[Linux-aus] Some Anti-Harassment Policies considered harmful

elliott-brennan elliottbrennan at gmail.com
Sun Feb 20 21:18:35 EST 2011

I'd like to add a few comments in relation to the 
discussion going on here, though firstly will 
admit I wasn't at LCA, didn't see the presentation 
and have heard about it only from some of those 
who did attend and that which has been written here.

Additionally, not that this makes me an expert :) 
I've had quite a few years professional experience 
in the area (including training people in State 
government in the implementation of policies 
relating to racism and discrimination, training of 
State employees and community groups in the 
handling and identifying of sexual abuse and in 
complaints investigation for a State agency).

1. All policies are interpreted by those who apply 
them. It is not possibly to create policies (or 
Acts of law) which cover every eventually 
specifically. Thus the variations are expected to 
be understood by a reasonable, average person.

The 'reasonable person' application is quite 
common, provokes dispute amongst some and 
frequently requires review.

That the current policy doesn't explicitly 
identify all possible  examples and eventualities 
is to be expected - to think otherwise is to have 
an expectation which cannot be met.  Thus, 
harassment policies will be general in areas and 
specific in others. Referring to existing laws is 
always a good idea, as appears to have been the case.

2. Each person adversely affected by a policy 
should be entitled to appeal the adverse effect 
within a reasonable period of time. e.g.. if 
someone was kicked out of a conference, they 
should be entitled to speak to someone, other than 
the person who took the action, who has the 
authority to reverse the decision or recommend 
such to persons independent of those making the 
original decision.

If this doesn't exist, I would suggest it should. 
It ensures that all reasonable steps are taken and 
ensures a quick resolution (this does not mean 
'happiness making', merely that a decision is 
taken and accepted by those with the final 
authority in the location in question).

3. If there isn't one already, has there been any 
thought given to having designated persons (e.g.. 
at an information booth) to whom someone can take 
a complaint if they believe they are being 
harassed? This can then be pointed out in the 
conference handouts etc.

These nominated/assigned persons can then deal 
with the issue at that point and determine if any 
other action is required - this would minimise 
double handling, confusion of interpretation and 
allow other conference personnel to carry on with 
their duties while the matter is being dealt with.

It allows a clear point of contact and a person 
with responsibility for recording the details of 
the incident and action taken. It also allows for 
a clear line of responsibility and accountability.

I raise this only because I've not been to LCA 
(not through a lack of interest) and thus have no 
knowledge of the mechanics of complaints handling 
at the conferences.

I hope my comments are of some assistance.



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