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Example anti-harassment policy for conferences
This is an example anti-harassment policy suitable for most open source, computing, or technology-related conferences. It may be adopted unchanged or tweaked to suit your conference.
Why have an official anti-harassment policy for your conference? First, it is necessary (unfortunately). Harassment at conferences is incredibly common - for example, see this timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities. Second, it sets expectations for behavior at the conference. Simply having an anti-harassment policy can prevent harassment all by itself. Third, it encourages people to attend who have had bad experiences at other conferences. Finally, it gives conference staff instructions on how to handle harassment quickly, with the minimum amount of disruption or bad press for your conference.
We have collected some discussion about common concerns and questions surrounding adoption of an anti-harassment policy here:
Anti-harassment policy text
Most conferences will want several different versions of an anti-harassment policy: a short, medium, and long version of the policy for public consumption, and an internal version spelling out implementation for use by the conference organizers and staff.
Short public version
This is a very short version that refers the reader to a longer version of the policy. Suitable for footers on announcement emails, web pages, news stories, etc.
- $CONFERENCE is dedicated to a harassment-free conference experience for everyone. Our anti-harassment policy can be found at:
- [URL for full anti-harassment policy]
Medium public version
This is a statement of the organizers' principles and sets expectations for the tone and style of the conference. Suitable for the conference web site and longer announcements.
- $CONFERENCE is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone [, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion [insert any other specific concerns here]]. [If you want to add some humor, you can also list text editor, programming language, or operating system.] We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference [without a refund] at the discretion of the conference organizers. Our anti-harassment policy can be found at:
- [URL for full anti-harassment policy]
Long public version
This version focuses on specific instructions to the participants, with the goal of preventing harassment in the first place through education. Suitable for the conference web site and conference program material.
- [Insert medium public version of policy here.]
- Harassment includes offensive verbal comments [related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, [your specific concern here]], sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.
- [Exhibitors in the expo hall, sponsor or vendor booths, or similar activities are also subject to the anti-harassment policy. In particular, exhibitors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.]
- If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference [with no refund]. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately. [Conference staff can be identified by t-shirts/special badges/head sets.]
- Conference staff will be happy to help participants contact hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance.
- [Email address for organizers]
- [Phone number for conference security or organizers]
- [Phone number for hotel/venue security]
- [Local law enforcement]
- [Local sexual assault hot line]
- [Local emergency and non-emergency medical]
- [Local taxi company]
- We expect participants to follow these rules at all conference venues and conference-related social events.
Internal version for conference staff
This version is intended for internal use by the conference staff. It defines an example enforcement policy that can be tweaked to suit your conference organization style.
- Any member of conference staff can issue a verbal warning to a participant that their behavior violates the conference's anti-harassment policy. Warnings should be reported to [insert email address/phone number/etc. here] as soon as practical. The report should include:
- Identifying information (name/badge number) of the participant
- The time you issued the warning
- The behavior that was in violation
- The approximate time of the behavior (if different than the time of warning)
- The circumstances surrounding the incident
- Your identity
- Other people involved in the incident
- [Your guideline here]
- Presentations or similar events should not be stopped for one-time gaffes or minor problems, although a member of conference staff should speak to the presenter afterward. However, staff should take immediate action to politely and calmly stop any presentation or event that repeatedly or seriously violates the anti-harassment policy. For example, simply say "I'm sorry, this presentation cannot be continued at the present time" with no further explanation.
- Taking reports
- When taking a report from someone experiencing harassment you should record what they say and reassure them they are being taken seriously, but avoid making specific promises about what actions the organizers will take. Ask for any other information if the reporter has not volunteered it (such as time, place) but do not pressure them to provide it if they are reluctant. Even if the report lacks important details such as the identity of the person taking the harassing actions, it should still be recorded and passed along to the appropriate staff member(s). If the reporter desires it, arrange for an escort by conference staff or a trusted person, contact a friend, and contact local law enforcement. Do not pressure the reporter to take any action if they do not want to do it. Respect the reporter's privacy by not sharing unnecessary details with others, especially individuals who were not involved with the situation or non-staff members.
- [Repeat information to gather when making a report here]
- A participant may be expelled by the decision of any of the above listed entities for whatever reasons they deem sufficient. However, here are some general guidelines for when a participant should be expelled:
- A [first/second/third/seventeenth] offense resulting in a warning from staff
- Continuing to harass after any "No" or "Stop" instruction
- A pattern of harassing behavior, with or without warnings
- A single serious offense (e.g., punching or groping someone)
- A single obviously intentional offense (e.g., taking up-skirt photos)
- [Your guideline here]
- Hotel/venue security and local authorities should be contacted when appropriate.
- [Repeat conf/hotel/venue/law enforcement/hot line contact info here]
- Public statements
- As a general rule, conference staff should not make any public statements about the behavior of individual people during or after the conference.
- In general, consult with other staff members when possible but act when necessary.
License and attribution
This policy is licensed under the Creative Commons Zero license .
This policy is based on several other policies, including the Ohio LinuxFest anti-harassment policy, written by Esther Filderman and Beth Lynn Eicher, and the Con Anti-Harassment Project. Mary Gardiner, Valerie Aurora, Sarah Smith, and Donna Benjamin generalized the policies and added supporting material. Many members of LinuxChix, Geek Feminism and other groups contributed to this work.