Decision & sanctions

Many of Code of Conduct issues you're going to deal with will be minor incidents, and the goal is to achieve common understanding with all involved parties. However, no matter how minor or major your incident is, you need to make sure to react quickly and decide on the steps as soon as possible.

In our process, we usually make assumptions about possible outcome before even going to meet the reported person. In case of minor incidents, if the talk goes well, and they see their mistake, a warning is usually enough. If a slide violated Code of Conduct, we will make sure it's removed from published version of the talk, is the tweet was offending, we ask author to remove it, so on and so on.

However, your decision may change if during the talk it will be clear that offender indeed meant harm, or just "did not care". In this case, you should not make a decision on spot, but meet with your Response Team to decide a new sanction after "the talk".

The possible sanctions might be different if the offender feels sorry for their actions or if they are defensive and angry about the report. It may also depend on whether their actions were deliberate or they intended no harm.

Most Code of Conduct incidents reach a common understanding, and giving people a warning to allow them to correct their actions in the future is the best solution in the situation.

In case the offender poses a threat to other attendees or organizers of the event, Response Team could take more extreme steps to ensure safety of everyone at the event.

Possible sanctions

Your guiding principle should be the safety of your community members from harassment and you should evaluate sanctions in light of whether they provide the safety needed. You and your event are the only people who can judge appropriate sanctions in your community based on the nature of the incident and the responses of the people involved, but some possibilities are:

  • warning the harasser to cease their behaviour 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 particular slide of a talk that violated the policy
  • not allowing a speaker who violated the policy to give (further) talks at this conference events
  • 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 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)
  • removing a harasser from membership of relevant organizations
  • 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)

Employer reports

If someone harassed someone else while in an official employee capacity, such as while working as paid event staff, while giving a talk about their employer's product, while staffing a sponsor booth, while wearing their employer's branded merchandise, while attempting to recruit someone for a job, or while claiming to represent their employer's views, it may be appropriate to provide a short report of their conduct to their employer.

Don't require or encourage apologies

We do not suggest asking for an apology to the victim. You have no responsibility to enforce friendship, reconciliation, or anything beyond lack of harassment between any two given attendees, and in fact doing so can contribute to someone's lack of safety at your event. 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.

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