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, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age or religion [insert any other specific concerns here]]. 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, but is not limited to:
- Verbal comments that reinforce social structures of domination [related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, [your specific concern here].
- Sexual images in public spaces
- Deliberate intimidation, stalking, or following
- Harassing photography or recording
- Sustained disruption of talks or other events
- Inappropriate physical contact
- Unwelcome sexual attention
- Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behaviour
- 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 behaviour, event organisers retain the right to take any actions to keep the event a welcoming environment for all participants. This includes warning the offender or expulsion from the conference [with no refund].
- Event organisers may take action to redress anything designed to, or with the clear impact of, disrupting the event or making the environment hostile for any participants.
- We expect participants to follow these rules at all event venues and event-related social activities. We think people should follow these rules outside event activities too!
- If someone makes you or anyone else feel unsafe or unwelcome, please report it as soon as possible. [Conference staff can be identified by t-shirts/special badges/head sets.] Harassment and other code of conduct violations reduce the value of our event for everyone. We want you to be happy at our event. People like you make our event a better place.
- You can make a report either personally or anonymously.
- You can make an anonymous report here [Wufoo form or similar that DOES NOT require an email address to submit.
- We can't follow up an anonymous report with you directly, but we will fully investigate it and take whatever action is necessary to prevent a recurrence.
- You can make a personal report by:
- Calling or messaging this phone number: [Phone number for reporting]. This phone number will be continuously monitored for the duration of the event.
- Contacting a staff member, identified by STAFF badges, buttons, or shirts.
- When taking a personal report, our staff will ensure you are safe and cannot be overheard. They may involve other event staff to ensure your report is managed properly. Once safe, we'll ask you to tell us about what happened. This can be upsetting, but we'll handle it as respectfully as possible, and you can bring someone to support you. You won't be asked to confront anyone and we won't tell anyone who you are.
- Our team will be happy to help you contact hotel/venue security, local law enforcement, local support services, provide escorts, or otherwise assist you to feel safe for the duration of the event. 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 (e.g., urgent care, day clinic)]
- [Local taxi company]
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.
Conferences in which sex, pornography, racism, etc. are on-topic
Some conferences are both welcoming to all genders and include discussion on topics which are blanket prohibited in the example anti-harassment policy. For example, conferences about supporting geek women or about social justice will necessarily have discussion about topics banned in the example policy, originally written for mainstream technical conferences. We have written an example addendum to the policy that allows discussion of these topics in a manner friendly to women and people in gender, sexual, and romantic minorities. We do not recommended including this addendum unless you have specific real-world examples of content that absolutely require discussion of these topics. See higher risk activities at conferences for guidance on avoiding activities that increase the likelihood of harassment at your conference.
License and attribution
This policy is licensed under the Creative Commons Zero license . It is public domain, no credit and no open licencing of your version is required.
If you would like to optionally attribute it, you could use the below text and link to http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment:
- This anti-harassment policy is based on the example policy from the Geek Feminism wiki, created by the Ada Initiative and other volunteers.
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.