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Reports of sexual harassment in connection with the DFG’s funding activities

The DFG pursues a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of sexual harassment in the research system. This principle of zero tolerance means that the DFG is committed to ensuring that those affected are able to exercise their rights in accordance with the applicable legal situation and defend themselves. In addition to funding excellent research, the DFG advocates an open, non-violent research culture that promotes potential. For this reason, the DFG supports those affected by sexual harassment within its sphere of activity (in particular by providing the relevant information). The DFG takes reports of sexual harassment and the protection of victims very seriously. At the same time, it is important to respect the rights of those affected by the allegations, i.e. the individuals who are named as the perpetrators of sexual harassment. Until such time as a formal investigation procedure has been carried out by the competent body, any report is initially treated as an allegation which may be false or correct. It must also be borne in mind that accusations which later turn out to be unfounded can cause considerable reputational damage and result in the person affected by the accusations being prejudged. For this reason, incidents of this nature must be investigated by the competent authorities according to rule-of-law principles.

Despite an increasing awareness of the issue of sexual harassment in recent years, action still needs to be taken in the research system. Working conditions in academia are subject to time pressure and a high level of personal and economic dependency, as well as monopolies of knowledge, judgement and power. All these factors can have an impact on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. These aspects must therefore be taken into account when establishing prevention concepts against sexual harassment at the workplace in academia.

Researchers should first contact their respective institution of employment in the event of sexual harassment. Institutions must provide protection against sexual harassment on site and develop appropriate prevention and information concepts for this purpose. Beyond this, the police and the public prosecutor’s office are responsible if the behaviour meets the criteria for criminal liability.

The DFG is only able to take action within the sphere of its own funding activities. As such, it usually has to wait for the outcome of investigations carried out by the competent bodies on site before being able to act on the findings.

The DFG takes the protection of the personal data of all data subjects very seriously. 
See “DFG Data Protection Notice – Reports of Sexual Harassment Relating to the DFG’s Funding Activities”.

Further information and points of contact

The following information is intended to provide assistance for researchers who suffer sexual harassment. In addition to contact persons at the DFG, further information is provided including details of support services and points of contact outside the DFG.

The legal definition in Section 3 (4) of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) describes sexual harassment at the workplace as follows:

“[...] if an unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, including unwanted sexual acts and requests to carry out sexual acts, physical contact of a sexual nature, comments of a sexual nature, as well as the unwanted showing or public exhibition of pornographic images, takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of the person concerned, in particular where it creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

The key feature of sexual harassment is the undesired nature of the actions from the point of view of the victim. Further explanatory information and examples for those affected on the topic of sexual harassment at the workplace are provided by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS):

Under German law, the following institutions are responsible for investigating reports of sexual harassment:

  • The employing institution
  • The locally competent police and public prosecutor’s office

Further detailed information on options for those affected is to be found in the brochure Was tun bei sexueller Belästigung am Arbeitsplatz? (“What to do in the event of sexual harassment at the workplace?”) published by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS):

  • To the complaints body responsible under Section 13 of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) at your own academic institution. You should be able to obtain details from internal information sources such as on the intranet or in handouts, as well as through supervisors or your on-site HR support. Local gender equality officers will also be able to point you to the relevant bodies.
  • To report an incident to the police: either call the emergency number 110 or call in at any local police station. Further information on this subject is offered under the Police Crime Prevention programme (ProPK) .

Reports can be submitted to the DFG either stating your name or anonymously. If you submit information to the DFG using your name, it can only be processed if you enclose the signed declaration of consent (DFG form 73.02). Please also refer to “DFG Data Protection Notice – Reports of Sexual Harassment Relating to the DFG’s Funding Activities”.

Contact persons for submitting reports of sexual harassment in connection with the DFG’s funding activities:

  • Afia Atta-Agyemang (pronoun: she/her)
    Tel. 0228 885 - 3139
  • Marino Samou Kamdem (pronoun: (he/his)
    Tel. 0228 885 - 2852

If you contact DFG via paper-based mail/postal services, please address your letter to one of the above-mentioned contact persons at the DFG Head Office and ensure the words “PERSONAL/CONFIDENTIAL” are visible from the outside.

Contact address:

  • Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
    Team I-FK-1 (Equal Opportunities)
    Kennedyallee 40
    53175 Bonn
    E-mail Equal Opportunities Team:
    Tel.: Equal Opportunities Team: 0228 885 - 2124

If there is a link to requested or ongoing funding or to other funding activities, the DFG takes the appropriate measures wherever necessary and possible. This is particularly the case if an investigation by the locally responsible bodies has consequences in terms of the use of DFG funding (e.g. the suspension or dismissal of project leaders in funded projects).

The DFG then develops appropriate solutions for the funded project in each individual case, if necessary also in cooperation with the academic institution concerned. Here it is important to take into account both the protection of victims of sexual harassment and the orderly completion of the DFG-funded research project, in particular the people employed in the project and the work being done to obtain qualifications in this connection; the latter should be brought to a conclusion as far as possible.

  • The works council or the equal opportunities officer at the employing institution.
  • The anti-discrimination agencies of the German Federal Government and federal states .
  • Social counselling and support facilities. Example: Hilfetelefon Gewalt gegen Frauen (“Helpline – Violence against Women”) operated by the Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions (BAFzA)
    (www.hilfetelefon.de ), telephone counselling, etc.
  • Lawyers commissioned by the persons concerned (if necessary also for the assertion of claims for damages under civil law)