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HUCTW Alleges University Violating Contract by Denying Access to Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedure

During 2018 contract negotiations with the University, members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers stationed themselves behind tables around campus to garner support.
During 2018 contract negotiations with the University, members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers stationed themselves behind tables around campus to garner support. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Cara J. Chang and Meimei Xu, Crimson Staff Writers

The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers alleged the University violated its contract by denying union members access to the sexual harassment complaint resolution process outlined in the agreement, according to a statement sent to union members, University administrators, and managers Tuesday.

According to the union, Harvard is refusing to allow employees who come forward with sexual harassment complaints to pursue the “problem-resolution process” stipulated in the union’s contract, instead of the University’s Title IX process.

The grievance procedure allows representatives of both the union and Harvard to work together to look into and address complaints of sexual harassment leveled by union members. If the two parties are unable to reach a solution, the complainant can request third-party arbitration.

In contrast, Harvard’s Title IX process adjudicates complaints internally within the University. Following a formal report of sexual harassment against a staff member, Harvard’s Office of Dispute Resolution launches an investigation, and the University Title IX Coordinator creates a hearing committee composed of Harvard faculty, administrators, and one external attorney to make a determination on the complaint.

“In a number of recent cases, when HUCTW members brought forward complaints of sexual harassment to HUCTW— requesting our contractual process — University administrators have refused to engage in the required meetings,” the statement reads. “Administrators claimed that our negotiated process cannot be made available to members due to the University’s obligations under the Title IX statute.”

In its statement, the union also wrote that Harvard’s Title IX policies have proved inadequate for handling discrimination complaints filed by members.

“As we’ve learned from our members’ experiences and recent coverage in the media, Harvard’s Title IX process alone — where the University unilaterally controls every step of the process as well as all of its outcomes — has repeatedly proven insufficient to address some staff members’ concerns, particularly when up against powerful Harvard faculty or managers,” the statement reads.

HUCTW wrote in its statement that it believes members should have access to both Harvard’s interim Title IX procedure for handling sexual harassment complaints and the resolution process cited in the union’s contract and personnel manuel.

“We are not suggesting that the contractual HUCTW process replace the Title IX process, nor are we attempting to steer people away from the Title IX process,” the statement reads. “We are simply saying that members should also have access to the contractually agreed-upon Harvard-HUCTW process for resolving sexual harassment complaints if they choose.”

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to comment on the union’s allegation that Harvard violated the grievance procedure provision in the union’s contract. He wrote in an emailed statement that the University provides pathways for HUCTW members to come forward with discrimination complaints in ways that abide by federal law.

“The University remains committed to ensuring HUCTW members have access to procedures and resources to report and address matters of harassment and discrimination that also comply with federal Title IX regulations,” Swain wrote.

The union also wrote in its Tuesday statement that it is amenable to working with Harvard if the University has determined there are conflicts between the contract and Harvard’s Title IX process.

“If University administrators have identified ways that Title IX language conflicts with HUCTW contract language, HUCTW leaders are willing to sit down and discuss these concerns,” the statement reads. “However, simply refusing to follow our negotiated contract language is not an option.”

HUCTW President Carrie E. Barbash said in an interview the union is also willing to work with the University to resolve instances in which a union member levels a complaint against a non-union member.

Barbash added that she hopes the union’s statement will spur conversations among union members and University affiliates about the resources available to affiliates who experience sexual harassment.

“This is obviously very concerning for us, very troubling,” Barbash said. “It’s something we want to get the members involved in discussion around and also the wider Harvard community.”

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at cara.chang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at meimei.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.

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