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SECTION: Personnel Policies and Procedures
SUBCATEGORY: Employment Practices
DEPARTMENT: HR (Administration)


Reason for Policy

Workplace Respect is a core value at Fred Hutch. We believe it is essential to provide all employees with a respectful and safe working environment. As a result, we do not tolerate harassment or other discrimination against employees in the workplace or work-related situations. We also prohibit retaliation against any employee bringing forward a good-faith concern of harassment or other discrimination, or participating in an investigation of a concern. Consistent with our Open Door Policy, Human Resources and all levels of management, up through the Executive Team, have an “open door,” encouraging employees to feel safe in raising concerns.

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Policy Statement


Fred Hutch does not tolerate unlawful harassment or other discrimination on the basis of the following protected categories:

  • race, color, ethnic or national origin;
  • age;
  • religion or religious creed (or belief, where applicable);
  • sex, including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions;
  • sexual orientation;
  • gender, gender identity, gender expression, transgender status, or sexual stereotypes;
  • nationality, immigration status, citizenship, or ancestry;
  • marital status;
  • protected military or veteran status;
  • physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information or characteristics (or those of a family member);
  • political views or activity;
  • status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking; or
  • any other basis prohibited under federal, state, or local law.

Harassment under this Policy may include conduct that creates a disrespectful, intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for an employee. Engaging in such conduct is a violation of this Policy.

If Fred Hutch determines that an employee’s conduct has violated this Policy, we will take steps to ensure the conduct is effectively addressed, and any employee found to have engaged in harassing or other discriminatory conduct may be subject to corrective action or discipline, up to and including termination. In certain situations, Fred Hutch also may be required to report a determination of harassment or other discriminatory conduct to a granting institution.

Because the intent of this Policy is to deter conduct that is unwanted, unreasonable, and demeaning, Fred Hutch may consider an employee’s conduct to be in violation of this Policy even if it falls short of unlawful harassment or discrimination under applicable law. When determining whether conduct violates this Policy, we consider whether a reasonable person could conclude that the conduct created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, or demeaning environment.

This Policy applies to everyone who works for Fred Hutch or on the Fred Hutch campus, whether employee or non-employee.

Examples of Harassment

Harassment can range from extreme forms such as violence, threats, or physical touching to less obvious actions like ridiculing, teasing, or repeatedly bothering colleagues or subordinates or refusing to talk to them.

 For example, harassment may include the following types of conduct:

  • derogatory or insensitive jokes, pranks, or comments;
  • slurs or epithets;
  • unwelcome sexual advances or invitations;
  • non-verbal behavior such as staring, leering, or gestures;
  • ridiculing or demeaning comments;
  • innuendos or veiled threats;
  • aggressive behaviors amounting to bullying;
  • intentionally excluding someone from normal workplace conversations and making them feel unwelcome;
  • displaying or sharing offensive images such as posters, videos, photos, cartoons, screensavers, emails, or drawings that are derogatory or sexual;
  • offensive comments about appearance, or other personal or physical characteristics, such as sexually charged comments or comments on someone’s physical disability;
  • unnecessary or unwanted bodily contact such as groping or massaging, blocking normal movement, or physically interfering with the work of another individual; or
  • threats or demands that a person submit to sexual requests as a condition of continued employment or to avoid some other loss, and offers of employment-related benefits in return for sexual favors.

This list of examples is not exhaustive, and there may be other behaviors that constitute unacceptable harassment under the Policy.

“I was joking” or “I didn’t mean it that way” are not defenses to allegations of harassment.  Nor is being under the influence of alcohol or other substances. This Policy applies to conduct at work and at work-related social events, office parties, off-site meetings or other gatherings, and seminars or other work-related travelling events. Employees are expected to be particularly careful about what they say and do in off-campus circumstances.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment, which is harassment specifically based on sex, can take two forms:

  • Hostile Work Environment: Conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an employee’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment; and
  • Quid Pro Quo Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an employee’s employment, or when submission to or rejection of such conduct by an employee is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting that employee. Consequently, our Nepotism Policy prohibits employees from being involved in romantic relationships with any employee they supervise or manage.

Sexual harassment can happen regardless of the individual’s gender, gender identity, or gender expression and can, for example, occur between same-sex individuals as well as between opposite-sex individuals. Sexual harassment does not require that the harassing conduct be motivated by sexual desire.

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Reporting Procedures

Any employee who believes he or she has been harassed, or has witnessed or heard about a potential violation of this Policy, should report the conduct so that Fred Hutch can take steps to remedy any violations of the Policy. Fred Hutch managers are required to promptly (ideally, within 24 hours) report to Human Resources any violation or suspected violation of this Policy.

If you suspect harassment, discrimination, or retaliation has occurred, you are encouraged to promptly provide a written or oral complaint to any of the following:

  • Human Resources;
  • Any Manager; or
  • An attorney in the Office of the General Counsel

If you would prefer, you may alternatively report your concern through our Navex Global third-party hotline, available by calling 877.412.8841 or logging on to EthicsPoint. Concerns submitted through Navex Global are confidential. When Navex Global receives a concern of harassment or other discrimination, it will notify the Office of the General Counsel of a new claim. In turn, and only upon permission to Navex from the complainant, OGC will assure someone from HR follows up with the complainant, per the investigation process below.

When possible, a complaint should include details of the incident or incidents, names of individuals involved, and names of any witnesses.

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Washington State Human Rights Commission, and the Seattle Office of Civil Rights are government agencies that investigate complaints of prohibited harassment, discrimination and retaliation in employment. If you think you have been harassed or discriminated against, or that you have been retaliated against for resisting, complaining or participating in an investigation, you should first contact HR or one of the other internal or external sources above. You may also, but are not required to, file a complaint with the appropriate agency via their websites,, and

Managers who receive a complaint of, or learn of, information that suggests this Policy may have been violated are required to promptly (ideally within 24 hours) forward that complaint to Human Resources, and may be subject to discipline for failing to timely report. As soon as reasonably possible, Fred Hutch will investigate any allegations and take appropriate remedial action. 

We will keep all complaints confidential to the extent possible while still fulfilling our obligation to investigate and end any harassing conduct.

Investigation Process

Fred Hutch HR promptly investigates and responds to all complaints regarding potential violations of this Policy. Upon learning of conduct requiring further review, qualified investigators will complete thorough investigations in a timely and impartial manner. You can learn more about our investigations process below.

All persons to whom a concern is raised or who learn of a concern as part of a Fred Hutch investigation must do everything reasonably possible to keep the complaint confidential in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation while it is ongoing, to ensure fairness to all involved, and to protect the privacy of employees who have raised concerns or are accused of the concerning conduct. It may be, therefore, that the person who raised the concern may not learn all details of the investigation or the outcome.

Employees must cooperate and provide truthful information in an investigation.

Nothing in this Policy is to be construed as a guarantee of absolute confidentiality or intended to curtail employee rights under the law to discuss work-related matters. Disclosure of information learned through the complaint process and the investigation will be limited to disclosures that are necessary for Fred Hutch to fulfill its legal obligations to investigate and take prompt action to end harassment or other discrimination.

Policy Prohibiting Retaliation

We recognize that employees may find it difficult to raise concerns about harassment or other discrimination, so we have a policy meant to encourage employees to come forward with their concerns without fear of retaliation. It is against Fred Hutch policy (and may be unlawful) for any employee to retaliate against another for their participation in the complaint process.

Retaliation is when someone penalizes another person for any of the following:

  • Reporting what they believe in good faith to be harassment and/or a violation of this Policy;
  • Opposing another’s conduct that violates Fred Hutch policy (such as sexual harassment);
  • Expressing an intent to report what they believe in good faith to be harassment and/or a violation of this Policy;
  • Assisting another employee in an effort to report harassment and/or a violation of this Policy; or
  • Participating in any investigation under this Policy.

Retaliating against a coworker who raised a concern of harassment or discrimination, or otherwise participates in the investigation process, may result in corrective action or discipline, up to and including termination of employment.

If you have questions about this Policy, please contact Human Resources.

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FAQ: Fred Hutch’s Approach to the Workplace Investigations Process

Why do we conduct workplace investigations?

When we learn about a potential violation of our policy or law, it’s our job and obligation to investigate, and when a violation of our policy or law is found, to stop the concerning conduct. Our goal is to create a safe and respectful environment where everyone can do their best work.

What do we investigate?

A few examples of the types of matters we investigate include concerns of harassment and discrimination, disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, improper conflicts of interest, and abuse of Fred Hutch resources. 

Some of these topics are sensitive, and we want people to feel as comfortable as possible coming to us with concerns. To that end, we try to keep matters as confidential as possible.

How do I report a potential violation of law or policy?

If you see or hear of something that might be a violation of our policy or law, we encourage you to speak up. If you are a manager, you are required to report any potential violations to HR. We provide a variety of channels for people to report concerns:

  1. Human Resources
  2. Any Manager
  3. Office of the General Counsel
  4. Navex Global third-party helpline, available by calling 877.412.8841 hotline or logging on to EthicsPoint

Should I be concerned about retaliation?

No. The law protects employees from retaliation for reporting or participating in an investigation, as does our Policy. We have a zero-tolerance approach to unlawful retaliation. Our Harassment Policy encourages employees to come forward with their concerns and participate in the investigations process, all without fear of retaliation.

Who conducts the investigation?

Once a concern has been raised, Human Resources conducts a prompt and thorough investigation to determine facts.  Each investigation is tailored to the specific issues being investigated and is also documented and tracked to ensure reasonable progress and timely closure of the investigation.  Findings are then shared with a very small group of people, generally members of HR and Legal, on a need-to-know basis.

How are employees involved in investigations?

If you’re asked to participate in an investigation, here’s what you can expect:

  1. Prior to the meeting: A member of Human Resources (or, in some cases, an external investigatory) investigating the concern may reach out to you by email or phone to schedule a meeting. You do not need to prepare for the meeting unless specifically requested to do so. Given the sensitive nature of an investigation, you will be asked to keep this information as confidential as possible. If you experience stress as a result of being invited to this meeting, let the HR representative or other investigatory know and they will help assuage any fear.
  2. During the meeting:  You’ll be asked a variety of questions about a particular topic. It’s important that you be open and honest in your responses. Fred Hutch is committed to being respectful, impartial, and professional during the investigation meetings.
  3. Following the meeting: To protect confidentiality and to ensure fairness to everyone involved, we may not be able to answer specific questions about an investigation, but the investigator or Human Resources will reach out to you to inform you that the matter has been addressed and closed. Contact the lead investigator (whether internal or external), your HR Business Partner, or anyone else in HR if you have follow up questions or need help.

Do I have to participate in an investigation if asked?

Yes. Our employees have an obligation to participate in an investigation if asked.

Do I have to report a suspected violation of policy or law?

We ask everyone to report a potential violation of policy or law, but if you are a manager, you are required to report anything that comes to your attention. If you have questions about whether something constitutes a violation, feel free to reach out to your HR Business Partner or anyone else in HR.

Will my manager find out if I'm meeting with the investigations team? 

Not necessarily. Information regarding the investigation is shared on a need-to-know basis. There are many instances where a manager doesn’t need to know that you are participating in an investigation.

Will this meeting be recorded?

No, but notes may be taken.

Who can I talk to about this investigation?

Contact the lead investigator who reached out to you initially or your HR Business Partner. To protect the confidentiality of the investigation, you should not speak to anyone else, including your manager, about this investigation. We may not always be able to answer specific questions about an investigation, but are happy to talk to you about the process.

What are the outcomes of an investigation?

Outcomes range from no action to education, coaching or counseling, warnings, and other disciplinary actions up to and including termination. Outcomes are usually determined by business leaders with input from HR and Legal.

Why do you ask that I keep the investigation confidential?

Confidentiality is important to preserve the integrity of the investigation while it is ongoing, to ensure fairness to all involved, and to protect the privacy of employees who have raised concerns or are accused of misconduct.  Additionally, keeping things confidential helps minimize retaliation against participants and minimizes disruption in the workplace.  Our request for confidentiality is not meant or intended to curtail your rights under the law to discuss work-related matters.

Any other questions?

Contact your HR Business Partner or anyone else in HR.

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The Personnel Policies and Procedures, read together or individually, do not constitute a contract of employment.

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Human Resources, 206.667.4700

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Responsible Official (VP or Sr. VP):

Manager responsible for policy:

Approval Date (this version):

Next Review Due:

Revision/Review Dates:
7/1985, 6/1992, 2/1995, 12/1998, 12/1999, 01/2003, 9/2007, 9/2010, 9/2015

Original Approval Date:

This version reviewed and approved by specialty committee or specialty individual:

Associate General Counsel, Employment

Date Reviewed