DEFINITIONS

Affirmative Action - A process in which employers identify problem areas in the employment of protected class members, set goals and take positive steps to ensure equal employment opportunities of a protected class where they are underrepresented in an organization in relation to their availability in the labor markets from which recruiting occurs.

Affirmative Action Plan - A plan that identifies problem areas in the employment of protected-class members and sets goals and actions to overcome those problems.

Availability Analysis - An analysis that identifies the number of protected-class members available to work in the appropriate labor markets in given jobs.

Bias - A tendency or inclination that prevents objectivity.

Business Necessity - A practice necessary for the safe and efficient operation of an organization.

Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that employers may discriminate on the basis of sex, religion, or national origin if the characteristic can be justified as a legitimate occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business.

Consensual Relationships - Romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty and students, staff and students or supervisors and subordinate employees are strongly discouraged.  Such relationships have the potential for adverse consequences, including the filing of charges of sexual harassment.  Given the fundamentally asymmetric nature of the relationship where one party has the power to give grades, thesis advice, evaluations, recommendations, promotions, salary increases or performance evaluations, the consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect.

Even when both parties have consented to the relationship, there may be perceptions of conflicts of interest or unfair treatment of others. Such perceptions undermine the atmosphere of trust essential to the educational process or the employment relationship. Accordingly, the person in the position of supervision or academic responsibility must promptly report the relationship to his or her immediate supervisor.  Once the consensual relationship is reported, the immediate supervisor is responsible for eliminating or mitigating the conflict of interest to the fullest feasible extent and ensuring that fair and objective processes are in place for decisions relative to grading, thesis advice, evaluations, recommendations, promotions, salary increases, or performance evaluations.  The new supervisory or academic arrangement should be documented.

Covered Veterans:
Vietnam Era Veteran – a person who (1) served on active duty for a period of more than 180 days, any part of which occurred between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975, and was discharged or released with other than a dishonorable discharge; (2) was discharged or released from active duty for a service connected disability if any part of such active duty was performed between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975; or (3) served on active duty for more than 180 days and served in the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.

Special Disabled Veteran – a person who is entitled to compensation under laws administered by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for a disability rated at 30 percent or more; or, rated at 10 or 20 percent, if it has been determined that the individual has a serious employment disability; or, a person who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability.

Qualified Special Disabled Veteran – A special disabled veteran who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position such veteran holds or desires, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of such position.

Other Protected Veteran – a person who served on active duty during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, under laws administered by the Department of Defense.

Recently Separated Veteran – any veteran during the one-year period beginning on the date of such veteran’s discharge or release from active duty.

Culture - The distinctive body of customs, knowledge, beliefs, and morals, laws, habits, and social institutions that characterize each separate society.

Dating Violence means violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim.  The existence of such a relationship will be based on the length and type of relationship and the frequency of interaction with the persons involved in the relationship.  It is important to recognize that emotional, verbal, and economic abuse are part of the web of dating violence and can exist without the presence of physical abuse.

Discrimination is conduct of any nature that denies an individual the opportunity to participate in or benefit from a University program or activity, or otherwise adversely affects a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, or living environment, because of the individual’s age, race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, physical or mental disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information or political ideas.    

Disparate Impact - Disparate impact occurs when employment decisions work to the disadvantage of protected class members, whether or not there is discriminatory intent.

Disparate Treatment - Disparate treatment occurs when protected class members are treated differently from others, whether or not there is discriminatory intent.

Diversity - A broad concept that values all people equally, regardless of their differences.

Domestic Violence includes crimes of violence committed against a victim by:  (i) a current or former spouse; (ii) a person with whom the victim shares a child; (iii) a person who is or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse; (iv) a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim; or (v) any other person against whom the victim is protected under Pennsylvania’s domestic and family violence laws.  It is important to recognize that emotional, verbal, and economic abuse are part of the web of domestic violence and can exist without the presence of physical abuse.

Due Process - The opportunity for individuals to explain and defend their actions against charges of misconduct or other reasons.

Equal Employment Opportunity - Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is a broad concept holding that individuals should have equal treatment in all employment-related actions.

Essential Job Functions - The fundamental job duties of the employment position that an individual with a disability holds or desires.

Ethnicity - A group classification in which members share a unique social and cultural heritage passed on from one generation to the next. Involves customs, language, religion, and other cultural factors.

Executive Order - An order issued by the President of the United States to provide direction to government departments on a specific issue or area.

Glass Ceiling - Discriminatory practices that have prevented women and other protected-class members from advancing to executive level positions.

Harassment means behavior consisting of physical or verbal conduct that substantially interferes with an individual’s employment, education or access to University programs, activities or opportunities.   Harassment may include, but is not limited to, verbal or physical attacks, graphic or written statements, threats, or slurs. Whether the alleged conduct constitutes prohibited Harassment depends on the totality of the particular circumstances, including the nature, frequency and duration of the conduct in question, the location and context in which it occurs and the status of the individuals involved.

Any type of Harassment is prohibited at the University. To constitute prohibited Harassment which can lead to discipline under this Policy, however, the conduct must be such that it detrimentally affects the individual in question and would detrimentally affect a reasonable person under the same circumstances.

Person with a Disability - Someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits that person in some major life activities, who has a record of such and impairment or who is regarded as having such an impairment.

Prejudice - An irrational and negative attitude directed at a group or individual because of physical or cultural characteristics; thinking ill of others without sufficient warrant. Usually the attitude is not well founded and it has a negative cast.

Protected Classes - Protected classes are composed of individuals identified for protection under equal employment laws and regulations. Many of the protected classes historically have been subjected to discrimination. Bases for protection identified by various federal laws are:

  • Race, ethnic origin, color (African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans)
  • Gender (women)
  • Age (over 40)
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Vietnam-era veterans
  • Religion

Race - A group of people related by common descent or heredity.

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Race/Ethnic Group Definition
American Indian or Alaskan Native (All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintain a cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.)

Asian or Pacific Islanders (All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. The areas include, for example, China, Japan, Korea, India, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.)

Black (not of Hispanic origin) (All persons having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.)

Hispanic (All persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.)

White (not of Hispanic origin) (All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East. )

Racism - The discrimination against a person or group solely because of their race. Any political doctrine that claims the superiority of one race over another.

Reasonable Accommodation - A modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified individual with a disability to have equal employment opportunity.

Recruiting - The process of generating a pool of qualified applicants for organizational jobs.

Retaliation, as defined in University Policy AD67: "means any adverse action taken by a member of the University faculty, staff, or student body against any individual on the basis of a Good Faith Report made by such individual, or on the basis of such individual’s participation in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry by the University or an Appropriate Authority, or participation in a court proceeding relating to suspected Wrongful Conduct at the University.  Retaliation shall include, but not be limited to, harassment, discrimination, threats of physical harm, job termination, punitive work schedule or research assignments, decrease in pay or responsibilities, or negative impact on academic progress.", is also prohibited by this policy and may subject the individual who retaliates in violation of this or other University policy to discipline or sanctions.

Right-to-Sue Letter - A letter issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that notifies a complainant that she or he has 90 days in which to file a personal suit in federal court.

Sexual Harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted, inappropriate, or unconsented to.  Any type of Sexual Harassment is prohibited at the University.

Sexual harassment when committed by a student can lead to discipline under the Code of Conduct.  The precise definitions of the Code of Conduct should be reviewed and applied when a student is accused of or commits harassment.  (See Student Code of Conduct).

Sexual Harassment committed by an employee or third party can lead to discipline or corrective action when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made implicitly or explicitly a condition for employment, promotion, grades, academic status, or participation in the University’s activities; or
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment or academic or other decisions affecting an individual; or
  3. Such conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to substantially interfere with the harassed individual’s employment, education or access to University programs, activities and opportunities, or creates a hostile or offensive environment for that individual or others.

Sexual Misconduct is a form of sexual harassment and refers to sexual offenses including but not limited to rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual exploitation, sexual coercion and any other forms of nonconsensual sexual activity.Sexual misconduct can be committed by strangers, acquaintances and family members, as well as casual and long-term dating partners.

Sexual assault includes, but is not limited to, attempted or unwanted sexual activity, such as sexual touching and fondling.  This includes the touching of an unwilling person’s intimate parts (defined as genitalia, groin, breast or buttock, or clothing covering them), or forcing an unwilling person to touch another’s intimate parts.

Sexual exploitation includes, but is not limited to, prostituting another person, non-consensual visual or audio recording of sexual activity, non-consensual distribution of photos, images or information of an individual’s sexual activity or intimate body parts, non-consensual voyeurism, coercing someone against their will to engage in sexual activity, or knowingly transmitting sexually transmitted disease (STD) without disclosing STD status.

Consent must be informed, freely given and mutual.  If coercion, intimidation, threats or physical force are used there is no consent.  If a person is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that such person cannot understand the fact, nature or extent of the sexual situation, there is no consent: this includes impairment or incapacitation due to alcohol or drug consumption, or being asleep or unconscious.  Inducement of incapacitation of another with the intent to affect the ability of an individual to consent or refuse to consent to sexual contact almost always, if not always, negates consent.  Silence does not necessarily constitute consent.  Whether a person has taken advantage of a position of influence over an alleged victim may be a factor in determining consent.

Stalking is acourse of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his/her safety or the safety of others, or to suffer emotional distress.  Stalking may include repeatedly following, harassing, threatening, or intimidating another by telephone, mail, electronic communication, social media, or any other action, device or method.

Undue Hardship - Conditions created when making a reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities that imposes significant difficulty or expense on an employer.

Utilization Analysis - An analysis that identifies the number of protected-class members employed and the types of jobs they hold in the organization.

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Affirmative Action Office

Affirmative Action Office
328 Boucke, University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 863-0471

Questions regarding web issues, please contact Tanya Pasko, tvp2@psu.edu


Web page last modified August 11, 2014