AAU Handbook

Rules on expectations for employee conduct regarding offensive behaviour, including bullying, har-assment and unwanted sexual attention

Rules on expectations for employee conduct regarding offensive behaviour, including bullying, har-assment and unwanted sexual attention

Published: 08.07.2021 (Last revised: 18.03.2022)

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At Aalborg University, a positive organisational, social and physical working environment is a prerequisite for the development and productivity of the university as well as for staff well-being and motivation, and for optimal use of the university’s resources. Moreover, team spirit and a respect for diversity should support the development of individual team members with the support of the team.

At Aalborg University, we continuously strive to develop a healthy work culture and thus prevent and address offensive behaviour at all levels – organisational, group, management and individual. We use tools such as:

  • Dialogue-based workplace assessment and follow-up action plans
  • Annual occupational health and safety consultations
  • Internal meetings
  • Occupational health and safety training
  • Staff well-being survey
  • Staff policy

The dialogue-based workplace assessment model, with its openness, supports preventive action against offensive behaviour in a dialogue based on the locally desired working environment.

Aalborg University does not tolerate offensive behaviour, including bullying, sexual harassment and unwanted sexual attention, and we respond to all reports of offensive behaviour.

What is offensive behaviour?

The Danish Working Environment Authority defines offensive behaviour as one or more persons grossly or repeatedly subjecting one or more other persons to bullying, sexual harassment or other degrading behaviour at work. Whether an action is offensive is up to the individual or those who experience the behaviour to evaluate.

Offensive behaviour is a generic term for bullying, sexual harassment and other types of abusive acts at work. These can be both actions and the failure to act. The Danish Working Environment Authority cites the following examples: 

  • Withholding necessary information
  • Hurtful remarks
  • Unfair deprivation or reduction of responsibilities and work tasks
  • Slander or exclusion from the social and professional community
  • Attacks or criticisms of employee privacy
  • Being shouted at or ridiculed
  • Physical abuse or threats thereof
  • Hostility or silence in response to questions or attempted conversation
  • Disparagement of employee’s job, their performance or their competence
  • Offensive phone calls
  • Offensive written messages, SMS, images and videos, including on social media
  • Unpleasant teasing
  • Disparagement, for example based on age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, gender characteristics, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religious beliefs
  • Exploitation in the job, such as for personal errands for others

Specific to bullying

Bullying is when one or more persons regularly and over a long period of time – or repeatedly in a serious manner – subject one or more persons to offensive behaviour and the injured party or parties are unable to defend themselves effectively against the behaviour. The behaviour must be perceived as degrading by the person(s) subjected to the behaviour.

Specific to sexual harassment

Offensive behaviour of a sexual nature refers to all forms of unwanted sexual attention and, for example, can be:

  • Unwanted touching
  • Unwanted verbal requests for sexual intercourse
  • Lewd jokes and comments
  • Irrelevant queries about sexual topics
  • Viewing pornographic material

Rights and duties of managers and staff members

Managers have a particular responsibility to ensure that work is planned, organised and performed in a completely sound manner in terms of safety and health in the short and long term with regard to offensive behaviour.

Staff members have a responsibility to contribute to a good, safe work culture. In some situations, it may be natural for you to point out that another party is overstepping your boundaries.

Furthermore, as it is the individual staff member’s perception that is central to whether behaviour is offensive, all staff have a responsibility to engage in dialogue about this, including indicating to the relevant colleague or manager if the staff member in either general or specific situations perceives the behaviour of colleague or manager as offensive.

What is perceived as acceptable forms of interaction and what is perceived as sexual harassment can vary. Therefore, in some cases it can be difficult to identify sexual harassment.

If a staff member is unsure as to whether they have been subjected to or witnessed offensive behaviour, contact Aalborg University's psychological counselling service for anonymous advice.

If you have been subjected to or witnessed offensive behaviour, you have several options which are detailed in the procedure for handling offensive behaviour (link).

Consequences pertaining to employment law

If an employee exhibits unacceptable behaviour, including offensive acts or false accusations, it can have consequences in terms of employment law, including, where appropriate, warning, dismissal or expulsion. The consequence must be proportional to the circumstances and gravity of the case. 

Origin, background and history

Approved by the Main Joint Consultation Committee on 17 February 2021. 

Purpose and delimitation

The purpose of these rules is to describe the expectations for employee behaviour with regard to offensive behaviour, including bullying, harassment and unwanted sexual attention.

If students experience offensive behaviour, see offensive behaviour towards students at Aalborg University.

Overall framework

Refer also to the procedure for handling offensive behaviour, including bullying and sexual harassment.

Both documents have been prepared with reference to the Danish Working Environment Authority's Guidance No. 9746 of 30 October 2020 on offensive behaviour, including bullying and sexual harassment. 

Contact and responsibility

In the event of offensive behaviour, staff members and managers can always contact the university's central section for occupational health and safety (Line Renée Thellufsen, tlf. 9940 7308, lrth@adm.aau.dk), Helle Ejersbo, Deputy Director, Tel. 9940 8391, ejer@adm.aau.dk or Henrik H. Søndergaard, HR Director, Tel. 9940 3938, hhs@adm.aau.dk. 

Document contact: Dorte Hollensen. 

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