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Grievance Policy

This document summarizes the procedures Creative Code Berlin uses to enforce the Code of Conduct.

Why have a grievance policy?

  1. The purpose for having a policy is to make dealing with grievances, when they happen, easier for the committee. Easier as in, less thinking and decision-making about what is the right thing to do. The grievance policy provides the process to follow, and suggestions for how to make decisions along that path.
  2. This is also recommended in the book "How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports" by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner. The relevant quote in Chapter 2 page 23: 'If possible, adopt a written incident response guide to guide your work, such as the one in the "Responding to a report" chapter of this book. When first receiving a report, often the committee members are stressed and not capable of thinking well. Even when calm, people often forget important steps of a process. A written guide provides a framework and a set of reminders to work through during a stressful time.'

Summary of processes

When the committee receives a report of a possible Code of Conduct violation, it will:

  1. Document the report in written form.
  2. Acknowledge the receipt of the report.
  3. Evaluate conflicts of interest.
  4. Call a meeting of the grievance work group. (Committee members without a conflict of interest are the members of the grievance work group.)
  5. Review the report.
  6. Propose expected change of behavior.
  7. Propose consequences for the reported behavior.
  8. Vote on suggested changes and consequences for the reported person(s).
  9. Follow up with the reported person(s).
  10. Process any responses from reported person(s).
  11. Follow up with the reporter.
  12. Release a public report if the incident was public

1. Document the report in written form

If someone reports a grievance, ask them for a written account of what happened. If the report is verbal, then the member of the committee who received the report should write down as soon as possible what they were told.

If the following information is not volunteered in the written or verbal report, ask for it, and include it, and inform them that this is voluntary.

  • Who the reported person(s) is(are)
  • The behavior they would like to report
  • The approximate time of the behavior
  • The circumstances surrounding the incident
  • Other people involved in the incident
  • Any supporting information (screenshots, etc.)

Tell the reporter that "If you're ok with it, I am going to convey this incident to the organisers." Pause, and see if they say they do not want this; if this is the case, the report is not processed further. Otherwise, it proceeds.

Communicate the incident to the CCB committee.

As soon as possible, communicate with the reported person(s) to let them know that there is a complaint about them. Let them tell a member of the CCB committee their side of the story. The grievance work group will review this in their meeting.

2. Acknowledge the receipt of the report

Reporters should receive an emailed acknowledgment of the receipt of their report within 72 hours.

3. Evaluate conflicts of interest

There is a conflict of interest if the individual does not think they can be impartial to either the reporter or reported party. For example:

  • The reporter or reported person has a formal or informal relationship with you, whether it is work-related, familial, romantic, or platonic.
  • It's fine to participate if they are an acquaintance.

Committee members do not need to state why they have a conflict of interest, only that one exists. Other work group members should not ask why the person has a conflict of interest. Anyone who has a conflict of interest will remove themselves from the discussion of the incident, and recuse themselves from voting on a response to the report.

4. Call a meeting of the grievance work group.

The committee members without a conflict of interest are the members of the grievance work group. A member from the grievance work group will volunteer to be the main facilitator of the report process. A deputy will also be nominated, and will manage the report process if the primary faciliator is unable to. The main facilitator will call a meeting within one month of receiving the report.

5. Review the report.

First the report will be evaluated on jurisdiction, which is whether the report is within the scope of our grievance policy, and should be further considered. If it is within jurisdiction, it will be evaluated on impact and risk. The combined impact and risk will determine the severity of the outcome.

Jurisdiction

  • Is this a Code of Conduct violation? Is this behavior on our list of inappropriate behavior? Is it borderline inappropriate behavior? Does it violate our community norms? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the report is a Code of Conduct violation.
  • Did this occur in a space that is within our Code of Conduct's scope? Did this occur at one of our in-person or online events, associated social events, or on one of our discussion platforms? If the incident occurred outside the community, but a community member's mental health or physical safety may be negatively impacted if no action is taken, the incident may be in scope. Private conversations within our community spaces are also in scope.

Impact

  • Did this incident occur in a private conversation or in a public space? Incidents that all community members can see will have more negative impact.
  • Does this behavior negatively impact a marginalized group in our community? Is the reporter a person from a marginalized group in our community? How is the reporter being negatively impacted by the reported person's behavior? Are members of the marginalized group likely to disengage with the community if no action was taken on this report?
  • Does this incident involve a community leader? Community members often look up to community leaders to set the standard of acceptable behavior.

Risk

  • Does this incident include sexual harassment?
  • Does this pose a safety risk? Does the behavior put a person's physical safety at risk? Will this incident severely negatively impact someone's mental health?
  • Is there a risk of this behavior being repeated? Does the reported person understand why their behavior was inappropriate? Is there an established pattern of behavior from past reports?

Reports which involve higher risk or higher impact may face more severe consequences than reports which involve lower risk or lower impact.

6. Propose an expected change of behavior

The work group will determine a concrete behavioral modification plan that ensures the inappropriate behavior is not repeated. The work group will also discuss what actions may need to be taken if the reported person does not agree to the behavioral modification plan. What follows are examples of possible behavioral modification plans for incidents that occur in community spaces under the scope of this Code of Conduct. This behavioral modification list is not exhaustive, and the CCB work group reserves the right to take any action it deems necessary.

  • Requiring that the reported person not use specific language
  • Requiring that the reported person not send private messages to a community member
  • Requiring that the reported person not join specific communication channels
  • Removing the reported person from administrator or moderator rights to community infrastructure
  • Removing a volunteer from their duties and responsibilities
  • Removing a person from leadership

7. Propose consequences

What follows are examples of possible consequences to an incident report. This consequences list is not exhaustive, and the CCB Code of Conduct work group reserves the right to take any action it deems necessary.

Possible responses to an incident include:

  • Nothing, if the behavior was determined to not be a Code of Conduct violation
  • A verbal or emailed warning including a description of the expected change of behavior and consequences for non compliance.
  • A final warning
  • Temporarily removing the reported person from the online community and/or temporarily banning the reported person from in-person events. A temporary ban may include conditions for re-entry in the community, like demonstrating an understanding of the harmful behavior and a commitment to change.
  • Permanently removing the reported person from the online community and/or permanently banning the reported person from in-person events
  • Publishing an account of the incident

8. Work group vote

Some work group members may have a conflict of interest and may be excluded from discussions of a particular incident report. Excluding those members, decisions on the behavioral modification plans and consequences will be determined by a majority vote of the CCB Code of Conduct work group.

9. Follow up with the reported person(s)

The CCB Code of Conduct work group will draft a response to the reported person(s). The email should contain:

  • A description of the person's past behavior in neutral language
  • The negative impact of that behavior
  • A concrete behavioral modification plan that includes the potential consequences of their subsequent behavior
  • If applicable, offer resources to help the behavior change.
  • Mention that a final warning will be sent before more permanent measures are taken.

The work group should not state who reported this incident. They should attempt to anonymize any identifying information from the report. The reported person(s) should be discouraged from contacting the reporter to discuss the report. If they wish to apologize to the reporter, the work group can accept the apology on behalf of the reporter.

10. Process any responses from reported person(s)

If the reported person(s) provides additional context, the CCB Code of Conduct work group may need to re-evaluate the behavioral modification plan and consequences.

11. Follow up with the reporter

A person who makes a report should receive a follow up email stating what action was taken in response to the report. Communications between the reported person and the grievance work group will not be shared with the reporter. If the work group decided no response was needed, they should provide an email explaining why it was not a Code of Conduct violation. Reports that are not made in good faith (such as "reverse sexism" or "reverse racism") may receive no response. The follow up email should be sent no later than six weeks after the receipt of the report. If deliberation or follow up with the reported person takes longer than six weeks, the work group should send a status email to the reporter.

12. Release a public report if the incident was public

Incidents that happened privately or between a small group will be documented internally. In case of public incidents, a public report may be issued.

References

  1. https://files.frameshiftconsulting.com/books/cocguide.pdf
  2. https://www.python.org/psf/conduct/enforcement/
  3. https://geekfeminism.fandom.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Responding_to_reports

Where did the proposed grievance policy come from?

Chapter 3 of "How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports" guided the policy, but we found the Python Software Foundation Code of Conduct Working Group Enforcement Procedures (https://www.python.org/psf/conduct/enforcement/) to be just the right level of detail and efficiency of words. Where it did not have much detail on was how to collect information for evaluation, which was provided in Geek Feminism, Conference anti-harassment/Responding to reports (https://geekfeminism.fandom.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Responding_to_reports).

So we've combined these two sources into one policy, and have edited the text in light of our small size, and the fact that we are all volunteers, and that we want our commitment in the community to be sustainable.