NATIONAL SPACE SOCIETY POLICY FOR INVESTIGATING SEXUAL AND OTHER HARASSMENT

July 10, 2019 [v15]

  1. On the receipt of a report of a perceived violation, or on a standing basis, the Executive Committee will designate a team consisting of at least two persons (“the Investigators”), preferably including at least one male and one female to conduct an investigation. This team may designate a “Lead Investigator” but all decisions on the team shall be by consensus. If the team cannot reach consensus, the matter shall be escalated to the Executive Committee. The ExCom may set up any number of investigation teams as needed. The ExCom will designate such a team to operate during each Society conferences so that reports during an event can be rapidly resolved.
  2. A backup team should be designated by the ExCom, either to support two parallel investigations, or in the case that the report was received with regard to a person on the investigation team, or the report was a report made by an investigator. Investigators with a close personal relationship with any person significantly involved in the reported incident are expected to recuse themselves, and allow the backup team to perform the investigation. An investigator who conceals or ignores a conflict of interest, shall be removed from the position by the Executive Committee, and a new investigation started with a replacement investigator. It should be noted that the person making the report is not always a party involved in the incident under investigation. Also, a “close personal relationship” might be friendly or unfriendly.
  3. A form will be set up on the Society web site for reporting incidents, with submitted forms being sent directly to all designated investigators that have been appointed by the Executive Committee. Alternatively, any Society leader to whom a report is made shall bring that report to the attention of the Investigators, or if none have been appointed, to the Executive Committee. A report made about an Investigator should be brought directly to any member of the Executive Committee for further action. Those wishing to make anonymous reports should do so via an email address that does not contain their real name. However, those making anonymous reports are cautioned that a vague report may not be sufficient to allow an investigation to proceed. Investigators are further cautioned that a large number of vague anonymous reports may reflect the usage of the reporting system to harass someone rather than credible reports of incidents.
  4. Investigators will take all reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality that are compatible with carrying out the investigation.
  5. All records of the investigation will be stored in a 7zip/Winzip encrypted file on the personal computer of each Investigator. The Society IS Director is responsible for ensuring that all investigators have 7zip/Winzip on the personal computers. Backups of these encrypted files will be placed by each investigator on the completion of the investigation in a private area on the Society web site and backed up using the standard web site backup procedures. The submission of the reports to the private area will be accomplished via procedures put in place by the Society IS Director. As a backup, the Society IS Director will also have the passwords and other information needed to access the files. Additionally, the passwords shall be stored in a sealed envelope by the association management firm employed by the Society. Note that other than the Investigators and the Society IS Director no member of the IS team, the Society management agent, or any other members of the Society will be able to decrypt these files. The Society shall maintain a table of actions taken, including both the name(s) of the reporter(s) and the name(s) of those reported, for five years to allow patterns to be detected. It is the responsibility of the Investigators to exchange report tables so all teams have access to the full set of reports. Note that the report tables do not contain full reports so as to keep the details confidential even between the investigation teams. Additionally, it is the responsibility of both Investigators on each team to remove from the tables on an annual basis reports older than five years, and to see that the full encrypted reports are removed as well. On completion of each investigation, and once the associated files are fully backed up, each investigator shall remove the reports from their computer using a shredder. The Society IS Director will ensure that each investigator has a shredder on their computer for this purpose.
  6. The first step prior to the investigation is to understand the scope of the issue. The Investigators need to consider the following:
    1. The Society harassment policy does not cover incidents that don’t involve the Society in some fashion.
      1. Covered incident: A man asks a woman for a date at an ISDC but is rejected. Both are NSS members. Subsequent to the ISDC, the man continues to send emails to the woman and boxes of flowers in spite of her efforts to get him to stop. The woman reports that she is afraid to come to another ISDC.
      2. Covered incident: Two NSS members serving on a committee get into a dispute. One sends sexually threatening emails to the other.
      3. Outside of scope incident: A report is received that an NSS member is harassing people at their place of work, which has no relationship to the Society. Note that there is an exception to this being out of scope – see 6 d) below.
    2. The Society sexual harassment policy does not investigate for the purpose of resolution, incidents prior to the effective date of the policy, October 13, 2018. Reports of incidents that occurred prior to October 13, 2018, may, however, be relevant to establishing a pattern and practice relative to a current incident. If during an investigation, the investigator determines that there are credible reports of prior incidents, then those incidents, should be investigated and if found to be actionable and in-scope may be taken into account in determining a pattern and practice of conduct, particularly if there are separate reporters for the incidents. As a general rule, the investigator should only consider relevant similar occurrences that have happened within a five-year period of the incident under investigation. As with all investigations, however, the facts and circumstances will determine what information is relevant and credible. At all times, the investigator needs to weigh the facts and circumstances in an effort to provide a fair process for each of the parties. The only exception to the process of 6) b) is in 6) d) below.
    3. For out-of-scope incidents the reporting person should be informed that although the incident is out-of-scope for the Society to investigate it, they can report the incident to other authorities and pursue a remedy outside of the Society.
    4. There is a significant exception to an incident being out of scope. If matters arise that are out of scope for the policy, but receive public attention such as to reflect poorly on the Society, the Investigators will gather information and forward it to the Executive Committee for action if this seems appropriate. Note that the Investigators will not be conducting an investigation, but will instead be reporting on investigations conducted by others.
      1. The incidents must be publicly known. It will be the task of the Executive Committee to determine whether the level of public attention is sufficient that the matter merits action.
      2. There is no time limit on when the incidents and penalties may have occurred
      3. These matters may include any crimes or behavior that may reflect poorly on the Society, not just sexual harassment or sexual crimes.
      4. The matters may have been formally investigated by appropriate authorities and a penalty assessed. This could be a criminal conviction, the loss of a civil suit, being fired or fined for cause, stripping of honors by a professional society, etc. In cases where the penalty is not known to the public, there must be sufficient public information about the nature of the incidents to influence the Executive Committee to take action.
      5. For cases of great notoriety, but where no formal penalty has yet been assessed, the available information should be brought to the Executive Committee for a vote.
      6. The mere receipt of a letter or report accusing a Society member of various out-of-scope misdeeds is not sufficient to trigger this process unless it reflects matters that are known to the general public. In particular, a receipt of a private letter from a party in a divorce or similar dispute should not trigger this process.
  7. Special consideration should be given to reports made by third parties, since a third party may be reporting an incident that the participants engaged in consensually. In such cases, investigators should first determine whether any of the involved parties feel they were harassed. If they do not, the investigation should be closed and no record kept of it. The reporter should be told that the incident was investigated and found to be welcome/consensual. An example might be a third party overhearing a married couple engaged in sexual banter. Note that the observed behavior might violate a code of ethics while not being harassment. Such possible violations of a code of ethics are at this time beyond the scope of this policy. However, investigators should also consider the fundamental nature of the acts observed. The parties involved may claim that the activity was consensual, but in situations of partner abuse, one partner is often intimidated into agreeing that the behavior was consensual. In such cases the investigators may decide to disregard the claim the behavior was consensual and pursue the matter further.
  8. The investigators will promptly and thoroughly investigate each report according to the following procedures:
    1. Map out a plan that covers the relevant persons and situations to investigate from the initial report. Plan the investigation, based on current knowledge.
    2. Talk with the person who is reporting the incident if possible. Assure them that he or she is safe from retaliation by the Society for making the report, and reassure them that they took appropriate action in reporting the incident or general situation no matter what the results of the investigation found.
    3. Inform the reporter that you need to know immediately about any retaliation, purported retaliation, or ongoing harassment the person experiences.
    4. Ask the reporter, if known, to provide a written statement detailing who, what, when, where and all specific/relevant details. After receipt of a written statement, if one is provided, interview the reporter to fill in details and more thoroughly explore the facts and determine if there are corroborating witnesses. Let the witness describe the situation in his/her own words. Listen with care; take notes to document the conversation thoroughly. Write down relevant facts such as dates, times, situations, witnesses, and anything else that seems relevant. Collect evidence such as copies of emails, copies of threatening letters, etc. In some cases, the reporter may be physically, mentally, or emotionally unable to provide a written statement. In such cases, the investigator shall interview the reporter in the fashion described above and from this interview produce a report of the incident.
    5. Tell the person who is the subject of the report that a report has been filed and that no acts of retaliation, or unethical/illegal actions will be tolerated. Ask the person to be patient while you conduct a thorough investigation.
    6. Assure the person who is the subject of the report that a fair and just investigation will be conducted on their behalf as well as that of all persons involved. Provide the person with a written description of the acts they are alleged to have done. Such a description shall clearly describe the offending acts. The description of the offending acts should be of sufficient detail that it is possible for the subject of the report to raise issues in their own defense. However, the investigation is not an adversarial process and does not create a right to directly confront the reporter. It is the responsibility of the Investigators to consider all issues raised about the credibility of the report. Since regardless of exactly how the above process is implemented, there is a reasonable probability that the subject of the report will realize who the reporter is, it is important to emphasize that the subject of the report should avoid all interactions with the reporter, and certainly should not engage in any retaliatory actions or confrontations.
    7. Interview any potential witnesses in the same manner. Ask open-ended questions and seek facts that support or disprove the allegations made. Request all witnesses to maintain confidentiality.
    8. Interview the person who is the subject of the report. Apply the same listening and respectful approach you accorded the person who filed the report and the other witnesses.
    9. Take all the information you received and attempt to reach a decision. The investigators may consult with pro bono Society counsel. If the situation appears problematic, obtain permission from the SOO to expend funds for consultation with non-pro bono Society counsel. In order to maintain confidentiality and avoid potential conflicts of interest, Investigators should limit their legal consultations to Society counsel.
    10. Provide the appropriate response with regard to the appropriate people, based on your findings. Refer to the decision-making table just below for guidance. The Investigators must seek Executive Committee approval for all responses more severe than requesting an apology and warning the harasser against future actions. For the most severe actions Board of Directors approval may be required.
    11. Recognize that no situation can be perfectly investigated. Even when harassment may have occurred, and you believe it may have occurred, you may have no facts or witnesses that specifically corroborate a reporter’s statement. Resolution of a claim may depend on the credibility of the parties. As investigator, you should question the reporter and the alleged harasser in detail, searching thoroughly for corroborative evidence of any nature. In appropriate cases, you may make a finding of harassment based solely on the credibility of the reporter’s statement. In determining credibility consider how detailed and internally consistent the reporter’s account is and whether it is plausible. Is there a lack of corroborative evidence where such evidence logically should exist that would undermine the allegation? A general denial by the alleged harasser carries little weight when it is contradicted by other evidence. Evidence such as witnesses who observed the reporter’s demeanor immediately after an alleged incident of harassment is important. Were there persons with whom the reporter discussed the incident soon after it allegedly occurred? If there is no corroborating evidence and little evidence of credibility, action is usually limited to keeping a record of the report and informing the subject of the report of the nature of the report, and admonishing that person to avoid any future repetition of the behavior. A pattern of reports against a particular person is significant and should lead to escalating remedies.
    12. Afford the person who is the subject of the reported violation, who may have been wrongly accused, the same courtesy of follow-up and documentation.
    13. If a violation is found, inform the reported person in writing of exactly how they violated the anti-harassment policy. Inform them that they may escalate to the Executive Committee if they feel they have been unfairly treated. If a violation was not found, inform the reported person of this result.
    14. Inform the person who reported the violation of the resolution. Inform them that they may escalate to the Executive Committee if they feel they have been unfairly treated.
  9. The Investigative Team should seek legal counsel (NSS pro bono on their own or other counsel with the approval of the SOO or CEC) before beginning an investigation if the allegation is one of child pornography, rape or sexual assault that the Society may have a duty to report. In some instances, the Society may take intermediate action pending a review by the appropriate outside authorities.
  10. The following table should be used in determining responses to reported incidents:
    Example Evidence Action
    Report of rape, child pornography, or assault Strong or weak Follow the procedure of 9 above.
    Report of an Incident, which if it occurred, would be considered sexual harassment by a reasonable person Strong Assuming the identity of the harasser is known, at an absolute minimum demand apology and immediate cessation of future harassment. If a repeated incident or severe incident consider stronger penalties
    Report of an Incident, which if it occurred, would be considered sexual harassment by a reasonable person Weak Make sure the person reported clearly understands the harassment policy and also understands that the reported behavior is a violation that will not be tolerated, and, where possible and desired by both parties, seek a reconciliation or apology; if it is a repeated incident consider stronger penalties such as described in section 11.
    Report of incident, which if it occurred, would be considered an obnoxious behavior or gateway behavior to sexual harassment by a reasonable person and/or violates the Society’s standards of professionalism Strong or weak Request apology and cessation; seek to educate harasser about their behavior, educate about Society’s policies.
    Report of incident which is outside the scope of the policy Strong or Weak Inform reporter that the behavior they are reporting is outside the scope of his policy or was welcome/consensual. Generally, to avoid being drawn into disputes that are not related to the topics of this policy and to avoid involving the Society in personal disputes, investigators should not contact the person reported, but may do so in exceptional cases.
  11. Examples of corrective action include, but are not limited to, (i) apologies, (ii) counseling, (iii) imposition and monitoring of a plan of remediation, (iv) removal, temporary suspension, or barring from active roles in Society activities, (v) loss of Society membership in accordance with the procedures specified in the Society’s Bylaws, (vi) the non-renewal of membership, (vii) in the case of conduct by a Society Leader, removal from the leadership position in accordance with procedures specified in the Bylaws, (vii) in the case of persons or contract workers, financial penalties or termination of contracts, and (viii) suspension of imposition of such sanctions for a period of time in which no further violations occur.
  12. Reports are not actionable that are made against speakers at Society events when the report involves what is mere advocacy and discussion of the themes supported by the Society since its’ inception, including but not limited to space colonization/settlement, “conquering space,” asteroid mining, private ownership of resources in space, and reproduction in space settlements.
  13. Concerns about the Society harassment policy, suggestions to change the harassment policy, or claims that someone was unfairly treated by the Society in regard to the harassment policy are not to be considered, in and of themselves, to be harassment, nor shall any retaliation be carried out against persons who raise such issues.

To submit a harassment report,
please use the NSS Harassment Report Form

 

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