Harassment Grievance Policy & Officers

Cleveland Democratic Socialists of America
Passed on September 2nd 2021, amended at Chapter Convention on 2/24/2024

DSA National Policy and Recommendations

To file a grievance or contact the DSA Cleveland Harassment Grievance Officers email HGO@dsacleveland.org

The Cleveland Democratic Socialists of America is committed to creating a space that is welcoming and inclusive to members of all genders, races, and classes. The following policy provides guidelines to ensure that everyone is able to organize without fear of harassment, abuse, or harm.

  1. Purpose
    1. The purpose of this procedure is to maintain a space that is safe for our comrades and conducive to the construction of socialism. It deals with behavior that is in violation of our Code of Conduct.
  2. Authority
    1. Where contradictions arise between this policy and national guidance, the HGOs will make a best effort determination on how to proceed by balancing the will of membership with our responsibility to comply with national regulation.
  3. Cleveland DSA Steering Committee (SC) will:
    1. Appoint at least two Harassment-Grievance Officers (HGOs), at least one of whom will not be a man. These appointments shall then be voted on by chapter membership.
    2. Maintain an email address to function as a confidential reporting “hotline.”
    3. Continue to seek backup HGOs and future HGOs, which if identified will be assigned training and mentorship by the standing HGO(s) or other officers. 
    4. Act as mandatory reporters in cases of Dangerous conduct (Article 7.a of Grievance Policy), meaning if they learn about an incident they have to report it to the HGO within seven (7) days. Officers will attempt to advise members of their mandatory reporting status prior to member’s divulging information.  
  4. The HGO(s) will:
    1. Undertake a training course assigned by the SC within 30 days of their appointment.
    2. Archive all accuser reports, accuser’s written responses, and other relevant documentation.
    3. Compile a yearly report that details:
      1. How many reports were made
      2. How many were taken to the disciplinary process
      3. How many disciplinary actions were taken
      4. Any recommended changes to chapter policies or the Grievance Process for making the reporting system more effective.
      5. This report will not include personally identifying information of any parties. 
      6. The local HGO(s) will send the yearly report to the national HGO(s) no later than January 1 of the new year.
    4. Protect the confidentiality of parties to complaints by, among other things, only discussing complaints within appropriately restricted communications channels.
    5. Seek out and mentor future HGO(s) from the general membership.
  5. Grievance Submission and Investigation Process
    1. Members may file a complaint with the HGO via the reporting form
    2. The HGO may also independently investigate a member’s actions taken against DSA members, event guests, or members of the general public, especially in cases of Dangerous behavior, regardless of whether a form has been submitted.  Members may bring behavior to the attention of the HGO without submitting a formal grievance.   
    3. Subjects to the complaint may request the non-male HGO at the outset of the process. 
    4. After a Report is filed:
      1. Within 7 days of filing, the HGO will make a determination if the report is valid. The HGO should take a broad view of grievable conduct, leaning toward acceptance. However, care should also be taken to avoid undue stress from an unnecessary grievance procedure.
      2. Within 7 days of filing, the HGO will notify the accused party that a report has been filed against them and request a written response be submitted within the next seven (7) days, either affirming or denying its substance.
        1. If the accused does not meet this deadline, the HGO will proceed to submit a recommended remedy to the SC.
      3. The HGO(s) may notify the SC of the accuser’s report and its substance at any time after the report is filed, but must give 48 hours’ written notice to both the accuser and the accused member before doing so. In cases of dangerous behavior (Article 9.a) the HGOs may notify SC of violation without informing the offender.
      4. If the accused denies the substance of the report, the HGO will have 10 days to investigate by:
        1. interviewing other members with direct knowledge of the substance of the report;
        2. requesting documentation from any other parties directly involved; or
        3. employing any and all other means deemed necessary, with the utmost respect for the confidentiality of the parties.
      5. The HGO(s) responsible will determine whether the report is credible and, if necessary, make a recommendation to the SC of appropriate remedy/disciplinary action within 30 days of the report being filed. 
      6. Both the accused and the accuser should be made aware of the results of the investigation.
  6. Remedies
    1. Remedies may be devised by the HGO based on the character and severity of the conduct, the request of harmed parties, and/or past behavior of the accused.  
    2. Remedies may include any combination of a formal conversation between the parties, between the accused party and the HGO or another Officer, development of a plan to change behavior, engagement with educational material overseen by the HGO or another Officer, a simple warning, suspension, removal from leadership, expulsion, or any other remedies approved by the SC.  
  7. Mediation
    1. In cases of non-dangerous behavior where no formal grievance has been submitted, or where a formal grievance of non-dangerous behavior is uncontested by the accused, the HGO(s) may attempt to remedy the situation without bringing it to the SC, for instance by speaking with the party/parties, explaining why the behavior in question is problematic, and what is expected of Cleveland DSA members.  
    2. Repeat behavior or behavior the HGO judges to be severe (whether or not it falls into the “Dangerous” category) will be brought to the SC.
    3. The HGO(s) may not expel or suspend members without consulting the SC.
    4. Parties may still appeal these remedies.
  8. Appealing a determination
    1. Either party may appeal the remedy determined by HGO/SC by filling out the Appeals Form. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1KZL4ofHv31UFVz2I7qrj7rw3QyLdgZNNLe7aZxnKSzU/edit. Appeals must be filed within thirty days of a party having received written notice of the HGO/SC decision.  The limited grounds for appeal are:
      1. Either party believes the behavior was not covered by the Code of Conduct
      2. Procedural errors, misconduct, or conflicts of interest affected the fairness of the outcome
      3. The remedy or penalty determined by the SC was grossly disproportionate to the violation committed
    2. The HGO and SC will have 30 days to answer the Appeal.
  9. Complaints will be placed into one of three categories
    1. Dangerous behaviour – Actions that pose a clear threat to members bodily safety, including but not limited to sexual harassment, physical or sexual assault, stalking, and threatening to engage in these behaviors.
      1. Accusations of dangerous behavior will result in automatic temporary suspension from the organization’s events and communication channels pending the investigation by the HGO.
        1. This is not a punishment or presumption of guilt, but purely a safety measure.
        2. This suspension will not be made public 
        3. The HGO will track this via a review of attendance.
          1. Knowing refusal to comply with a temporary suspension may result in permanent expulsion.  
    2. Problematic behaviour –  Behavior that violates the Code of Conduct but does not pose a clear threat to a members bodily safety.
    3. Acts against the organization
      1. This includes behaviour injurious to the chapter, such as stealing chapter funds, destruction of chapter materials, making damaging statements while claiming to represent Cleveland DSA, coordinating under the influence of outside organizations, or sustained ongoing disruption of DSA events or operations.
        1. “Disruption” does not cover (organized or individual) dissent, but rather behavior such as refusal to respect meeting facilitators, stack-taking, agendas, etc, even if motivated by a spirit of dissent.
          1. As a near-term remedy administrators of a given event (whether or not they are Officers) may remove a disruptive member from the event and report this disruption to the HGO.
        2. The HGO will investigate the behavior and depending on the severity of the incident may issue a warning or proceed directly to recommending a remedy to the SC.
  10. Recusal: An officer and/or HGO will be required to recuse themselves from this process if:
    1. The HGO/Officer is a party to the complaint (i.e., is either the complainant or a subject of the complaint.)
    2. An HGO/Officer’s partner or family member is a party to the complaint.
    3. Officers/HGOs are expected to make a good faith determination of whether other factors will seriously impair their judgment, and if so will recuse themselves.  Given the close-knit nature of DSA chapters, HGOs will be chosen based on trust in their ability to set these factors aside.  Officers/HGOs are not expected to recuse themselves merely on the basis of an existing friendship with parties.
    4. The HGOs may take grievances to other chapters’ HGOs if there is a conflict of interest with steering or HGOs of the home chapter
  11. This policy prohibits retaliation against any member for bringing a complaint of harassment pursuant to this policy. This policy also prohibits retaliation against a person who assists someone with a complaint of harassment, or participates in any manner in an investigation or resolution of a complaint of discrimination or harassment. Retaliatory behaviors include threats, intimidation, reprisals, and/or adverse actions related to organizing.
    1. If any party to the complaint believes there has been retaliation, they may inform the HGO who will determine whether to factor the retaliation into the original complaint, or treat it as an individual incident.