If you are being investigated for suspected harassment

The University must always investigate experienced abuse and harassment against staff or students. Being the subject of investigation can be stressful and raise a lot of questions. This page describes the investigation procedure, what support you can get and other important things to consider.

 

Photo: Communications Office

Umeå University's vision is that no staff or students are to be exposed to harassment, sexual harassment or psychological harassment.

If someone experiences that they have been subjected to some form of harassment, the University sees it as an important and prioritised issue to investigate. The University also has legal obligations, as an employer

Being suspected is not being guilty

Even if you have been pointed out as having behaved in a way that was experienced as abusive, this does not mean that you are found guilty of harassment, sexual harassment or psychological harassment.

No assessment will be made until the manager, or one of the university's legal officers who conducts the investigation, have heard both the injured and the accused parties, and any potential witnesses or other informants.

If work environment measures are introduced during an ongoing investigation, it is important that the measures do not precede the investigation and indirectly punish the person who has been accused.

Important considerations if you have been accused

If you have been accused and are the subject of an investigation of harassment, sexual harassment or psychological harassment, you should consider the following.

Write down and document what has happened

During the investigation, you will need to account for your version of events. Write down what has happened and when, and make sure to save any potential text messages and emails. This will simplify for the investigation.

Avoid contacting or trying to influence the injured party

It is likely that you and the person who feels subjected to undesirable behaviour have very differing views of what has happened, and with what intention expressions have been uttered or actions have been performed. To be the subject of an investigation may feel threatening and it is common to feel misunderstood.

Nevertheless, while the investigation is ongoing, you should still refrain from contacting the accuser.

During the investigation, you will need to account for your version of events. You will also be given the chance to provide your views on the information that has been presented during the investigation.

Support when you have been accused

You may need support during and after the investigation.

Professional support if you feel unwell

Most people who are the subject of a harassment investigation or similar experience this as a personal crisis. The situation can be worrying, stressful, shameful or cause other negative emotions.
As the accused party, you can receive support from the occupational health care services to handle potential negative effects on your health and emotions.

Support during the investigation, e.g. union representative

If you, as a staff member, has been the subject of an internal investigation, you have the right to support from a trade union representative who can be present during meetings with the investigator. You can also ask someone else that you trust for support.

Support to stop undesirable behaviour

If you believe that you do expose others to abusive or other forms of undesirable behaviour, it is important that it stops.

If you wish to get help to stop undesirable behaviour, you can turn to the occupational health care services.

Investigating harassment

If a manager is informed that a member of staff feels subjected to harassment, sexual harassment or psychological harassment, the University is obliged to investigate the circumstances.

The purpose of the investigation is to establish what has happened and stop the undesirable behaviour.

Umeå University's investigations and formal decisions are based on procedures adopted by the Vice-Chancellor in 2015:

Handläggningsordning vid diskriminering, trakasserier och kränkningar (Procedures regarding discrimination, harassment and abuse, not translated)

Please note that the person singled out as potentially being guilty of harassment, sexual harassment or psychological harassment must not be judged guilty until the University has conducted an investigation and made an impartial assessment.

Reporting procedure

The most common and often most appropriate way of initiating an investigation is that the victimised employee informs their manager. Reports can also be submitted in writing to the registry, registrator@umu.se.

Investigation procedure

When an investigation is commenced, the manager with work environment responsibilities, with aid from one of the university's legal officers, if necessary, makes an initial assessment of whether the occurrence is to be investigated as psychological harassment, harassment or sexual harassment.

The assessment and the nature of the occurrence determine who is responsible for the investigation: this is either the manager or, in some cases, when the case concerns harassment and sexual harassment, a legal officer.

When a case of harassment, psychological harassment or sexual harassment is being investigated, you will be given the chance to leave a statement of the events.

The accused party will be able to read the statement and respond to it from their perspective.

When talking to the investigator, you can take a union representative with you, or someone else you trust.

It may also be necessary to gather information from other people who have made observations or have information to give.

When all parties have been allowed to provide their perspective of events, an assessment will be made if the occurrence can or cannot be regarded as psychological harassment, harassment or sexual harassment.

Regardless of which assessment is made regarding harassment, the manager responsible for the work environment will decide on measures to improve the work environment. What measures are appropriate is based on the conclusions reached in the assessment.

Processing sensitive information in the investigation

An investigation means that sensitive information will be processed.

As a standard, information from the investigation may only be made available to the investigator, the person subjected to the undesirable behaviour and the accused party, other university employees who need information to conduct their work and potential witnesses.

Cases of harassment, sexual harassment or psychological harassment must always be documented and registered in the archives. This means that documentation becomes official documents that the general public can request copies of from Umeå University according to the principle of public access to official documents.

If someone requests an official document from the University, a confidentiality assessment is to be made before the copy is disclosed.

Potential preventive and punitive measures

Regardless of the assessment is that psychological harassment, harassment or sexual harassment has taken place or not, the manager responsible for the work environment will decide on measures to improve the work environment.

What measures are appropriate is based on the conclusions reached in the assessment.

If the investigation shows that some form of harassment, or some other form of misconduct, has taken place, the manager in charge must take individualised measures, which for instance could be a clarifying conversation.

The University may also decide on preventive measures to avoid staff from being subjected to similar events in the future.

If the harassment or psychological harassment is regarded as severe, or if the behaviour continues despite the measures introduced, the case must be reported to the Staff Disciplinary Board.

PAN has the authority to decide on individualised punitive measures due to staff misdemeanour.

Punitive measures decided by the Staff Disciplinary Board can be

  • a formal warning according to the Employment Protection Act
  • suspension
  • relocation
  • termination of employment.

If the investigation shows that occurred events are not in violation of the law

If the investigation shows that occurred events are not to be regarded as harassment, psychological harassment or sexual harassment, or if events cannot be elucidated, the manager must notify all relevant parties.

Even when the investigation leads to such conclusions, work environment measures can still be decided on and implemented.

Important terminology


Harassment
refers to conduct that violates a person's dignity and that is associated with one or several of the seven grounds of discrimination referred to in the Discrimination Act.

Sexual harassment refers to conduct of sexual nature that violates a person's dignity (the Discrimination Act).

Psychological harassment, also called victimisation, refers to abusive actions aimed at one or more employees, and that may lead to ill health or to exclusion from the workplace community for the victim (the Swedish Work Environment Authority provisions on organisational and social work environment).

Anna Lundström
12/20/2021