Abusive Conduct in the Workplace

The University of California (“University”) is committed to promoting and maintaining a healthy working environment in which every individual is treated with respect.



PROHIBITED: Abusive Conduct and/or Retaliation
for reporting or participating in an investigation or other process provided for in this policy.

What is Abusive Conduct in violation of this policy?

  • Abusive Conduct is harassing or threatening behavior that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive conduct in the Workplace that denies, adversely limits, or interferes with a person’s participation in or benefit from the education, employment, or other programs or activities of the University. (For more see Section II.)
  • Abusive Conduct can occur in many different settings, from a physical workplace (e.g., an office building) to an online workplace (e.g., an online meeting or an e-mail). Regardless of the format in which it occurs, Abusive Conduct is prohibited by this policy.
  • See examples of Abusive Conduct
  • Abusive Conduct may take many forms, including but not limited to conduct involving physical actions and/or verbal, non-verbal, electronic, or written communication.

    > Use of abusive and/or insulting language (written, electronic or verbal)
    > Spreading false information or malicious rumors
    > Behavior, language, or gestures that frighten, humiliate, belittle, or degrade, including criticism or feedback that is delivered with yelling, screaming, threats, implicit threats, or insults
    > Encouraging others to act, singly or in a group, to intimidate or harass other individuals
    > Making repeated or egregious comments about a person’s appearance, lifestyle, family, culture, country of origin, visa status, religious/spiritual/philosophical beliefs, or political views in a manner not covered by the University’s policies prohibiting discrimination
    > Teasing or making someone the brunt of pranks or practical jokes
    > Interfering with a person’s personal property or work equipment without a legitimate business or educational purpose
    > Circulating photos, videos, or information via e-mail, text messages, social media, or other means without a legitimate business or educational purpose
    > Making unwanted physical contact or encroaching on another individual’s personal space, in ways that would cause discomfort and unease, in a manner not covered by the University’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy
    > Purposefully excluding, isolating, or marginalizing a person from normal work activities for non-legitimate business purposes
    > Repeatedly demanding of an individual that the individual do tasks or take actions that are inconsistent with that individual’s job, are not that individual’s responsibility, for which the employee does not have authority, or repeatedly refusing to take “no” for an answer when the individual is within the individual’s right to decline a demand; pressuring an individual to provide information that the individual is not authorized to release (or may not even possess)
    > Making threats to block a person’s academic or other advancement, opportunities, or continued employment at the University without a legitimate business or educational purpose
    > Sabotaging or undermining a person’s work performance

What is generally not considered Abusive Conduct?

  • It is important to recognize that not all interactions that may be unpleasant are necessarily Abusive Conduct. Differences of opinion, miscommunication, differences in work styles, business disagreements handled professionally, interpersonal conflicts, and occasional problems in working relations are an inevitable part of working life and do not necessarily constitute Abusive Conduct.
  • Abusive Conduct does not include exercising appropriate supervision of employees or carrying out instruction, grading, assessment, and evaluation. It does not include performance management or providing appropriate feedback.
  • See examples of conduct generally not constituting Abusive Conduct
  • > Providing performance appraisals to employees, including negative appraisals
    > Delivering constructive criticism
    > Grading student performance, including negative assessments
    > Coaching or providing constructive feedback
    > Monitoring or restricting access to sensitive and confidential information for legitimate business reasons
    > Scheduling regular or ongoing meetings to address performance issues
    > Setting ambitious performance goals to align with departmental goals
    > Investigating alleged misconduct or violation of University policy
    > Counseling or disciplining an employee for performance, engaging in misconduct, or violating University policy
    > Engaging in assertive behavior
    > Having a disagreement
    > Making unpopular statements or articulating positions on controversial issues
    > Participating in debates and expressing differences of opinion about academic decisions
    > Participating in a formal complaint resolution or grievance process
    > Exercising academic freedom, including comments about scholarship, instruction within the classroom, different approaches to curriculum, opposing opinions about policy issues, or academic achievement, even if the content is considered insulting by the recipient and even if delivered passionately

What is Retaliation in violation of this policy?

  • An adverse action taken against an individual based on their report of Abusive Conduct or participation in an investigation or other resolution process provided for in this policy. (For more see Section III.)

Reporting Abusive Conduct or Retaliation

Abusive conduct should be reported to supervisors, managers or directly to Employee and Labor Relations (ELR) (see below).

  • Supervisors Must address abusive conduct immediately.
    • Managers and supervisors (including Chairs and Deans) should report abusive conduct to ELR (see below) even if the incident(s) appear(s) to be resolved.
    • Managers and supervisors will receive guidance on the process.


Required Training on Abusive Conduct Policy for ALL Employees

  • Roughly 20 minutes
  • One-time completion requirement
  • Assigned through LMS 


More Help, Support and Resources

  • Physical violence or threats of violence should be reported to the UC Davis Police Department- 530-752-6589
  • For conduct that is sex-based, including conduct that is sexual in nature or based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, sex- or gender-stereotyping, or sexual orientation, the University’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (SVSH) Policy will apply. Reports of such conduct should be made to the Title IX Office.
  • For conduct that is based on one or more protected categories outlined in the University’s Discrimination, Harassment, and Affirmative Action in the Workplace policy, that policy will apply. Reports should be to the University’s Harassment and Discrimination Assistance & Prevention Program
  • For off-the-record confidential, impartial, independent, informal assistance, and additional resources:
    • Office of the Ombuds
      • Davis- 530-754-7233
      • UC Davis Health- 916-734-1600 
    • Academic Staff Assistance Program (ASAP)- 530-752-2727 
  • Confidential advocacy support for survivors of sexual harassment and all forms of sexual violence and prevention, and professional program training:
    • Center for Advocacy, Resources, & Education (CARE, Davis Campus & UC Davis Health)- 530-752-3299 
UC Davis' Principles of Community can help guide our actions in ways that demonstrate mutual respect and caring.