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Policy on Sexual Misconduct

Last Modified: March 4, 2019

Please note the contents on this page are sensitive in nature.

Yoga Alliance believes that every human being has the right to practice yoga free from abuse. Such acts are unethical and will not be tolerated. Further, any retaliation against an individual who has complained about sexual misconduct, or retaliation against individuals for cooperating with an Investigation of any complaint of sexual misconduct, will not be tolerated. To achieve our goal of providing safe environments, the conduct that is described in the definitions of this Policy will not be tolerated. We also have a procedure to address any reported violations of this Policy.

Please note: as Yoga Alliance does not have the same authority or resources to investigate or stop criminal activity as law enforcement bodies, we strongly encourage individuals to use the criminal, legal, judicial and social support systems available in your jurisdiction. Reporting criminal activity can be a strong deterrent and hold people accountable. It can also offer Yoga Alliance essential information that can help inform our process and decisions, although Yoga Alliance does not require a police report to investigate complaints.

For support resources, please click here.


Table of Contents

Definitions
Procedure
    I. Definitions
    II. Application of this Policy
    III. Reporting a Grievance
    IV. Preliminary Review
    V. Activating an Investigation
    VI. Account Suspension
    VII. Confidentiality
    VIII. The Investigation
    IX. Findings
    X. Notification of Decision
    XI. Discipline
    XII. Appeal
    XIII. Amendments


Definitions

Sexual Misconduct: Unwelcomed conduct of a sexual nature, whether physical or verbal in nature.

  • Non-consensual sexual touching: A broad term that refers to any deliberate non-consensual touching of a person’s body, which conduct can range from unwanted touching such as fondling, up to and including non-consensual sex.
  • Verbal: Use of sexually suggestive or explicit statements, whether through speech or written form, that create a hostile environment.

While it is not possible to list all the circumstances that may constitute sexual misconduct, the following are some examples of conduct which, if unwelcome, may constitute sexual misconduct:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances -- whether they involve physical touching or not;
  • Sexual epithets, jokes, written or verbal references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding one’s sex life, comment on an individual’s body, comment about an individual’s sexual activity, deficiencies, or prowess;
  • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons;
  • Unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, suggestive or insulting comments;
  • Comments or conjecture about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Inquiries into one’s sexual experiences; and,
  • Discussion of one’s sexual activities.

Retaliation: An adverse action taken against a Complainant or Witness in response to their submission of a complaint and/or participation in an Investigation. Examples of adverse action include withholding a certificate of completion; firing or refusing to hire an individual; or expelling a trainee or student.


Procedure

I. Definitions

Yoga Alliance: The premier standards setting organization for yoga professionals. May be referred to as “YA” or “we.”

Accountability Director: The YA employee, or their designee, responsible for accepting, reviewing, and investigating Grievances. This person is also responsible for (i) determining whether there was a violation of the Policy; and (ii) if a violation is found: issuing and overseeing discipline.

Grievance: Any allegation of a violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Complainant: A person who reports a violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Respondent: A person who is alleged to have violated the Policy, and who is responding to a Grievance.

Party: The Complainant or Respondent. Collectively, they may be referred to as the “Parties.”

Witness: A person whom the Complainant or Respondent identifies as having first-hand, relevant information about the alleged violation or lack of violation.

Member: A person who currently holds the credential of RYT, RYS, or YACEP; a person who formally held these credentials; or a person applying for any one of these credentials.

Preliminary Review: The Accountability Director’s initial review following receipt of a complaint to determine whether to initiate an Investigation.

Notification of Disciplinary Proceeding: The written Notification to the Respondent informing them of the initiation of an Investigation.

Investigation: The fact-finding process conducted by the Accountability Director that determines whether there is sufficient, timely information to determine whether there has been a Policy violation.

Notification of Decision: The written communication from YA that notifies the parties about the findings of the Investigation. In the event of an adverse finding, the Notification will also inform the Respondent of any disciplinary actions.

Appeal: Either Party’s right to contest the findings of the Investigation, but only on the following bases: (a) significant procedural lapses or (b) the appearance of substantive new evidence not available at the time of the original decision.

Vice President of Standards: The YA employee who considers Appeals.

Vice President of Standards: The YA employee who considers Appeals.

II. Application of this Policy

  1. This Policy applies to Members regardless of membership status with YA at the time of the incident that gives rise to the Grievance, regardless of whether the Complainant is a YA member.
  2. Any Grievance must be reported to Yoga Alliance within two years of its occurrence, unless YA determines that an extension is warranted.

III. Reporting a Grievance

Reports must be initiated by an individual who has personally experienced sexual misconduct as defined in the Policy.

In the interest of the safety and privacy, YA will not initiate an Investigation based upon a third-Party report of a Policy violation.

To report a violation of the Policy, please send the following information to grievance@yogaalliance.org or call 888-912-1770, Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (ET):

  • Your full name;
  • Your email and phone number, including any international extensions;
  • Full name of the Respondent;
  • A full description of the conduct alleged to have violated the Policy;
  • The date and location of the alleged misconduct;
  • Names and contact information of Witnesses; and,
  • If necessary, a request for an exception to the two-year time limit for reporting a Grievance.

We may request additional information from you during the course of review or Investigation of any Grievance.

To ensure a fair process to all those involved, we will not investigate anonymous reports.

IV. Preliminary Review

The Accountability Director will review reported Grievances to determine whether (i) the Policy applies to the subject of the complaint; (ii) the Grievance is timely; and (ii) the alleged conduct is covered by the Policy. If the complaint does not include all the information required by Section III, the Accountability Director shall inform the Complainant, who will then be given the opportunity to provide the required information. If no response is received within 21 days, the matter will be closed.

V. Activating an Investigation

There are two ways to activate an Investigation:

  1. After Preliminary Review of a Grievance, the Accountability Director determines that there is sufficient information to proceed with an Investigation.
  2. YA may initiate an Investigation on its own behalf, for example when an indictment has been issued or charges filed with the relevant law enforcement.

Once an Investigation is activated, YA will provide the Respondent with written (email) Notification of Disciplinary Proceeding. In the event that a Respondent does not have an email address on file with YA, the Accountability Director will call the Respondent to notify them of the Disciplinary Proceeding.

VI. Account Suspension

Yoga Alliance reserves the right to suspend any member’s credentials and registration pending any of the following:

  1. Yoga Alliance investigation;
  2. Law enforcement investigation; or
  3. Criminal or civil legal proceedings

Yoga Alliance may choose to await the final outcome of a law enforcement investigation and/or criminal/civil legal proceedings prior to conducting an internal investigation.

VII. Confidentiality

We appreciate that participating in an Investigation – whether as a Complainant, Respondent, or Witness – can be difficult. Although YA strives to balance the desire for confidentiality with the need to conduct a thorough and fair Investigation, anonymity cannot be maintained; therefore, the Parties’ names will be disclosed to each other during the Investigation.

VIII. The Investigation

Once the Complainant and Respondent are contacted by the Accountability Director to request an interview, they will have 21 days to participate in an interview, and/or to provide information in writing.

The Complainant and Respondent will have an equal opportunity to be heard, to submit information, and to identify Witnesses who may have relevant information. The Accountability Director will notify and seek to interview all involved parties separately (e.g., the Complainant, the Respondent, and identified Witnesses) and will gather other evidence and information relevant to the determination as to whether a Policy violation has occurred. Witnesses must have information deemed relevant to the Investigation, as determined by the Accountability Director, and cannot be participating solely to speak about an individual’s character.

IX. Findings

The Accountability Director will consider the totality of information gathered in the Investigation to determine, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) whether the Respondent violated the Policy. In reaching a Finding, the Accountability Director will consider things such as:

  • Party participation;
  • Detail provided;
  • Timeliness of the report;
  • Corroborating or conflicting information;
  • Plausibility of information provided;
  • Relevancy of information;
  • Omission of information.

X. Notification of Decision

At the conclusion of the Investigation, the Accountability Director will notify the Parties as to whether there is sufficient information to establish a violation of the Policy. In addition, if a Respondent is found to have violated the Policy, they will be notified by the Notification of Adverse Decision.

XI. Discipline

If we determine that a Respondent has violated the Policy, we will take such action as is appropriate under the circumstances. Such action may range from education to revocation of Yoga Alliance membership and credentials.

XII. Appeal

Both parties have the right to request an Appeal of the results of the Disciplinary Proceeding. The right to Appeal is limited to (a) significant procedural lapses or (b) the appearance of substantive new evidence not available at the time of the original decision. Appeals shall not be based upon, or granted to, dissatisfaction with a Finding or discipline. Note: deliberate omission of information by the Appealing Party in the original Investigation is not grounds for Appeal.

Each Party has 21 days following the receipt of the Notification of Finding to request an Appeal. Requests for Appeal, with reasons, should be emailed to grievance@yogaalliance.org. If this is not possible, the Party requesting an Appeal must speak directly with the Accountability Director.

The Vice President of Standards will grant Appeals only in cases where the procedural problems or new evidence are considered substantive enough to potentially affect the outcome. If the Appeal is granted the VP of Standards will (i) affirm the findings, or (ii) alter the findings only where there is clear error based on the stated Appeal grounds. The Vice President of Standards’ decisions are final and will be issued within 21 days to the Party requesting the Appeal. If the finding is altered, both parties will be notified of the final outcome.

XIII. Amendments

Yoga Alliance reserves the right to amend the Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures at any time by posting the revised version on its website and notifying members via electronic mail to the address provided by the member. The most current version of the policy will apply upon receipt of a grievance.

Yoga Alliance is a nonprofit 501(c)(6). Yoga Alliance Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3). This website refers to the two organizations as "Yoga Alliance." Copyright 2018 Yoga Alliance. Yoga Alliance, the Yoga Alliance logo, RYS, RYT, and YACEP are registered marks with the USPTO and other jurisdictions.
Copyright 2019 by Yoga Alliance