forms, including but not limited to conduct involving physical actions and/or verbal, non-verbal, electronic, or written communication. 

Abusive Conduct may include but is not limited to the following types of conduct that otherwise satisfy the definition in Section II of the AC 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 

Abusive Conduct does not include exercising appropriate supervision of employees or carrying out instruction, grading, assessment, and evaluation. It does not include performance management or providing appropriate feedback. 

4.2. What are examples of conduct that generally do not constitute Abusive Conduct as defined in Section II of this policy? 

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 

It is important to recognize that not all interactions that may be unpleasant are necessarily Abusive Conduct. Differences of opinion, miscommunication, differences in work styles, business disagreements handled professionally, interpersonal conflicts, and occasional problems in working relations are an inevitable part of working life and do not necessarily constitute Abusive Conduct, as defined in Section II. 

4.3. Is cyberbullying addressed in the AC policy? 

Yes. Abusive Conduct can occur in many different settings, from a physical workplace (e.g., an office building) to an online workplace (e.g., an online meeting or an e-mail). Any type of Abusive Conduct, regardless of the format in which it occurs, is prohibited by the AC policy.

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Number FiveRevision History

January 1, 2023: This is the first issuance of the AC policy. These local implementing procedures were most recently revised March 22, 2023

The AC Policy and these local implementing procedures have been reformatted to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

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