IIASA Code of Conduct Policy for a Professional Working Environment

The IIASA Code of Conduct Policy lays out the institute's expectations and guiding principles for appropriate workplace behaviour.

© Shamleen | Shutterstock

© Shamleen | Shutterstock

1. Purpose

The IIASA Code of Conduct Policy for a Professional Working Environment has been drawn up to define what constitutes a “professional working environment” at IIASA. Its purpose is fourfold:

  1. To establish a Code of Conduct (henceforth, “the Code”) relating to harassment,sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, and retaliation (henceforth, “unprofessional behavior”) within the workplace;
  2. To define the procedures to be followed should violations of the Code be alleged;  
  3. To determine the types of sanctions to be applied if the alleged violations are confirmed; and
  4. To act as a suitable preventive measure to ensure that a professional working environment exists at IIASA and is maintained at all times.

2. Scope

The Code, which will apply to all persons holding a contractual affiliation with IIASA, sets out two procedures for adjudicating cases of alleged unprofessional behavior at the Institute:

  1. an informal non-mandatory procedure
  2. a formal mandatory procedure

It is considered that procedure i)—informal resolution—is the most effective means of settling disputes.

Note that the existence of an informal procedure does not preclude an employee from filing a formal complaint requesting an investigation (see A.2.2 iii)).

3. Current policy and disciplinary measures

In accordance with the section of the IIASA Handbook on “Personnel Procedures for IIASA Staff/General,” IIASA is committed to providing a working environment in which “Discrimination on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin, age, disability, socioeconomic background, religious or political beliefs, family circumstances, sexual orientation, or any other irrelevant distinction is prohibited.” This means that i) all IIASA staff must be treated equally and with respect, regardless of gender, race, religion or belief, nationality, ethnic or social origin, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or other aspects of personal status and that ii) no behavior can be tolerated at IIASA that constitutes harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, retaliation, or any related acts.

IIASA staff found to have breached these conditions are subject to disciplinary action in accordance with Article IX, Disciplinary Measures of the IIASA Staff Rules and Regulations. This may include an oral or written reprimand, or summary dismissal in accordance with the applicable Austrian laws.

4. Definitions of unprofessional behavior subject to this policy

The IIASA Code of Conduct Policy for a Professional Working Environment specifically extends the Personnel Procedures noted in point 3 above to include unprofessional behaviors in the workplace, namely, harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, and retaliation. These behaviors are defined as follows:


Harassment is any improper and unwelcome conduct on the part of one or more IIASA staff that might reasonably be expected or perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another colleague.

Harassment may be communicated in the form of words, gestures, or other actions that annoy, alarm, abuse, demean, intimidate, belittle, or otherwise cause humiliation or embarrassment to another person, or engender an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Harassment may also be communicated in the form of “mobbing,” that is, where an individual is subjected to bullying behavior by more than one colleague. Harassment could amount to an abuse of authority when it is engaged in by any IIASA staff members in a position of influence or power over the recipient of such actions. Harassment may be deliberate, unsolicited, or coercive. Although harassment normally occurs over a period of time and therefore implies a series of incidents, a one-time incident of harassment, depending on its seriousness, could fall within the definition.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is harassment containing a sexual element. It includes any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favor, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behavior of a sexual nature (including displaying pornography; making sexual innuendoes and/or suggestive comments) that has caused, or that might reasonably be expected or perceived to cause, offence, or humiliation to another colleague.

Sexual harassment further includes making a sex-related act or behavior a condition of employment or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Sexual harassment may include either a series of incidents or a one-time incident of unambiguously offensive sexual character. Both male and female IIASA staff can be perpetrators or targets of sexual harassment.


Discrimination is any unfair treatment or arbitrary distinction that is made for any reason whatsoever, including, but not limited to, gender, race, religion or belief, nationality, ethnic or social origin, age, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or other aspects of personal status. Discrimination includes actions, made either directly or indirectly, based on unwarranted distinctions or prejudices that have the purpose or effect of treating individuals or groups unfairly or unjustly. It may include a series of events or a one-time incident.


Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion, often repeated and habitual, to abuse, intimidate, or dominate others. This includes ostracism which can lead to emotional stress on the part of a colleague and/or hinder a satisfactory and collegial working environment. Behaviors used to assert domination may include, but are not limited to, verbal harassment or threat and physical assault or coercion. 


Retaliation is an action taken directly or indirectly against a co-worker for having: i) made a report in good faith of harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination; ii) cooperated in good faith with an investigation or disciplinary procedure related to an allegation of harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination; or iii) participated in good faith in any other investigative or disciplinary proceedings initiated in accordance with the IIASA Rules and Regulations. 

5. Situations and behaviors outside the scope of this policy

Expressions of disagreement, admonishment, or criticism regarding work performance, conduct, or related issues expressed by a supervisor will not normally be considered as unprofessional behavior within the meaning of this policy. (See the IIASA Handbook, section on “Personnel Procedures for IIASA Staff/Staff Relations.”). All staff are, nonetheless, encouraged to constructively express to supervisors their doubts or misgivings about decisions at IIASA affecting individuals, their Department or Program, or the Institute as a whole.

This policy does not cover any complaint by a staff member that is not made on reasonable grounds. A judgment as to whether the conduct complained of constitutes unprofessional behavior will be made based on an assessment of the facts and circumstances in which the alleged behavior occurred (see point 7 “Applicable procedures”).

6. Responsibilities

IIASA staff must:

  1. Maintain the highest standards of conduct;
  2. Communicate with their colleagues in a respectful manner;
  3. Behave in a manner that is free of intimidation, hostility, offence and any form of harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation;
  4. Familiarize themselves with this policy and understand what actions may constitute unprofessional behavior.
  5. Be aware of the various options and internal channels available for addressing unprofessional behavior; and
  6. Respect the confidentiality of the complaints process and fully cooperate with any investigation or disciplinary procedure.

IIASA management must:

  1. Uphold the highest standards of conduct in order to achieve the environment described in points 6 i) (a) – (f) above;
  2. Communicate the IIASA Code of Conduct for a professional working environment to all staff members both directly and indirectly through their dealings with staff;
  3. Act as resource persons for staff who believe they are being subjected to unprofessional behavior, as defined in the Code.
  4. Ensure that staff under their supervision, including other supervisory staff, do not engage in unprofessional behavior.
  5. Take measures consistent with the Code if they witness any acts of unprofessional behavior.
  6. Ensure that incidents of unprofessional behavior are promptly addressed and deal fairly and impartially with them;
  7. Ensure that all discussions, communications, and actions related to reports of unprofessional behavior are handled with sensitivity and confidentiality and that the sharing of information regarding the complaints will be on a “need to know” basis only;
  8. Keep full documentary evidence, dated and signed, of any complaints of unprofessional behavior, including all information provided by the complainant (see below).

The failure by management staff to address a violation of the Code of Conduct that has come to their knowledge may result in appropriate legal or disciplinary measures being taken against them.

Responsibilities of IIASA as an employer:

  1. This policy will be implemented consistently and the appropriate administrative, investigative, disciplinary and/or contractual action required taken by IIASA, regardless of the function, title, length of service, gender, nationality, and contractual status of any of the parties involved in the case.
  2. The Department of Human Resources (HR) is responsible for the implementation of the policy on the Code of Conduct. HR provides guidance on interpretation of its application, including taking advice from the IIASA lawyer, where necessary, and providing personal and legal advice to IIASA staff upon request. HR is also responsible for compiling all the cases of allegations of violations of this policy.
  3. As an employer, IIASA has a duty to inform the police of serious cases of alleged unprofessional behavior (e.g., physical violence).

7. Applicable procedures

Informal or formal complaints with respect to any of the procedures set out in this policy, must be taken seriously and dealt with promptly and as discreetly as possible. See Annex 1 for informal procedures and Annex 2 for formal procedures related to complaints of unprofessional behavior related to the Code.

All parties should maintain detailed written records (including hard copies of e-mails) of all incidents, dates, places, witnesses, and their thoughts/beliefs/actions/ reactions at the time of the alleged unprofessional behavior. The parties should be aware that as an investigation may be conducted in the future, maintaining written records is vital. As emphasized in 6 ii) g) above, all complaints and their contents will remain confidential. The sharing of information regarding the complaints will be strictly on a “need to know” basis.

Within the applicable timeframe, any complaint or grievance may be dealt with through either an informal or formal process, as detailed in Annexes 1 and 2 of this document.

8. Effective Date

This policy will take effect on 13 July 2015.

9. Time frame


A complaint should be filed as soon as possible after the alleged unprofessional behavior taking place. In all cases the legal regulations as set by the relevant Austrian laws at the time in force are applicable.

It is not possible to consider any complaints prior to the formal implementation of the policy on 13 July 2015. This is because of the impossibility of addressing any form of unprofessional behavior that is not documented in the manner described in this policy (see 6 ii) g) above).


Where a decision confirming the alleged unprofessional behavior is made, an appeal may be made and must be lodged within 30 days of notification of the decision.

9. Special circumstances

Resignation of the alleged offender

If during the investigation or disciplinary procedure the alleged offender resigns from the Institute, the IIASA Directorate, together with the Head of HR, will determine whether or not the investigation will be pursued, and the complainant will be advised accordingly. If the investigation is not pursued after the resignation of the alleged offender, a note will be placed in the Personnel File of the alleged offender, disclosing that he/she resigned while under investigation for allegations of violations of the policy on Code of Conduct. The alleged offender will be informed accordingly.

Investigation without formal complaint

While allegations of unprofessional behavior are normally considered only on the basis of a formal complaint, the IIASA Directorate (i.e., the Director General/CEO and the Deputy Director General/Deputy CEO), together with the Head of HR, may decide to initiate an investigation even if no formal complaint has been submitted.

10. Awareness raising and training

The IIASA Handbook contains the full text of the policy. This is available on the IIASA Web site. Information and counselling sessions on the policy and on aspects of unprofessional behavior are available to all staff.

All personnel working with victims of unprofessional behavior will receive information and guidelines on how to deal with such cases. 


Informal procedures for addressing allegations of violation of the Code of Conduct

An informal procedure provides an opportunity to resolve any complaints or grievances in an open, honest, non-threatening, and non-contentious manner. The informal options available include:

A1.1 Approaching the alleged offender;
A1.2 Involving a third party; or
A1.3 Deciding on mediation.

A1.1 Approaching the alleged offender

a) An IIASA staff member may not understand that he/she is being offensive to a colleague and, if made aware, may stop or modify his/her behavior. Thus, any staff member who believes that he/she has been subjected to unprofessional behavior is encouraged to take action promptly to resolve the problem at an early stage and, if possible, inform the alleged offender directly that his/her behavior is unwelcome and unacceptable.

A1.2 Involvement of a third party

  1. If approaching the alleged offender is not possible or the attempt to do so is not successful, the complainant may bring the matter directly to the Head of HR in writing.
  2. The complainant may wish to discuss his/her concerns with another staff member of confidence, including staff representatives (STAC), his/her direct supervisor, a specially constituted IIASA Ethics Committee (consisting, ideally, of a member of STAC, a member of the HR Department, a person trusted by the complainant, and the Institute Counsellor). Those persons may seek the advice of the Head of HR with the consent of the complainant.
  3. The Head of HR will advise with regard to the relevant regulatory framework and procedures and recommend possible courses of action, including mediation. Where necessary, the Head of HR may seek the advice of the IIASA Ethics Committee, constituted as in A1.2 b).

A1.3 Mediation

  1. Mediation is a structured, voluntary process facilitated by a neutral third party (henceforth, “mediator”), through which conflicting parties discuss the issues at hand and explore possible options for mutually satisfactory solutions to a problem within a neutral environment. As mediation is voluntary, either party has the right to refuse to take part in this process.
  2. The Head of HR will verify that each party agrees to participate in the mediation
  3. If mediation is acceptable to both sides, a neutral mediator from within IIASA or, alternatively, an external mediator will be appointed in consultation with both sides. Any costs of mediation services (e.g., consultancy fees, travel) will be covered by the HR Department. Each case of mediation incurring costs must be approved by the Head of HR in advance.

Where a mediation process is initiated, it will be performed in accordance with the following:

  1. The contents and the process of the mediation will remain confidential and not be disclosed to any other person outside the circle of the mediation participants, that is, the mediator, complainant(s) and the alleged offender(s).
  2. The complainant(s) and/or the alleged offender(s) may request that the mediation be stopped at any time. The decision to do so will be part of the mediation process and discussed with all participants.
  3. The mediation process should be completed within two months of the date on which the complainant(s) and/or alleged offender(s) requested mediation.
  4. A complainant may, at any time during or following the informal process, decide to file a formal complaint alleging violation of the Code, Annex 2.


Formal procedures for addressing allegations of violation of the Code of Conduct

A2.1. Filing a formal complaint alleging violation of the Code

  1. IIASA staff members who consider that they have been subjected to unprofessional behavior that could not be settled either informally or through mediation, may file a formal complaint in writing to the Directorate and to the Head of HR.
  2. All complaints must be signed and dated. No anonymously filed complaints of unprofessional behavior will be accepted. The complaint should be as detailed as possible and fully documented. The complainant must be aware that, for due process, his/her complaint and/or information from the complaint will be shared with the alleged offender to allow the latter to provide countervailing arguments and evidence.
  3. The report of allegations should be made as soon as possible after the violation of the Code is deemed to have taken place. The complainant must provide written documentation related to all attempts made to reach informal resolution.
  4. The complaint must be made in good faith and cannot be based on rumors. Spreading rumors or making a deliberately false report, verbally or in writing, constitutes misconduct for which disciplinary measures, including dismissal, may be imposed.
  5. It is the responsibility of supervisors/managers, including the Head of HR, to ensure that complainants are protected against any retaliation during and after the formal complaint process.
  6. By filing a formal complaint the complainant undertakes to cooperate with the investigation and any disciplinary proceedings. If the complainant resigns in the course of the investigation or of the disciplinary proceedings, the Directorate and the Head of HR will determine whether or not such a resignation brings the case to an end. If it is determined that the allegations have been made in bad faith, a note will be placed in the personnel file of the complainant, disclosing that he/she resigned while his/her allegations were at the investigative or disciplinary stage and that they appear to have been made in bad faith. The complainant and the alleged offender will be informed accordingly.

A2.2 Steps after the receipt of a formal complaint

  1. Upon receipt of a formal complaint, the Directorate and the Head of HR will provide the alleged offender with a copy of the complaint at the earliest practicable time to enable him/her to submit his/her own version of the facts. The alleged offender will be advised in the same communication to abstain from any action that is retaliatory or might be perceived as such against the complainant and any other persons involved in the case (e.g., witnesses, investigative team, IIASA Ethics Committee (A1.2 b), etc.).
  2. Upon receipt of the response of the alleged offender, the Directorate and the Head of HR, in consultation with the IIASA Ethics Committee, will review the case and determine whether:
    1. the allegations should be investigated
    2. the allegations are prima facie unsubstantiated;
    3. allegations fall outside the scope of application of this policy;
    4. the complaint should be subject to mediation (A1.3)
    The complainant and the alleged offender will be advised accordingly.
  3. If it is decided to investigate the allegations, an investigative team will be established by the Directorate and the Head of HR, unless a request in writing is made that the case, including the investigation be handled by a third party (e.g., the IIASA Ethics Committee, see A1.2 b). The investigative team will consist of five persons: one HR representative, one member of STAC, one manager, and two staff members. The investigative team will be asked to periodically consult the Head of HR regarding the interpretation and application of this policy and the Institute Counsellor to ensure the appropriateness of the investigation.
  4. After the formal complaint has been filed, and prior to the establishment of an investigative team, the parties may at any time enter into a mutual agreement and advise the Directorate and the Head of HR in writing that they do not wish to proceed. Such a notification will close the case unless the Directorate considers that an investigation is in the interest of the Institute. If a case is closed, it may be reopened should allegations of retaliation related to that case be raised.
  5. Where the allegations are referred to an investigative team, the mediator will not be involved in this process. He/she may be summoned only to confirm that a mediation process took place and did not produce the desired outcome, but will not be compelled or obliged to reveal the contents of the mediation discussions.
  6. The investigation report will be submitted to the Directorate and to the Head of HR, with a copy to the IIASA Ethics Committee. At that stage Article IX of the Staff Rules and Regulations will apply.
  7. If there is evidence that the complainant made knowingly false accusations or otherwise acted in bad faith, any appropriate rehabilitation measures for the wrongly accused staff member will be instituted.
  8. Copies of the investigation report, together with the decision made by the Directorate and the Head of HR in relation to the formal complaint will be placed in the personnel file of the alleged offender. The official correspondence on the outcome of the complaint will  be placed in the personnel file of the complainant.
  9. If the complainant and alleged offender agree to mediation, with the agreement of the Directorate and the Head of HR, in consultation with the IIASA Ethics Committee and the Institute Counsellor, a mediator will be appointed and an informal resolution of the conflict undertaken as in A.1.3 above.

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Last edited: 04 October 2017


Lindsay Radakovits-Smith

HR Operations Officer and Deputy Head of HR

Human Resources Department

T +43(0) 2236 807 263

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313