Policy & Compliance


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Frequently Asked Questions
Anti-Sexual Harassment
Last Revised: February 28, 2019


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    1. What is sexual harassment?

      Actions contributing to sexual harassment include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can be committed by anyone — men or women, against men or women, and by a supervisor, co-worker, subordinate, or non-employee.

      In Education, sexual harassment is actionable under Title IX when it is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, that it undermines and detracts from the victims’ educational experience, such that the victims are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities.*

      In Employment, sexual harassment is unlawful when it is so severe and pervasive that a reasonable person would consider it a hostile or intimidating work environment or when enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment.

      *Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629, 649 (1999).

    2. Who should I contact if I have concerns that sexual harassment is affecting an NIH-funded project?
      Since NIH is not a law enforcement agency, we strongly encourage people to report allegations of sexual harassment or assault to the appropriate authorities. If there are concerns that sexual harassment is affecting an NIH-funded project, NIH wants to know about it.  While NIH can and will follow up on all concerns related to NIH-funded research, we do not intervene in personnel matters at other organizations. Please see our Find Help page for contacts.
    3. What will NIH do in response to a notification of a concern about sexual harassment?

      If the concern involves personnel on an NIH funded project, NIH will contact the grantee organization to ensure they are addressing the issue. Learn more about what to expect when notifying NIH.

    4. How can NIH act on an allegation of sexual harassment that has not been confirmed?

      NIH will contact the grantee institution to determine whether appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that NIH funded research is not being impacted by incidents of sexual harassment.

    5. Will NIH contact me if someone notifies NIH about an allegation of sexual harassment where I am named as the accused?
      No. NIH will confirm we received the alert with the sender and will contact the grantee institution. See our page on what to expect when NIH is notified.
    6. If there is an allegation of sexual harassment by senior/key personnel named on an NIH grant, what is the awardee organization’s responsibility to notify NIH?
      If an awardee organization seeks to remove or change the status of senior/key personnel named on the notice of award from an NIH-funded project, the organization must notify NIH and the replacement personnel must be approved by NIH.
    7. Can NIH take money away from an awardee organization when there is a finding of sexual harassment on senior personnel listed in the notice of award?
      NIH grants are awarded to organizations, not to individual investigators. Typically, in an instance where the principal investigator or co-principal investigator named on the notice of award is placed on administrative leave because of the need to investigate an allegation of sexual harassment, the awardee organization would request a change of senior/key personnel supporting the NIH grant. If NIH learns that an awardee organization is not complying with the terms and conditions of award, NIH may take enforcement action within our oversight authorities, which may include suspending or even terminating the grant. NIH generally seeks to work with the awardee organization as appropriate, to help bring them back into compliance with the terms and conditions of the award. Depending on the circumstances, NIH can also consider enforcement action such as suspension of funding, or we can coordinate with other offices including law enforcement or the HHS Office of Inspector General, to consider a referral for debarment or suspension.
    8. What do I do if I feel I have been discriminated against because of my race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, or religion?

      You may contact the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer, and may file a complaint with OCR Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer, if you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, or religion in programs or activities that HHS directly operates or to which HHS provides federal financial assistance.

      OCR promotes and ensures equal access to, and the opportunity to participate in, programs funded by HHS, which includes NIH. OCR carries out this mission by enforcing Federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age and sex in programs and activities that receive financial assistance from HHS. OCR ensures compliance by investigating complaints, conducting compliance reviews, providing technical assistance, and conducting outreach nationwide. For more information, see How OCR Enforces Civil Rights Discrimination Laws and Regulations Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer.

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This page last updated on February 28, 2019 
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