UNACCEPTABLE CONDUCT POLICY

 

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh strives to be an inclusive community, celebrating diversity and individual freedom of belief as stated in our Association’s purposes and principles. We encourage the free expression of ideas and opinions consistent with our Covenant of Right Relations. We also recognize that situations may arise that threaten the well-being of a person or the Fellowship, or the safe expression of beliefs or opinions. These situations must be addressed. Respecting the worth and dignity of each individual includes compassionately holding individuals responsible and accountable for their behavior.

In the spirit of love and reason we have developed the following policy to help frame behavioral limits for members and participants at UUFR events and activities. Any actions to address unacceptable conduct are undertaken with compassion and the hope of reconciliation. In every case, we will be mindful of our UU

Principles and Purposes, treating all persons involved with respect and caring. This policy does not supersede the UUFR Employee Handbook or the Ministers’ Letter of Agreement.

Unacceptable Conduct is:
• Behavior that makes it difficult to proceed with the service, meeting or other Fellowship event;
• Or behavior that otherwise threatens the physical or emotional well-being of our children, members, friends, visitors and staff;
• Or a pattern of repeated, egregious violations of the UUFR Covenant of Right Relations or other UUFR policies.

The content of one’s beliefs and the exercise of the right of responsible dissent shall not be considered dangerous, disruptive or disrespectful.

Overall approach:

If serious disruption requires an immediate response:
• The minister and/or the leader of the group should take action to ensure the safety and well-being of those present. If no one in authority is available, anyone may act. This may include asking the offending person or persons to leave, or suspending the meeting or activity until it can safely be resumed. If further assistance is required, the Police Department may be called.
• Any time such actions are required, the person taking action must notify the senior Minister, the President of the Board of Directors or the Healthy Congregation Committee (HCC) Chair as soon as is practicable including the names, date, and description of the behavior and actions taken. The one notified will notify the others.

If an immediate response is not required:
• In keeping with our goal of helping congregants to develop their skills in dealing with difficult situations, every attempt should be made to resolve disruptive situations by addressing them directly, with compassion and concern. We encourage anyone who has a concern regarding the behavior of a congregant, staff member, minister or a committee to speak directly to the person who is the focus of the concern.
• If the person with the concern is not comfortable doing that, s/he may contact the Minister or a member of the HCC.
• Either can listen informally and suggest ways of resolving the concern. This may be sufficient to meet the needs of the situation.
• If not, the Minister or member of the HCC may offer to go with the person with the concern to meet with the person/people (the focus of the concern).
• If none of the preceding measures is acceptable, or is undertaken but not effective, any member, friend or visitor may take a concern or complaint in person, by phone or in writing (doing so via email is strongly discouraged) to any of our ministers, any member of our HCC or the president of the congregation.

Formal intake process:
• The formal complaint must be a signed, written description of the unacceptable conduct and its impact, from the person or people who witnessed it. Complaints are given to the Minister or the Healthy Congregations Committee. The Minister or a member of the Healthy Congregations Committee may assist with wording a complaint. Anonymous complaints will not be accepted under any circumstances.
• When the Minister or the Healthy Congregations Committee member receives the concern or complaint, s/he shall immediately notify the others responsible for dealing with such things: senior minister, the Board President, and the HCC in writing. The information should include the date, who brought the concern, the person/people who are the focus of the concern, what happened, and recommendations for next steps.

Assessing the threat:
• The Minister and/or the HCC will respond to situations as they arise, using their own judgment, without defining acceptable behavior in advance.
• People and situations will be dealt with individually. Stereotypes or stereotyping will be avoided.
• The person’s background and life experiences will be given strong consideration.
• The Minister or the HCC will meet with the person with the complaint and complete a written record of the situation, including name, date, description of the behavior, impact, and will collect any additional information required to obtain a complete picture of the situation and research any applicable laws.
• When the Minister or HCC considers such information essential to performing its task, the Board shall authorize funds to pay costs for a professional background check, to provide such facts as the correct identity of the person in question and records of past criminal activity involving threats, harassment, or actual harm to other persons or property.
The following questions must be considered by the Minister or the HCC:
• Dangerous: Is the individual the source of a threat or perceived threat to persons or property, including him or herself?
• Disruptive: How much interference with Fellowship functions is occurring?
• Offensive: How likely is it that congregants are or will be driven away by this behavior if it continues?

The following questions should also be considered by the Minister or the HCC:
• Causes: Why is this disruption occurring? Is it a conflict between the individual and others in the fellowship? Is it due to a professionally diagnosed condition? Does the person with the concern have frequent concerns of this nature? Do others have frequent concerns with the behavior of the person who is the focus of the concern? Is the behavior indicative of a systemic issue at
UUFR?
• History: What is the frequency and degree of disruption caused in the past?
• Probability of Change: How likely is it that the problem behavior will diminish in the future?

Address the complaint:
• We believe that behavior that is dangerous, disruptive or disrespectful fails to respect the worth, dignity and safety of the members of our Fellowship and results in a community that does not feel welcoming or healthy. We define these terms as follows:

• DANGEROUS – an individual threatens, through words or actions, the safety of a person, persons, church property or property of a member or friend.
• DISRUPTIVE –actions or speech of an individual which significantly interfere with a worship service, meeting, Fellowship event or similar Fellowship gathering.
• DISRESPECTFUL –behavior and speech that fails in a significant way to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of each individual, for example is harmful or abusive to others or to the Fellowship, including but not limited to racist, sexist or homophobic comments or actions, or the malicious spreading of untruths, comments or actions that are likely to damage the reputation of individual groups or the congregations as a whole.
• We shall endeavor to treat any individual who is found to have engaged in dangerous, disruptive or disrespectful behavior with love and respect as we determine how to address that person’s behavior, and what assistance we can offer to the person.

The Minister or the HCC will respond on a case-by-case basis. Professional mediation by a neutral party is
also an option as funds allow especially if the minister(s) or the HCC are involved in any way. If so, they
should recuse themselves. The following levels of response are options that may be taken:

• No Action: It may be determined that the complaint is not warranted, and the minister or HCC will discuss this with the person who filed the complaint.
• Warning: The minister or a member of the HCC shall meet with the offending individual(s) to communicate the concern and expectations for future behavior. The minister and/or the HCC will offer to do what they can to work with the person to help him or her modify the behavior. This may include coaching, mentoring or recommending community services. The person(s) should sign an agreement saying they understand the reasons the complaint was brought and they agree to change their behavior.
• Suspension: If they are unwilling to sign the agreement as described above or if that was done but the behavior did not change, the intervening party reports to the Board what they did and that there was no agreement. An Ad Hoc Committee will be appointed by the Board, to include the Board President (or designee), the Minister (or designee) and one additional person. The Ad Hoc Committee shall meet within two weeks, with the person/people and make a recommendation to the Board regarding suspension.
• The offending individual may be suspended from the fellowship and/or specific activities for a specific period of time, with the reasons and the conditions of return made clear in writing. The Board sends a letter to the person detailing their decision. The Minister and the Healthy Congregations Committee Chair are notified of the action.
• After completing a suspension the person must contact the minister or the HCC and request a meeting prior to returning to the congregation. If the person still does not agree to change the behavior or does not believe that s/he can change the behavior, the minister or the HCC reports this to the Board and the Board may consider an extension of suspension.

Communicating with the Person with the Concern and with the rest of the congregation:
• The person with the concern should be notified of the disposition of the complaint.
• The Board may share whatever information with the congregation it feels is necessary and appropriate and in any case may share information with others in the congregation on a “need to know” basis.
• Throughout the process, confidentiality is desirable to protect the person or people with the concern as well as the focus of the concern. There are however people who will need to be notified of actions taken, and the Board should use its discretion in this matter. For example, if the conduct in question occurred at a committee meeting, the chair of that committee may need to be notified of the disposition of the concern.

Appeals:
Within one month of any written notice of suspension, a written request for an appeal may be sent to the president of the Board of Directors. The Board shall review the documentation of the event and its disposition and meet with the party filing the appeal. The Board’s decision will be final.

Reconciliation:
• At the end of the suspension period, the person suspended may send a written request for reconciliation with the Fellowship to the President of the Board.
• If a person notifies the president that s/he wants to return to the Fellowship following a suspension, the Minister and/or the Healthy Congregations Committee will meet with the person to confirm that the person is willing and able to change the unacceptable conduct and report their findings to the Board.
• The Board will review the documentation of the event and its disposition and meet with the party filing the request. The decision of the Board will be final. If the Board approves the request to return to the Fellowship, the Minister and/or HCC may arrange for reconciliation and healing as needed with those involved.

 

(5/10/20)