Biophysical Society Code of Conduct Anti-Harassment Policy

Adopted by BPS Council November 2015

The Biophysical Society (BPS) is committed to providing an environment that encourages the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas. As a global, professional Society, the BPS is committed to the philosophy of equal opportunity and respectful treatment for all regardless of national or ethnic origin, religion or religious belief, gender, gender identity or expression, race, color, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities, veteran status, or any other reason not related to scientific merit. All BPS meetings and BPS-sponsored activities promote a working environment that is free of inappropriate behavior and harassment by or toward all attendees of Society meetings and Society-sponsored activities, including scientists, students, guests, exhibitors, staff, vendors, and other suppliers. 

This global policy applies to all locations and situations where BPS business is conducted and to all BPS-sponsored activities and events. This policy does not replace the specific staff policies for situations in which only staff are involved.

Reported or suspected occurrences of harassment will be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Following an investigation, BPS will immediately take any necessary and appropriate action. BPS will not permit or condone any acts of retaliation against anyone who files harassment complaints or cooperates in the investigation of same.

Definition of Harassment 

The term "harassment" includes but is not limited to epithets, unwelcome slurs, jokes, or verbal, graphic or physical conduct relating to an individual's race, color, religious creed, sex, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, age, gender or sexual orientation that denigrate or show hostility or aversion toward an individual or group.

Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Behavior and language that are welcome/ acceptable to one person may be unwelcome/offensive to another. Consequently, individuals must use discretion to ensure that their words and actions communicate respect for others. This is especially important for those in positions of authority since individuals with lower rank or status may be reluctant to express their objections or discomfort regarding unwelcome behavior. It does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature. It refers to behavior that is not welcome, is personally offensive, debilitates morale, and therefore, interferes with work effectiveness. The following are examples of behavior that, when unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment: sexual flirtations, advances, or propositions; verbal comments or physical actions of a sexual nature; sexually degrading words used to describe an individual; a display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures; sexually explicit jokes; unnecessary touching.

Investigative Process

Anyone who feels harassed is encouraged to immediately inform the alleged harasser that the behavior is unwelcome.  In many instances, the person is unaware that their conduct is offensive and when so advised can easily and willingly correct the conduct so that it does not reoccur.  Anyone who feels harassed IS NOT required to address the person believed guilty of inappropriate treatment.  If the informal discussion with the alleged harasser is unsuccessful in remedying the problem or if complainant does not feel comfortable with such an approach, he/she should contact BPS's Executive Director or the Society President, or any BPS Officer.  All complaints will be promptly and thoroughly investigated.

All reports of harassment or sexual harassment will be treated seriously.  However, absolute confidentiality cannot be promised nor can it be assured.  BPS will conduct an investigation of any complaint of harassment or sexual harassment, which may require limited disclosure of pertinent information to certain parties, including the alleged harasser. 

No retaliation will be taken against any employee, member, volunteer, exhibitor, or supplier because he or she reports a problem concerning possible acts of harassment. Employees, members, volunteers, exhibitors, or suppliers can raise concerns and make reports without fear of reprisal. 

Investigative Procedure

Once a complaint of harassment or sexual harassment is received, BPS will begin a prompt and thorough investigation. 

  • An impartial investigative committee, consisting of the Past-President, current President, and President-Elect will be established.
  • The committee will interview the complainant and review the written complaint. If no written complaint exists, one will be requested.
  • The committee will speak to the alleged offender and present the complaint.
  • The alleged offender will be given the opportunity to address the complaint, with sufficient time to respond to the evidence and bring his/her own evidence.
  • If the facts are in dispute, the investigative team may need to interview anyone named as witnesses.
  • The investigative committee may seek BPS Counsel’s advice.
  • Once the investigation is complete, the committee will report their findings and make recommendations to the Society Officers.

Disciplinary Actions

Individuals engaging in behavior prohibited by this policy as well as those making allegations of harassment in bad faith will be subject to disciplinary action. Such actions range from a verbal warning to ejection from the meeting or activity in question without refund of registration fees and the reporting of their behavior to their employer. Repeat offenders may be subject to further disciplinary action, such as being banned from participating in future Society meetings or Society-sponsored activities. In the event that the individual is dissatisfied with the results of the investigation, he or she may appeal to the President of the Society. Any questions regarding this policy should be directed to the BPS Executive Officer or other Society Officer.

BPS Management Responsibility

Every officer, director, supervisor, and manager is responsible for ensuring that BPS provides an environment free of harassment and inappropriate behavior and that complaints are handled promptly and effectively. The BPS Society Office and Officers must inform the Society membership and all vendors and suppliers about this policy, promptly investigate allegations of harassment, take appropriate disciplinary action, and take steps to assure retaliation is prohibited.