Harassment & Unlawful Discrimination

Unlawful Harassment

All forms of harassment are contrary to basic standards of conduct between individuals and are prohibited by state and federal law—as well as by MiraCosta Community College District Board Policy 3430—and will not be tolerated.

The district is committed to providing an academic and work environment that respects the dignity of individuals and groups. The district shall be free of sexual harassment and all forms of sexual intimidation and exploitation including acts of sexual violence. It shall also be free of other unlawful harassment, including that which is based on any of the following statuses: race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation of any person, or military and veteran status, or because he or she is perceived to have one or more of the foregoing characteristics.


General harassment—Harassment based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, or sexual orientation of any person, military and veteran status, or the perception that a person has one or more of these characteristics is illegal and violates district policy. Harassment shall be found where, in aggregate, the incidents are sufficiently pervasive, persistent, or severe that a reasonable person with the same characteristics as the victim of the harassing conduct would be adversely affected to a degree that interferes with his or her ability to participate in or to realize the intended benefits of an institutional activity, employment, or resource.

Gender-based harassment does not necessarily involve conduct that is sexual. Any hostile or offensive conduct based on gender can constitute prohibited harassment. For example, repeated derisive comments about a person’s competency to do the job, when based on that person’s gender, could constitute gender-based harassment if it meets the definition above. Harassment comes in many forms, including but not limited to the following conduct that could, depending on the circumstances, meet the definition above, or could contribute to a set of circumstances that meets the definition:

  • Verbal harassment—Inappropriate or offensive remarks, slurs, jokes or innuendoes based on a person's race, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected status. This may include, but is not limited to, inappropriate comments regarding an individual's body, physical appearance, attire, sexual prowess, marital status or sexual orientation; unwelcome flirting or propositions; demands for sexual favors; verbal abuse, threats or intimidation; or sexist, patronizing or ridiculing statements that convey derogatory attitudes based on gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, or other protected status.
  • Physical harassment—Inappropriate or offensive touching, assault, or physical interference with free movement. This may include, but is not limited to, kissing, patting, lingering or intimate touches, grabbing, pinching, leering, staring, unnecessarily brushing against or blocking another person, whistling, or sexual gestures. It also includes any physical assault or intimidation directed at an individual due to that person's gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation or other protected status. Physical sexual harassment includes acts of sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion. Sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability.
  • Visual or written harassment—The display or circulation of visual or written material that degrades an individual or group based on gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, or other protected status. This may include, but is not limited to, posters, cartoons, drawings, graffiti, reading materials, computer graphics, or electronic media transmissions.
  • Environmental harassment—A hostile academic or work environment may exist where it is permeated by sexual innuendo; insults or abusive comments directed at an individual or group based on gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, or other protected status; or gratuitous comments regarding gender, race, sexual orientation, or other protected status that are not relevant to the subject matter of the class or activities on the job. A hostile environment can arise from an unwarranted focus on sexual topics or sexually suggestive statements in the classroom or work environment. It can also be created by an unwarranted focus on, or stereotyping of, particular racial or ethnic groups, sexual orientations, genders or other protected statuses. An environment may also be hostile toward anyone who merely witnesses unlawful harassment in his or her immediate surroundings, although the conduct is directed at others. The determination of whether an environment is hostile is based on the totality of the circumstances, including such factors as the frequency of the conduct, the severity of the conduct, whether the conduct is humiliating or physically threatening, and whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual's learning or work.

Sexual harassment—In addition to the above, sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature made by someone from, or in, the work or educational setting when:

  • Submission to the conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of an individual's employment, academic status, progress, internship, or volunteer activity.
  • Submission to, or rejection of, the conduct by the individual is used as a basis of employment or academic decisions affecting the individual.
  • The conduct has the purpose or effect of having a negative impact upon the individual's work or academic performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or educational environment (as more fully described below).
  • Submission to, or rejection of, the conduct by the individual is used as the basis for any decision affecting the individual regarding benefits and services, honors, programs, or activities available at or through the community college.

This definition encompasses two kinds of sexual harassment:

  • "Quid pro quo" sexual harassment occurs when a person in a position of authority makes educational or employment benefits conditional upon an individual's willingness to engage in or tolerate unwanted sexual conduct.
  • "Hostile environment" sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct based on a person's gender is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to alter the conditions of an individual's learning or work environment, unreasonably interfere with an individual's academic or work performance, or create an intimidating, hostile, or abusive learning or work environment. The victim must subjectively perceive the environment as hostile, and the harassment must be such that a reasonable person of the same gender would perceive the environment as hostile. A single or isolated incident of sexual harassment may be sufficient to create a hostile environment if it is severe, i.e., a sexual assault.

Sexually harassing conduct can occur between people of the same or different genders. The standard for determining whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment is whether a reasonable person of the same gender as the victim would perceive the conduct as harassment based on sex.

Consensual Relationships

Romantic or sexual relationships prohibited:

  • Between a supervisor and his/her subordinate employee.
  • Between any classroom faculty member and an MiraCosta College student who is currently enrolled in a class taught by the faculty member, or who is working as a student employee under the supervision of the faculty member.
  • Between any non-classroom faculty member and students whom they are currently advising.

Romantic or sexual relationships discouraged:

  • Between a supervisor and an employee.
  • Between any employee (whether administrator, faculty member, or classified staff member) and a student. 

There is an inherent imbalance of power and potential for exploitation in such relationships. A conflict of interest may arise if the administrator, faculty member, or staff member must evaluate the student's or employee's work or make decisions affecting the employee or student. The relationship may create an appearance of impropriety and lead to charges of favoritism by other students or employees. A consensual sexual relationship may change, with the result that sexual conduct that was once welcome becomes unwelcome and harassing. In the event that such relationships do occur, the district has the authority to transfer any involved employee to eliminate or attenuate the supervisory authority of one over the other, or of a teacher over a student. Such action by the district is a proactive and preventive measure to avoid possible charges of harassment and does not constitute discipline against any affected employee.

Protection from Retaliation

The district seeks to foster an environment in which all employees and students feel free to report incidents of harassment without fear of retaliation or reprisal. Therefore, the district also strictly prohibits retaliation against any individual for filing a complaint of harassment or for participating in a harassment investigation. Such conduct is illegal and constitutes a violation of Board Policy 3430: Prohibition of Harassment. All allegations of retaliation will be swiftly and thoroughly investigated. If the district determines that retaliation has occurred, it will take all reasonable steps within its power to stop such conduct. Individuals who engage in retaliatory conduct are subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination or expulsion.

Any student or employee who believes that he or she has been harassed or retaliated against in violation of this policy should immediately report such incidents by following the procedures described under "Filing an Unlawful Discrimination Complaint" below. Supervisors are mandated to report all incidents of harassment and retaliation that come to their attention.

This policy applies to all aspects of the academic environment, including but not limited to classroom conditions, grades, academic standing, employment opportunities, scholarships, recommendations, disciplinary actions, and participation in any community college activity.

Employees who violate the policy and procedures may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Students who violate this policy and related procedures may be subject to disciplinary measures up to and including expulsion.

Filing an Unlawful Discrimination Complaint

Introduction and Scope

These are the written procedures for filing and processing complaints of unlawful discrimination at MiraCosta Community College District. The procedures incorporate the legal principles contained in nondiscrimination provisions of the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, §§59300 et seq. as well as other state and federal substantive and procedural requirements.

A copy of these written policies on unlawful discrimination will be displayed in a prominent location in the Human Resources Department or other area(s) where notices regarding the institution's rules, regulations, procedures, and standards of conduct are posted.

Informal/Formal Complaint Process

Any person who has suffered harassment, discrimination, or retaliation may file a formal or informal complaint of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.

A formal complaint is a written and signed statement filed with the district or the State Chancellor’s Office that alleges harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in violation of the district’s board policies, administrative procedures, or in violation of state or federal law.

An informal complaint is any of the following: (1) an unwritten allegation of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation; (2) a written allegation of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation that falls outside the timelines for a formal complaint; or (3) a written complaint alleging harassment, discrimination, or retaliation filed by an individual who expressly indicates that he/she does not want to file a formal complaint.

When a person brings charges of unlawful discrimination to the attention of the district's responsible officer, that officer will do the following:

  • Undertake efforts to informally resolve the charges.
  • Advise the complainant that he or she need not participate in informal resolution.
  • Notify the person bringing the charges of his or her right to file a formal complaint and explain the procedure for doing so.
  • Assure the complainant that he or she will not be required to confront or work out problems with the person accused of unlawful discrimination.
  • Advise the complainant that he or she may file a nonemployment-based complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (OCR) where such a complaint is within that agency's jurisdiction.
  • If the complaint is employment‐related, the complainant should also be advised that he or she may file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) where such a complaint is within that agency's jurisdiction.

Before filing a formal, written complaint, the complainant should attempt to resolve the problem by an informal conference with the parties involved. This informal attempt must be completed within 30 days. Students should contact the vice president of Student Services in order to utilize the student due process procedure. Employees and job applicants should contact the director of Human Resources. The vice president of Student Services and the Human Resources director will either serve as mediators in this informal process or appoint someone to serve as the district's mediator.

Efforts at informal resolution need not include any investigation unless the responsible district officer determines that an investigation is warranted by the seriousness of the charges. Selecting an informal resolution does not extend the time limitations for filing a formal complaint. Efforts at informal resolution may continue after the filing of a formal written complaint, but after a complaint is filed an investigation is required to be conducted pursuant to Title 5, §59334, and will be completed unless the matter is informally resolved and the complainant dismisses the complaint. Even if the complainant does dismiss the complaint, the responsible district officer may require the investigation to continue if he or she determines that the allegations are serious enough to warrant an investigation. Any efforts at informal resolution after the filing of a written complaint will not exceed the 90-day period for rendering the administrative determination pursuant to Title 5, §59336.

In employment-related cases, if the complainant files with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a copy of that filing will be sent to the Chancellor's Office requesting a determination of whether a further investigation under Title 5 is required. Unless the Chancellor's Office determines that a separate investigation is required, the district will discontinue its investigation under Title 5 and the matter will be resolved through the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The district will allow for representation where required by law and may allow for representation for the accused and complainant in other circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

The purpose of the informal resolution process is to allow an individual who believes she/he has been unlawfully discriminated against or sexually harassed to resolve the issue through a mediation process rather than the formal complaint process. Typically, the informal process will be invoked when there is a simple misunderstanding or the complainant does not wish to file a formal complaint. Resolution of an informal complaint may require nothing more than a clarification of the misunderstanding or an apology from the respondent and an assurance that the offending behavior will cease. However, the district is responsible for maintaining a safe and discrimination-free educational environment and serious allegations may need to be investigated even if the complaining party considers the matter resolved.

In an informal process the district officer shall advise the complainant of his or her rights and responsibilities under both the formal and informal processes. If the complainant declares his or her preference for the informal process, the responsible district officer shall present the complainant with a document that describes the informal/formal process that contains the basics of complainant's allegations of unlawful discrimination. This document will clearly indicate that the complainant opted for the informal resolution process and should be signed and dated by the complainant.

The informal resolution process will not be made a predicate to the process and investigation of a formal complaint. If a formal complaint is filed, an investigation must be completed within the time required unless it is voluntarily rescinded by a complainant as a result of a successful informal resolution.

Filing of Formal Written Complaint

If a complainant decides to file a formal written unlawful discrimination complaint against the district, he or she must file the complaint on a form prescribed by the chancellor. These approved forms are available from the district and the Chancellor's Office website at http://californiacommunitycolleges.cccco.edu/ComplaintsForm.aspx.

The completed form must be filed with the district representative or mailed directly to the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office.

Once a complaint is filed, the individual(s) accused of engaging in prohibited discriminatory conduct should be advised of that filing and the general nature of the complaint. This should occur as soon as possible and appropriate under the circumstances. The district will also advise the accused that an assessment of the accuracy of the allegations has not yet been made, that the complaint will be investigated, that the accused will be provided an opportunity to present his/her side of the matter, and that any conduct that could be viewed as retaliatory against the complainant or any witnesses must be avoided.

For more information about the harassment and unlawful discrimination complaint process, contact the Human Resources Office, 760.795.6672.


It is unlawful for anyone to retaliate against someone who files an unlawful discrimination complaint, who refers a matter for investigation or complaint, who participates in an investigation of a complaint, who represents or serves as an advocate for an alleged victim or alleged offender, or who otherwise furthers the principles of this unlawful discrimination policy.

Academic Freedom

The MiraCosta Community College District Board of Trustees reaffirms its commitment to academic freedom, but recognizes that academic freedom does not allow any form of unlawful discrimination. It is recognized that an essential function of education is a probing of opinions and an exploration of ideas that may cause some students discomfort. It is further recognized that academic freedom insures the faculty's right to teach and the student's right to learn. Finally, nothing in these policies and procedures shall be interpreted to prohibit bona fide academic requirements for a specific community college program, course, or activity.

When investigating unlawful discrimination complaints containing issues of academic freedom MiraCosta Community College District will consult with a faculty member appointed by the Academic Senate with respect to contemporary practices and standards for course content and delivery.

Responsible District Officer

The MiraCosta Community College District has identified the director of Human Resources to the Chancellor's Office and to the public as the single district officer responsible for receiving all unlawful discrimination complaints filed pursuant to Title 5, §59328, and for coordinating their investigation. The actual investigation of complaints may be assigned to other staff or to outside persons or organizations under contract with the district. Such delegation procedures will be used whenever the officer designated to receive complaints is named in the complaint or is implicated by the allegations in the complaint.

Administrators, faculty members, other district employees, and students shall direct all complaints of unlawful discrimination to the responsible district officer.

(Sources: MCCD Board Policy/Administrative Procedure 3430 and MCCD Administrative Procedure 3435. All MiraCosta College board policies and administrative procedures are located on the Board of Trustees webpage.)