Original Issuance Date:  September 5, 2023

Last Revision Date:  September 5, 2023 

1. Policy Purpose 

The purpose of this policy is to provide a process for the identification and mitigation of workplace bullying for employees of the University of Wisconsin System. 

2. Responsible UW System Officer 

Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer 

3. Scope and Institutional Responsibilities 

This policy applies to all employees of the University of Wisconsin System, except employees of UW-Madison. 

Institutions may elect to develop their own policies, procedures and/or guidance to support compliance with this System policy, using this System policy as the minimum level of restriction. 

This policy does not supersede any System or Institution policies governing discrimination or harassment on the basis of a protected characteristic.  Where any given conduct may violate both an anti-discrimination policy and this policy, the anti-discrimination policy shall take precedence.  An investigation initiated under an anti-discrimination policy does not preclude a simultaneous analysis for possible violation of this policy.    

4. Background 

University of Wisconsin System Administrative Policy 1292, Workplace Conduct Expectations includes the general expectation that UW System employees shall “Be Fair and Respectful to Others.”  In 2022, the National Institutes of Health implemented new reporting requirements for grant recipients that required NIH notification when a Program Director/Principal Investigator or other Senior/Key personnel on an NIH grant or cooperative agreement is disciplined due to concerns about harassment, bullying, retaliation, or hostile working conditions.  The NIH requirements were part of a larger initiative to address the issue of harassment, bullying, retaliation, or hostile working conditions in academic environments.  This policy specifically addresses what behavior may be considered bullying within the UW System.      

5. Definitions 

Bullying: Repeated, severe, or pervasive comments or conduct that disparage or demonstrate hostility or aversion towards any person that could reasonably be perceived as disruptive, disrespectful, offensive, or inappropriate in the workplace. 

6. Policy Statement 

  1. University of Wisconsin System employees are not authorized or permitted to engage in workplace bullying within the scope of their employment with the University of Wisconsin System.   
    1. This policy is not intended to impede academic freedom or violate rights to free expression. This policy will not in any way constrain commonly accepted workplace management practices, e.g., performance reviews, discipline that complies with university policy, reassignment of duties, etc. 
    2. This policy does not prohibit commonly accepted expressions of disagreement, disapproval, or critique in an academic culture and professional setting that respects free expression.  
  2. Conduct that meets the definition of bullying under this policy will be evaluated based on the frequency of the conduct and the severity of the conduct.  The more frequent and/or severe the conduct, the more likely the conduct will warrant discipline.  
  3. Examples of conduct that may meet the definition of bullying under this policy may include, but are not limited to: 
    1. Unwarranted physical contact or intimidating gestures; 
    2.  Conspicuous exclusion or isolation having the effect of harming another person’s reputation in the workplace and hindering another person’s work; 
    3. Sabotage of another person’s work or impeding another person’s capacity for academic expression, be it oral, written, or other; 
    4. Abuse of authority, such as using threats or retaliation in the exercise of authority, supervision, or guidance, or impeding another person from exercising shared governance rights, etc. 
    5. Rude comments, ridicule, disrespectful jokes, or insults; 
    6. Inappropriate yelling or emotional outbursts, using expletives, throwing objects, or banging/slamming doors; 
    7. Inappropriate or rude gestures, expressions, pictures, or graffiti; 
    8. Threats against others or engaging in other threatening behavior; 
    9. Psychological bullying or intimidation, such as making statements that are false, malicious, disparaging, or derogatory with the intent to hurt another’s reputation; 
    10. Engaging in behaviors that may have a dampening effect on reporting workplace concerns, such as those that can be perceived as intimidating or retaliatory against individuals who report concerns or participate in an administrative inquiry or other protected activity.
  4. Employees who believe they have been subjected to workplace bullying may choose to discuss the matter with the employee or employees who are directly involved or bring the matter to the attention of their supervisor or their institution Human Resources Department. In the event a local human resources department is alleged to be engaging in bullying conduct, employees may bring the matter to the attention of the University of Wisconsin System Office of Human Resources or the local Chancellor or Chancellor’s designee.  If the local Chancellor is alleged to be engaging in the bullying conduct, a complaint may be made to the UW System Integrity Hotline.  
  5. For purposes of compliance with NIH Notice number NOT-OD-22-129, the institution department of human resources (unless recused pursuant to section D, above) shall be responsible for determining if an individual: 1) is a Program Director/Principal Investigator or other Senior/Key personnel on an NIH grant, and 2) has been removed or otherwise disciplined due to concerns about harassment, bullying, retaliation, or hostile working conditions.  The institution human resources department will then notify the Authorized Organization Representative for the NIH grant to ensure that the required reporting is completed within 30 days of the removal or other disciplinary action.  If the subject of the complaint is the Authorized Organization Representative, then the institution human resources department shall temporarily assume this role for purposes of compliance with the reporting requirement, as outlined in the NIH notice. 

7. Related Documents 

UW System Administrative Policy 1292, Workplace Conduct Expectations 

National Institutes of Health Policy #1311- Preventing and Addressing Harassment and Inappropriate Conduct 

National Institutes of Health Notice # NOT-OD-22-129- Updated Requirements for NIH Notification of Removal or Disciplinary Action Involving Program Directors/Principal Investigators or other Senior/Key Personnel 

Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression

8. Policy History 

First approved:  September 5, 2023 

9. Scheduled Review  

September 2028