December 1, 2011

Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

The University of Southern California is committed to maintaining an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment; the university expects that all members of the university community—faculty, staff, and students—should be able to pursue their work and education in such an environment.

The university is committed to complying with all applicable laws and government regulations which prohibit discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment), and retaliation. University employees (and students covered by this policy) who violate this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, including termination or dismissal for cause in accordance with university policies.

Student-on-student sexual harassment and assault is covered under separate policy.

Prohibited Behaviors

Discrimination—For the purposes of this policy, “discrimination” refers to the unfair treatment of a person or group because of that person’s or group’s protected category status, as defined in the university’s Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Non-Discrimination policy.

Harassment—Physical or verbal hostility, or any unwelcome or offensive conduct or communication, directed toward someone or toward a group of individuals, because of their protected category status.

Sexual harassment—Unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; or any other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such conduct is either explicitly or implicitly made a condition of an individual’s employment, appointment, admission or academic evaluation, or used as a basis for evaluation in personnel decisions or academic evaluations; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive or otherwise adverse working or learning environment.

Specific examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, making written, verbal, physical and/or visual contact of a sexual nature:

  • Suggestive or obscene letters, notes or emails
  • Comments, jokes, slurs or epithets of a sexual or sexist nature, requests for sexual favors, repeated and unwelcome propositions for dates
  • Assaults, body contact or touching, impeding or blocking movement
  • Inappropriate display of sexually explicit objects, pictures, cartoons, drawings, posters, computer screensavers, websites, or movies; sexual gestures

All employees must periodically complete required awareness training programs provided by the university. For faculty, failure to complete the required training shall be handled according to the appropriate provisions of the Faculty Handbook. For staff, failure to complete the required training shall be grounds for discipline which may include termination.

Sexual assault—For the purposes of this policy, sexual assault is defined as any physical sexual act (including but not limited to actual or attempted intercourse, sexual touching, fondling, and groping) perpetrated upon a person:

    1. without their consent;
    2. where the assailant uses physical force, threat, coercion, or intimidation to overpower or control another,
    3. where the victim fears that he or she, or another person, will be injured or otherwise harmed if he or she does not submit;
    4. where the victim’s ability to give or withhold consent is impaired due to the influence of alcohol or other drugs;
    5. or where consent is otherwise not freely given.

Retaliation—The law, university policy and the Student Conduct Code all prohibit threatened, attempted, or actual retaliation against anyone who, in good faith, brings a complaint of discrimination or harassment as they are defined in this policy; participates in a discrimination or harassment investigation; or protests the alleged discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

Any incident of retaliation must be reported immediately to the OED or any Designated Recipient (see the OED website for details on Designated Recipients). Complaints of retaliation will be investigated. Retaliation may include, but is not limited to, the following acts, when such action is taken because the individual brought forward a complaint, participated in an investigation, or protested the alleged discrimination, harassment or retaliation:

  • Adverse employment or academic action
  • Lowering a grade
  • Giving a poor academic recommendation
  • Exclusion from employment or educational opportunities
  • Limited scholarly activities (e.g., exclusion from teaching or research, or interfering with publication)
  • Spreading negative information about individual involved in complaint

Reporting Violations

Violations of this policy must be reported immediately to the OED or any Designated Recipient (see complaint reporting procedures on the OED website) for investigation.

To report protected-class discrimination or harassment to USC, contact the Office of Equity and Diversity/Title IX (the office of the Title IX Coordinator) by:


(213) 740-5086 or (213) 821-8298

Email or

Mail or in person

USC Office of Equity and Diversity/Title IX
USC Credit Union Building
3720 S. Flower St, Ste 200
Los Angeles, CA 90089

Employees may file complaints regarding protected-class discrimination or harassment outside the university with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) at or as otherwise provided at, or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at (800) 669-4000 (TTY 1 (800) 669-6820) or as otherwise provided at

Students may file complaints regarding protected-class discrimination or harassment to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) with the U.S. Department of Education at (415) 486-5555, or as otherwise provided at

Additional References

Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Non-Discrimination

Responsible Office

Office of Equity and Diversity
(213) 740-5086

Issued by

Elizabeth Garrett, Provost and Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs
Todd R. Dickey, Senior Vice President, Administration
University of Southern California