What you can do in the event of harassment

Last changed: 09 March 2021

SLU does not accept any form of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or reprisals.

What constitutes discrimination and harassment?

The aim of the Discrimination Act is to combat discrimination, and promote equal rights and opportunities. Discrimination includes harassment, sexual harassment and deficient availability. 

Discrimination is if you are offended, or treated worse than others in a comparable situation, and it being related to any of the discrimination grounds:

  • gender
  • transgender identity or expression
  • ethnicity
  • religion or other belief
  • disability
  • sexual orientation
  • age

Harassment is a behaviour that offends a person. Harassment is prohibited according to the Discrimination Act if it is related to any of the discrimination grounds. Among other things, harassment can be that somebody uses ridiculing and demeaning generalisations about a person’s supposed characteristics, such as “female” or “homosexual” characteristics. Harassment may also involve ostracism, acting as if someone is invisible or making insulting comments. Regardless of type, harassment always makes someone feel offended, threatened, violated or badly treated.

Harassment can also be of a sexual nature. Then it is called sexual harassment, which is also prohibited under the Discrimination Act. This may be touching, groping, jokes, suggestions, looks or images which are sexually explicit. It may also involve sexual jargon. Sexual harassment differs from ordinary flirting in that it is unwelcome.

The victim of harassment always decides what they consider harassing. The same type of behaviour can be viewed by one student/employee as harassment, and unimportant by another.

There is more information on discrimination and harassment at the Office of the Equality Ombudsman.

Reporting harassment – for students

Who should I turn to?

If you feel that you are being harassed or poorly treated by anyone in connection with your studies at SLU, there are several different people you can choose to talk with.

Primarily contact:

  • The director of studies at the department at which you are taking a course, or to the programme director of studies for your programme.

You can also contact:

  • your head of department
  • the Legal Affairs Unit

You can get support from:

  • the study and career advisers They offer advice and support if you feel wronged and are considering reporting discrimination or harassment.
  • the students’ union.

You have the right to not be subjected to harassment in your education. This applies regardless of whether the person doing the harassing is a teacher or other employee, or if it is another student. This also applies when you are on a placement, making a study visit, or in contact with external lecturers or supervisors.

Advice if you are subjected to harassment

  • Speak up! Sometimes it is not obvious that the person doing the harassment should understand that it is offensive. But in many cases, it is important that you who are being harassed make it clear to the person harassing you that this behaviour is unwelcome and that it must stop. This can be done orally, in writing or with the help of somebody you trust.
  • Document it. Write down what happened and when.
  • Seek support. There are several different ways to get support if you are subjected to harassment; see above.
  • Report what happened to staff at SLU, especially if the harassment does not end even though you have objected. If you are on placement, also report it to the manager at the placement location.

What happens when you report harassment?

SLU must investigate suspected harassment and make it end. If you tell the director of studies or guidance counsellor about harassment, they will not forward the matter if you do not want them to. But if you want, they can help to report it to the head of department or SLU’s lawyers for investigation.

If any other employee finds out that a student feels harassed, it must be reported to the head of department or the lawyers.

An investigation can in some cases be done at the department when the head of department talks with everyone involved (the person who feels harassed and the person suspected of the harassment). This may be enough for the harassment to end.

When a report comes to SLU’s legal counsels, they always conduct an investigation regarding what has happened. If the investigation concludes that harassment appears to have occurred, it can lead to a report to SLU’s disciplinary board if it is a student that subjected somebody else to harassment. If a teacher or other employee has harassed a student, this can be reported to the SLU staff disciplinary board.

The sanctions that can be applied to students are a warning or being suspended from studies for a period of time. For teachers or other staff, the sanction can be a warning, relocation or termination.

It is good to know that a formal report and investigation become official documents that can be requested for release. The document will be marked confidential.

Some harassment is a criminal act that can also be reported to the police.

If you have reported somebody at the university for harassment, you have the right to not be subjected to reprisals, meaning being punished (such as getting a worse grade or being harassed during studies).

Read more about what applies in the event of harassment in SLU’s Guidelines for suspected harassment of a student.

How you as an employee report harassment, sexual harassment and reprisals

If you feel victimised

Primarily contact your immediate or another manager. If your manager has harassed you or subjected you to reprisals, you can contact their manager, an HR specialist or a health and safety representative. If you are a doctoral student, you can also approach the doctoral student ombudsman.

If the employer does not investigate the matter or take any measures, you can contact your trade union. If you are not a member of a trade union, or if the they cannot represent you, you can submit tips and complaints to the Equality Ombudsman.

Speak up – it is not always obvious to the harasser that their conduct is offending. If this seems to be the case, you must make it clear to the person in question that they have crossed a line.

Take notes – write down what has happened and when it happened. This will help you remember specific times, locations and other information that may be crucial during an harassment investigation.

Do not delay – try not to wait too long before submitting a report. The more time that has passed, the harder it becomes to investigate a situation. In some cases, there is a statute of limitations; i.e., the report must be submitted before a specific deadline.

What does the manager do?

A manager is obliged to investigate the event. Talk individually with the victim, the person(s) who reportedly harassed them and possible witnesses. If there is a need for support discussions, contact occupational healthcare.

The manager documents the investigation and his or her view of the matter and decides if the situation can be resolved immediately at the department/unit or if other actions are needed. The HR specialist is available as support.

The manager will follow up on the situation after an action to ensure that the harassment has ended. If it turns out that it has continued, he or she must take further action to put an end to it, which may involve disciplinary measures through the staff disciplinary board.

Read more in SLU’s guidelines:

Guidelines in case of suspected harassment, sexual harassment of or reprisals against an employee

Guidlines concerning victimisation

If you have seen anybody else being victimised

If you as a student or employee feel that somebody is being subjected to harassment

Sometimes, it may be difficult to draw line between what can be perceived as a joke and what can be perceived as an insult. Generalising about different groups, such as joking about “male and female”, has proven to increase the risk of harassment at a workplace.

It is everyone’s responsibility to think about how we act towards each other. If you believe that an employee/student feels victimised or pointed out as a result of banter or a workplace culture, or if you see that somebody is subjected to harassment, it is important that you react. Talk with the person to show that you do not support what you saw. You can also be the one who speaks up if you see somebody being victimised to show others that you do not support what is being said or alluded to. Instead of passively participating, it is better to act one time too many.

Take notes – write down what has happened and when it happened. This will help you remember specific times, locations and other information that may be crucial during an harassment investigation.

Do not delay – try not to wait too long before contacting a manager because the more time that has passed, the harder it is to resolve a situation. In some cases, a statute of limitations also applies, which means that investigation and possible actions must be done within a certain period of time. Encourage and support the victim to contact the manager/head of department themselves.

Contact the immediate manager/head of department in the event of suspicion or knowledge of somebody being subjected to harassment. This applies regardless of whether it is an employee or a student who is being harassed.

According to the Discrimination Act, employers and education providers are obligated to investigate and take measures against harassment.

What does the manager/head of department do?

A manager/head of department is obliged to investigate the event. Talk individually with the victim, the person(s) who reportedly harassed them and possible witnesses. If there is a need for support discussions, contact occupational healthcare.

The manager/head of department documents the investigation and his or her view of the matter and decides if the situation can be resolved immediately at the department/unit or if other actions are needed. The HR specialist and lawyer are available as support.

The manager/head of department will follow up on the situation after an action to ensure that the harassment has ended. If it turns out that it has continued, he or she must take further action to put an end to it, which may involve disciplinary measures through the staff disciplinary board if it is an employee.

Page editor: utb-webb@slu.se