If you have been exposed to harassment

If something occurs at work that makes you feel unsafe or exposed, or if you are treated abusively, it is important that you get the help you need. Criminal offences are investigated by the Police, but the University as an employer also has responsibility to investigate harassment and stop undesirable behaviour.

 

Photo: Communications Office

This page contains information to support employees if you have been subjected to behaviour or speech that

  • violates your personal integrity
  • makes you feel unsafe and vulnerable, or
  • harms you

Talk to someone about what has happened

If you feel victimised, it could be good to talk to someone about the events that have occurred. This someone could be your manager, a colleague or someone else that you trust.

If you have been subjected to undesirable behaviour, you may feel scared, angry, worried or unsafe. You may find it difficult to stop thinking about the events, or react by repressing what has occurred.

Talking about your experience is the first step towards feeling better. It may also help you remember and put your experience into words.

Professional support and counselling

If you are in the need of professional support and counselling, you can turn directly to the University’s occupational health care services, Feelgood. You do not need prior approval from your manager or supervisor to book an appointment.

The University Chaplaincy also offers counselling for everyone at Umeå University, regardless of philosophy or religious beliefs.

Tell your line manager

If an employee feels subjected to an undesirable behaviour at work or is in need of support, it is the manager who has the authority to act and take measures.

This is one of many reasons why you should contact your line manager and inform the manager of what has happened as soon as you feel ready.

It becomes more difficult to rectify a situation or take measures the longer it takes before your employer is made aware.

If the abusive behaviour you have experienced could be regarded as harassment, sexual harassment or psychological harassment, your manager must initiate an investigation.

Write down and document what has happened

Do not put off documenting the occurrence. Write down what has happened and when and make sure to save any potential text messages and emails. This will simplify for the investigation. It also helps you remember times, places and other details that will strengthen your description of the events.

If your manager has subjected you to undesirable behaviour

If your manager is the person subjecting you to undesirable behaviour, you can either

Suspected criminal offences must be reported to the Police

If you have been subjected to a criminal act, it must always be reported to the Police and investigated by the judicial system.

This applies regardless of the person conducting the act is a student, employee or an external party.

Report a crime (the Swedish Police Authority)
Olika typer av brott A-Ö
(description of various types of crimes, by the Swedish Police Authority)
Brottsofferguiden (a crime victim guide by the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority)

Mark against undesirable behaviour

Sexual harassment refers to conduct of sexual nature that violates a person’s dignity.

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.

It is up to you, as the injured party, to make the call if behaviour is undesirable or abusive.

But this also means that the person exposing you to such behaviour needs to be made aware that you experience the behaviour as abusive. According to the Discrimination Act, behaviour is only regarded as harassing or sexually harassing if the person exposing you to such behaviour has previously been made aware that you experience the person’s behaviour as abusive.

Some behaviour, however, is so evidently abusive that it can be assumed that the accused party must have realised that it was abusive without you telling them. This could be if you are called “nigger” or “whore”, if other insulting or abusive expressions are used, or if other forms of groping or assault occur.

In such cases, the victim or the workplace does not need to mark the behaviour as undesirable for it to be investigated as harassment or sexual harassment.

Support in talking to the accused party 

To mark against and say no may feel both awkward and uncomfortable. This particularly applies if the person conducting the undesirable behaviour is someone of higher rank.

When you talk to the person who has subjected you to the undesirable behaviour, you can bring along your manager, a colleague or another person you have confidence in to the meeting.

You can also choose to put your message in writing and send it in an email.

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.

When Umeå University investigates and reaches formal decisions, work is based on procedures adopted by the Vice-Chancellor in 2015:

Handläggningsordning vid diskriminering, trakasserier och kränkningar [Procedures regarding discrimination, harassment and abuse, not translated]

The person who is 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. You can also submit a written report to the registry.

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 psychological harassment, harassment or sexual harassment is being investigated, the person subjected to the undesirable behaviour will leave a statement of the events.

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

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

If you wish to remain anonymous

If you, after having been subjected to undesirable behaviour, wish to be anonymous, the University is still obliged to investigate and prevent further harassment.

However, it may be difficult to take suitable measures as the accused party will not be given the chance to respond to the allegations.

Neither can the University decide on and implement any individualised measures. In such cases, the University can only implement general preventive measures such as information and staff training activities.

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 psychological harassment or harassment is regarded as severe, or if it continues despite the measures introduced, the case must be reported to the Staff Disciplinary Board (PAN) or to the Student Disciplinary Board.

These boards have the authority to decide on individualised punitive measures due to staff or student 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.

 

Who are covered by the support the University offers?

What is described on this page applies regardless of if you are

  • on permanent or temporary employment
  • a doctoral student
  • a postdoctoral fellow on a stipend
  • a consultant stationed at Umeå University.

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).

Contact information

You can turn to the Office for Human Resources, which can answer questions about how harassment are investigated.

Pernilla Jansson
Human resources strategist, Human Resources Office
✉ pernilla.jansson@umu.se
📞 +46 90 786 62 25

Annelie Mellström
Coordinator for equal opportunities, Human Resources Office
annelie.mellstrom@umu.se
📞 +46 90 786 62 72

Linda Johnson
Human resources strategist, Human Resources Office
✉ linda.johnson@umu.se
📞 +46 90 786 55 04

Jeanette Lövqvist
Human resources strategist, Human Resources Office
✉ jeanette.lovqvist@umu.se
📞 +46 90 786 53 79

Anja Axelsson
12/20/2021