Harassment and Grievance FAQ

I am a DSA member with questions about DSA’s harassment policy and the grievance process.

Please see the FAQs below if you’re a member with questions about DSA’s Harassment Policy (Resolution 33) and how to file a grievance. If you have remaining questions after reading over these FAQs, contact your chapter HGOs or Paula Brantner, the National Harassment Grievance Officer, at nationalgrievanceofficer@dsausa.org.

I’ve heard DSA has a harassment policy. Where can I learn what’s covered and how it works?

What do I do if I think a member has violated the harassment policy?

How do I find out who my chapter HGOs are?

How do I contact the HGOs?

My chapter doesn’t have HGOs — it’s brand new/too small. What do I do next?

My chapter has HGOs, but they’re involved in the dispute/close to the person who is harassing me. What do I do?

I’ve read over Resolution 33, and I’m not sure if it applies to my situation. I’m not sure if the harassment was because of my sex/gender/race or any of the other categories listed in Resolution 33. What do I do next?

If I’m not ready to file a complaint, will I miss any deadlines?

What happens once I file a formal grievance?

What will the Steering Committee do with my grievance?

Help! A grievance has been filed against me. What do I do?

I filed a grievance but am not happy with the result.

I had a grievance filed against me and disagree with the outcome.

My grievance is taking a long time to resolve. How can I make it go faster?

When should I contact Paula, the National Harassment Grievance Officer (NHGO)?

I’ve heard DSA has a harassment policy. Where can I learn what’s covered and how it works?

DSA is committed to creating a space that is welcoming and inclusive to members of all genders, races, and classes. To ensure that everyone is able to organize without fear of harassment, abuse, or harm, DSA has a Harassment Policy, known as Resolution 33. Resolution 33 was passed at the last DSA Convention in August 2017. Please read over the policy, as it applies to all DSA members and those who participate in DSA’s online and offline spaces, including meetings, public events, and other organizing actions.

DSA chapters were asked to incorporate Resolution 33 into chapter bylaws and/or policies by July 1, 2018, and most chapters are now in compliance. Some chapters have adopted even more extensive policies than Resolution 33, but chapter policies cannot be less extensive than Resolution 33. For ease of reference, we will refer to harassment policies as Resolution 33, even though your chapter may call it something different.


What do I do if I think a member has violated the harassment policy?

Once you’ve read over the policy and believe that another DSA member has potentially violated the policy, the first step is to contact your chapter’s Harassment Grievance Officers (HGOs). Smaller chapters of less than 100 members may not have an HGO (although some do), but all other chapters should have designated HGOs. Some chapters also have ombuds programs or other people who can help with conflict as well.


How do I find out who my chapter HGOs are?

Most chapters have publicized who their designated chapter HGOs are on their chapter websites, Facebook groups and via other online channels. If you’ve looked there and cannot find the HGOs listed, contact your chapter’s steering committee (which may also be called the coordinating or executive committee) or ask one of the chapter leaders.

If you have done that and are still unable to identify who the chapter HGOs are, please contact Paula, DSA’s National Harassment Grievance Officer at nationalgrievanceofficer@dsausa.org. Paula will attempt to identify who the HGOs are and/or make contact with the chapter. If the chapter is not in compliance with Resolution 33’s requirements to establish a chapter grievance program, she will work with the chapter to ensure it takes the proper steps to comply.


How do I contact the HGOs?

Each chapter is required to set up an email address that goes to the HGOs. If you’re not ready to disclose your identity when reporting grievable conduct, use an email account that doesn’t have your name or other identifying information attached. HGOs are required to keep information confidential that you share via the HGO email address, and can answer questions you may have about the process, including

  • how to file a formal grievance
  • what will happen once you file a grievance, and
  • what will be shared with the accused party.

HGOs can also help you explore other options if you’re not ready to file a grievance and refer you to other chapter and community resources for contact resolution.


My chapter doesn’t have HGOs — it’s brand new/too small. What do I do next?

If your chapter doesn’t have HGOs, please contact Paula. She will either find out who the HGOs are or accept an original grievance for processing at the National level. Chapters with more than 100 members are required to have HGOs in order to comply with Resolution 33, and some smaller and/or new chapters have also adapted grievance policies to voluntarily comply with the Resolution 33 and promote a harassment-free culture in their chapter.


My chapter has HGOs, but they’re involved in the dispute/close to the person who is harassing me. What do I do?

If you have concerns about the chapter HGOs and whether they can be impartial, please contact Paula. She will figure out an alternative solution, whether it’s identifying another HGO who can investigate or accepting an original grievance for processing at the National level.


I’ve read over Resolution 33, and I’m not sure if it applies to my situation. I’m not sure if the harassment was because of my sex/gender/race or any of the other categories listed in Resolution 33. What do I do next?

Even if you’re not sure whether what happened to you violated Resolution 33, you should still contact your chapter’s HGOs. Many chapters have other conflict resolution solutions, such as ombuds or mediation teams, meeting marshals and/or online group moderators, who may be able to help you resolve the conflict, depending on the facts of your situation. Some chapters also have codes of conduct or by-laws provisions that may cover the conduct you experienced even if it doesn’t fit under Resolution 33.

Contacting the HGOs doesn’t obligate you to start the formal grievance process, but puts the HGOs on notice that an individual may be engaged in problematic behavior that the HGOs can monitor. Others may have already complained about other, more serious conduct that more clearly violates Resolution 33, so you might end up as a witness or supporting someone else’s complaint rather than moving forward with your own.


If I’m not ready to file a complaint, will I miss any deadlines?

While Resolution 33 contains deadlines for processing your grievance, it makes clear that there aren’t deadlines to file grievances. In the legal system, if you miss a deadline, you may be out of luck or unable to file in court due to the statute of limitations. DSA’s process is different: it’s not a legal process and doesn’t have a statute of limitations.

We recognize that some may not yet be ready to file a grievance for a variety of completely valid reasons, so take your time and know that you can wait until you’re ready. We encourage you to file as soon as possible, so that the member you’re filing against learns that their behavior may be considered problematic and the chapter can do something about it if necessary. But you don’t give up your right to file a complaint if you wait until you’re ready or decide to file only if the situation gets worse.


What happens once I file a formal grievance?

Once you have filed a grievance, the HGOs will contact the other party or parties you have named as the subject of the grievance to notify them that a grievance has been filed against them. The accused will be given an opportunity to respond and either admit or deny the charges. They can also choose to leave DSA rather than submitting to the grievance process. If they admit the charges, the HGOs will work with them, you and chapter leadership to find an acceptable solution.

If they deny the charges, then the HGOs will investigate your claim. They may interview you, ask you to respond to questions, and/or ask you about direct witnesses and/or documents that support your grievance. They will provide the other party an opportunity to respond, answer questions, and provide supporting witnesses and documents. After receiving all the evidence, the HGOs will prepare a report that goes to the chapter steering committee or governing body.

You and the other party will be notified when their report is sent to the steering committee, but the report itself is confidential.


What will the Steering Committee do with my grievance?

The HGO’s report will include the results of their investigation and whether they believe there has been a violation of Resolution 33 and/or the chapter’s grievance policy. If there has been a violation, they will recommend remedies and consequences for the violation, which can include a suspension or expulsion from DSA membership, or other less serious remedies and consequences for violations deemed less serious or best solved in other ways.

Ultimately, it is the chapter leadership who is responsible for the outcome of your grievance, not the HGOs.


Help! A grievance has been filed against me. What do I do?

If you have been notified that a grievance has been filed against you, you have three options.

  1. If you do not wish to participate in the grievance process, then you may choose to forfeit your DSA membership. As a member of DSA, you are subject to the organization’s policies, including Resolution 33, the harassment policy. If you don’t participate in the process, there may be findings against you and conditions placed upon your membership and participation which will limit your ability to be part of DSA in the future.
  2. You can admit the facts submitted in the grievance, and work with the HGOs, the other party, and the chapter leadership to come up with an acceptable solution. Some chapters have mediation teams or have the HGOs involved in conflict resolution. The other party may have a particular request, such as an apology, a no-contact agreement or an agreement that you will not participate in a particular DSA activity (such as a committee or working group)  or attend certain events.
  3. You can deny the facts submitted in the grievance, and request the HGOs to conduct an investigation. The HGOs will then advise you about next steps, which may include a written response, an interview or requests to respond to written questions, and having you provide witnesses, documents, or other evidence in support of your position.

Please notify the HGOs as quickly as possible which option you select, as you have seven days under DSA’s grievance policy to respond before the HGOs will move forward with the grievance without you and may take action affecting your membership status.

The DSA grievance process is not a legal process and is primarily administered by volunteer DSA members and leaders. You do not need a lawyer, and either having a lawyer or using legal arguments (as if you were defending yourself in court) may delay the resolution of the process.


I filed a grievance but am not happy with the result.

If you filed a grievance against another member, and you are unhappy with the outcome, you may file an appeal. Grounds for appeal are limited, but would include when you feel the remedies and consequences were not sufficient given the conduct reported, or procedural errors and/or conflicts of interests among chapter members affected the outcome.

Please see our page on appeals for more information about appealing the outcome of your grievance.


I had a grievance filed against me and disagree with the outcome.

If another member filed a grievance against you, and you are unhappy with the outcome, you may file an appeal. Grounds for appeal are limited, but would include when you feel the remedies and consequences were too harsh given the conduct reported, procedural errors and/or conflicts of interests among chapter members affected the outcome, or the conduct reported does not meet Resolution 33 standards of prohibited conduct.

Please see our page on appeals for more information about appealing the outcome of your grievance.


My grievance is taking a long time to resolve. How can I make it go faster?

Grievances are primarily handled at the local level by volunteer members of DSA, the HGOs and chapter leaders. While working on grievances is critical and necessary work, DSA members also juggle other organizing work and chapter responsibilities, as well as the rest of their daily lives (jobs, relationships, families, friendships, etc.). Scheduling interviews with parties and witnesses may take some time to arrange.

The grievance process that the HGOs are following is brand-new to DSA and one that not all HGOs have yet been trained on. Paula is often working behind the scenes to assist HGOs with handling complicated grievances and ensuring HGOs understand and follow the process.

Please cooperate with the HGOs and respond to their requests in a timely fashion, but understand that it make take some time to work through all the issues and do a thorough investigation.


When should I contact Paula, the National Harassment Grievance Officer (NHGO)?

Paula Brantner is the National Harassment Grievance Officer, and she will answer any questions you have via email at nationalgrievanceofficer@dsausa.org. (She works part-time as a consultant for DSA, so it may take a little while for her to get back to you, but she will respond or refer your question to the appropriate person within DSA.)

Paula as the NHGO especially wants to hear from you if you are a DSA member with a potential harassment grievance issue and:

  • are unable to find out who your chapter HGO is, after trying the strategies described above, and your chapter has over 100 members.
  • are an at-large member, a member of an organizing committee, or a member of a chapter with fewer than 100 members.

Paula will refer you back to your chapter HGOs and/or leadership if:

  • you already have a grievance or other disciplinary process pending.
  • you are unhappy with the grievance process or the HGOs or think they are biased against you.

In that situation, your remedy is to appeal the ruling on your grievance once it has been made. For more information on appeals, see our appeals page.

Paula will refer you to another member of DSA staff or leadership if:

  • you are generally unhappy with DSA as an organization, your local chapter, your chapter’s leadership, or the political positions taken by DSA, or you have a conflict with another member in your chapter.

These matters are typically not grievable through the Resolution 33 grievance process.