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Introduction

The Framingham Public Schools (FPS) are committed to providing equal educational opportunities and a safe learning environment for all students, faculty, and staff. Our School Committee Policy against all forms of discrimination is clear and can be found here. Any form of discrimination based on race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability or any other category protected by state or federal law is not tolerated. FPS will promptly report, investigate and respond to all allegations of discrimination, including harassment and retaliation, to the fullest extent possible and take appropriate disciplinary, corrective, and remedial measures necessary to ensure a safe and equitable learning and workplace environment for all school community members. As necessary, FPS will also report such incidents the Assistant Superintendent for Diversity, Equity and Community Development as we as to the appropriate authorities and share major incidents and patterns with the community affected.


Below please find specific questions related to faculty and staff reporting and responding to specific incidents.

WHAT IS EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION?

Employment discrimination is a form of discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity by employers. This is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
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WHAT IS AN INCIDENT OF DISCRIMINATION OR BIAS?

Any time a member of our community is treated differently or disadvantaged because an aspect of their identity puts them in a protected class, it may be an incident of discrimination or bias. Discrimination might take the form of subtle bias, hateful speech in the form of insults or epithets, or ongoing harassment or retaliation for a past event or report. Some incidents of bullying, or repeated targeting of another person in an unwanted manner, may also be acts of discrimination. Criminal acts motivated by bias may be considered hate crimes and may involve additional legal consequences. When incidents of possible discrimination or bias do occur, we are committed to conducting a full investigation to determine what harm has been done, how it can be fully addressed, and ways in which it can be prevented from occurring again.

WHAT IS HARASSMENT?

Harassment includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome, inappropriate, or illegal physical, verbal, written, graphic, or electronic conduct that relates to an individual’s actual or perceived Protected Class, that has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile education or work environment. Examples of harassment include, but are not limited to, conduct that denigrates, demeans, or stereotypes a person and/or group based upon disability, gender identity, national origin, ethnic background, ancestry, race, color, religion, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment is also included in this category.
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WHAT IS RETALIATION?

Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, coercion, intimidation, interference, punishment, discrimination, or harassment against any member of the school community in response to that member’s oral, written, formal or informal reporting or filing a complaint, cooperating in an investigation, aiding or encouraging another member to report or file a complaint.
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WHAT IS A HATE CRIME?

Hate crimes are motivated, at least in part, by hate or bias, or where the victim is targeted selected, or chosen for the crime, at least in part, because of a person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, or ethnic background, or because the targeted person has a disability. A hate crime may involve, but is not limited to, an act of bodily injury, attempt to cause bodily injury, threat of bodily harm, physical or mental intimidation, or damage to another’s property.

WHAT IS A PROTECTED CLASS?

A protected class includes classes, groups, members, or an individual of a race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, genetic information, active military or veteran status, marital status, familial status, homelessness, ancestry, ethnic background or national origin, whether actual or perceived, as protected by the non-discrimination Policy, or state or federal law.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT?

Harassment is a form of discrimination. As with discrimination, there are different types of harassment, including unwelcome behavior by a co-worker, manager, client, or anyone else in the workplace, that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), nationality, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful when:


(1) Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a prerequisite to continued employment, or

(2) The conduct is severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would consider the workplace intimidating, hostile, or abusive.


Also, if a supervisor’s harassment results in an obvious change in the employee’s salary or status, this conduct would be considered unlawful workplace harassment. Harassing conduct may include offensive jokes, slurs, name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive pictures, and more.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION?

Workplace discrimination occurs when an individual is adversely discriminated against due to any number of factors. In addition to the reasons listed above, employees and job applicants can also be discriminated against because of disabilities, genetic information, pregnancy, or because of their relationship to another person.

The following are different types of employment discrimination: Age, Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Skin Color, National Origin, Mental or Physical Disability, Genetic Information, Relationship to someone who may be discriminated against, and Pregnancy or Parenthood.

WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION?

Employment discrimination could occur in any number of situations, including:
  • Stating or suggesting preferred candidates in a job advertisement
  • Excluding potential employees during recruitment
  • Denying certain employees compensation or benefits
  • Paying equally-qualified employees in the same position different salaries
  • Discriminating when assigning disability leave, maternity leave, or retirement options
  • Denying or disrupting the use of company facilities
  • Discrimination when issuing promotions or lay-offs

WHAT IS A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT?

The reality is that for a workplace to be hostile, certain legal criteria must be met. A hostile work environment is created by a boss or coworker whose actions, communication or behavior make doing your job impossible. This means that the behavior altered the terms, conditions, and/or reasonable expectations of a comfortable work environment for employees.


Additionally, the behavior, actions or communication must be discriminatory in nature. So, a coworker who talks loudly, snaps her gum, and leans over your desk when she talks with you, is demonstrating inappropriate, rude, obnoxious behavior, but it does not create a hostile work environment. On the other hand, a coworker who tells sexually explicit jokes and sends around images of nude people is guilty of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. This is especially true if you asked the individual to stop and the behavior continues. This, by the way, is always the first step in addressing inappropriate behavior at work—ask the inappropriately behaving supervisor or coworker to stop. A boss who verbally berates you about your age, your religion, your gender, or your race is guilty of creating a hostile work environment. Even if the comments are casual, said with a smile, or played as jokes, this does not excuse the situation.

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WHAT ARE THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT?

The actions or behavior must discriminate against a protected classification such as age, religion, disability, or race. The behavior or communication must be pervasive, lasting over time, and not limited to an off-color remark or two that a coworker found annoying. These incidents should be reported to your supervisor or Human Resources for needed intervention. The problem becomes significant and pervasive if it is all around a worker, continues over time, and is not investigated and addressed effectively enough by the organization to make the behavior stop. The hostile behavior, actions, or communication must be severe. Not only is it pervasive over time, but the hostility must seriously disrupt the employee’s work. The second form of severity occurs if the hostile work environment interferes with an employee’s career progress. For example, the employee failed to receive a promotion or a job rotation as a result of the hostile behavior. It is reasonable to assume that the employer knew about the actions or behavior and did not sufficiently intervene. Consequently, the employer can be liable for the creation of a hostile work environment.

HOW SHOULD I DEAL WITH A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT?

The first step an employee needs to take if he or she is experiencing a hostile work environment is to ask the offending employee to stop their behavior or communication. If an employee finds this difficult to do on their own, they should solicit help from a supervisor or Human Resources. You want to put the offending employee on notice that their behavior is offensive, discriminatory, inappropriate, and that you won't tolerate the behavior. (In the majority of cases, the employee will stop the behavior. They may not have realized the degree to which you found the actions offensive.) Especially in instances where you have reported the behavior of a supervisor to the appropriate manager or HR staff member, the behavior must stop. Additionally, the reported individual may not retaliate against you as a payback for your reporting of their improper behavior. An employee who experiences a hostile work environment, and has attempted to make the behavior stop without success, though, should go to their supervisor or Human Resources. The first step in getting help is to ask for help. Your supervisor must have the opportunity to investigate the complaint and eliminate the behavior.

WHAT IS A COMPLAINT?

A complaint is an oral or written, formal or informal, notification of an incident of discrimination, including harassment and discrimination, to school officials. Framingham Public Schools will promptly respond to and investigate all complaints of harassment, discrimination, bias, or retaliation in any form. You may use the form included in our protocol for responding, or simply share information and details of the incident through letter, email, or in person with appropriate supervisor or Human Resources.

WHAT TYPES OF INCIDENTS SHOULD BE REPORTED?

Any member of the school community who believes they or another school community member has been the victim of any form of discrimination, harassment, retaliation as defined above, should report the conduct (file a complaint). Incidents may occur, but are not limited to, during the school day (on or off school property), at a school sanctioned event or athletic competition (weekdays or weekends), or on social media.

WHAT IS FRAMINGHAM’S PROTOCOL FOR RESPONDING TO SUCH INCIDENTS?

FPS takes very seriously any report or incident of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation and has established a very specific and thorough protocol for reporting and investigating such incidents. The protocol, which includes definitions, examples, staff responsibilities, reporting processes, investigation process, resolution, expectations of confidentiality and potential disciplinary actions can be found here.

HOW CAN I REPORT AN INCIDENT OF DISCRIMINATION OR A PATTERN OF BIASED BEHAVIOR?

The principal or designee is the person responsible for receiving oral or written reports or complaints at the building level for discrimination, including harassment or retaliation, or other prohibited conduct, under this policy and grievance procedure. All complaints of discrimination, including harassment or retaliation, or other prohibited conduct against the District, a district-level employee, or a building principal should be made to the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources. If the report or complaint involves the Superintendent, it shall be filed directly with the School Committee.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM A FPS EMPLOYEE AND THE TARGET OF HARASSMENT, HATE SPEECH, BIAS, DISCRIMINATION OR RETALIATION?

Employees may make a complaint to their immediate supervisor or the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources. Framingham Public Schools will promptly respond to and investigate all reports made in any form.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I WITNESS HATE SPEECH, HARASSMENT, BIAS, BIAS, DISCRIMINATION OR RETALIATION INCIDENT?

As a school community member, we encourage you to report any suspected incident of discrimination, bias, or retaliation to your supervisor or to the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources. Notification of incidents allows us to conduct a full investigation, address those responsible, support those affected, and identify ways in which we can reduce the potential for recurrence.

WHO IN THE SCHOOL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR RECEIVING COMPLAINTS OF HARASSMENT, BIAS, DISCRIMINATION OR RETALIATION?

All FPS administrators have been trained in our protocol for responding to incidents of discrimination and all staff are aware of their responsibility for reporting incidents that they are aware of. Staff-related complaints may be made to the principal or the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.

HOW ARE INCIDENTS REPORTED AND INVESTIGATED?

Reported incidents of discrimination, including harassment or retaliation, are promptly investigated by a designated official at each school. The protocol delineates the specific steps the investigating official must take, including notifying the individuals involved, interviewing witnesses, determining if a violation of school policy has occurred, and responding appropriately with consequences as well as support for those impacted by the incident.

HOW LONG DOES AN INVESTIGATION TAKE?

Investigations are typically completed within 10 days, but may take longer in a more complex case.

IS THE RESPONSE THE SAME EVERY TIME?

While the incidents are investigated and documented in accordance with the established protocol, the specific facts of each substantiated incident impact the specifics of the response. However, each case will typically include one or more of the following:

(1) Discipline for the person responsible;

(2) Remedial or supportive actions to assist those directly impacted; and/or

(3) Corrective action or education steps for the individual and potentially the larger school community to ensure that similar events do not happen in the future.

IS THE COMMUNICATION ABOUT AN INCIDENT THE SAME EVERY TIME?

Communication to the school or larger Framingham community about the incident and response varies based upon the details of the incident and its impact or potential impact on those involved.

WHAT ARE THE DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS TAKEN?

Potential disciplinary actions for a staff member are subject to the disciplinary procedures of their bargaining unit, which might typically include a process of formal warnings and reprimands, suspension, or more serious consequences. Non-staff adult community members may be sanctioned by limiting or ending their participation in FPS community activities. In most cases, specific disciplinary steps taken are protected by relevant confidentiality laws.

HOW IS DATA KEPT ON REPORTS OF BIAS, DISCRIMINATION, OR RETALIATION?

Any such employee-related incident that is investigated and addressed by FPS is documented and tracked by the Office of Human Resources. This data is then analyzed and tracked for patterns of behavior and types of effective responses. District administration will periodically report to the School Committee on trends and commonalities that need to addressed.