Code of Conduct: Harassment and Discrimination Policy at APA Meetings


The American Planning Association holds professional conferences and meetings to enable our members to receive continuing education, build professional networks and collaborations, engage and recruit new members, and discover new technologies, methodologies, and services for professional and academic use. To provide all participants — members and other attendees, speakers, exhibitors, staff, and volunteers — the opportunity to benefit from the event, our Association is committed to providing a safe and productive meeting environment free of discrimination, hostility, and harassment in any form, for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical or mental disability, medical condition, physical appearance, ethnicity, race, religion, political affiliation, nationality, or any other group identity or basis protected by federal. The Association does not tolerate discrimination, or any form of unlawful harassment, and is committed to enforcing this Code of Conduct (the "Code") at all American Planning Association events.

Scope of the Code

The American Planning Association requires compliance with the Code by all event participants (members, non-members, and speakers), staff, guests, sponsors, volunteers, and vendors/exhibitors at all official Association conferences, meetings, meeting breakout sessions, tours, and social events, as well as at all Association meeting-related events that are expressly sponsored or promoted by the Association, in public facilities (each may be referred to herein as an "Event" or collectively, as "Events").

Harassment Defined

Harassment includes speech, gestures or behavior that is not welcome or is personally offensive, whether it is based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical or mental disability, medical condition, physical appearance, ethnicity, race, religion, political affiliation, nationality or any other group identity. It includes deliberate intimidation, stalking, unwelcome attention, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate/unnecessary/unwanted physical contact, offensive jokes or comments, and unprofessional use of nudity and/or sexual images in public spaces or in presentations. Behavior that is acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to another. Whether any act is considered offensive or inappropriate is determined by the recipient of such action, attention, or conversation. Harassment intended in a joking manner still constitutes unacceptable behavior.

Within the context of professional practices or scholarly communications, critical examination of beliefs and viewpoints does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment.

Prohibited Conduct

As a professional association, the American Planning Association is strongly committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, professional expression of ideas, and ethical treatment of all members and conference/meeting participants. These values and a zero-tolerance stance on sexual and other forms of harassment are in line with APA's belief in the value of civil discourse, even during critical examination and critique of ideas, and the free exploration of competing ideas and concepts — with a fundamental respect for the rights, dignity and value of all persons.

The American Planning Association seeks to provide a conference atmosphere in which diverse participants may learn, network and enjoy the company of colleagues in an environment of mutual human respect. The Association recognizes a shared responsibility to establish, maintain and protect such an environment for the benefit of all. Some behaviors are, therefore, specifically prohibited. Prohibited conduct at Events includes, but is not limited to:

  • Harassment or intimidation based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical or mental disability, medical condition, physical appearance, ethnicity, race, religion, political affiliation, nationality or any other group identity or basis protected by federal law.
  • Sexual harassment or intimidation, including unwelcome sexual attention, stalking (physical or virtual), or unsolicited physical contact.
  • Harassment, intimidation, or coercion based upon a position as a teacher, superior, employer, or any position of influence.
  • Abusive, discriminatory, derogatory, ridiculing, lewd, or demeaning language, conduct or presentation materials (visual or auditory).
  • Bullying, harassment, or unprofessional conduct aimed at speech or professional status.
  • Yelling at, offensive ridiculing of, or threatening speakers (verbally or physically) or any attendees.
  • Physical violence or aggression or threats of violence.

Reporting an Incident

If you are experiencing a threat to your physical safety, immediately call 911, and contact the APA Ombudsperson as soon as you are safe.

Meeting participants should note that the American Planning Association cannot address claimed inappropriate conduct or harassment unless the claims are brought to the attention of the appropriate personnel. Event participants who witness or experience harassment or any inappropriate conduct, including but not limited to the prohibited conduct described above, should report the conduct to the APA Ombudsperson. Those reporting a complaint are not expected to discuss the incident with the offending party. All complaints will be treated seriously and be investigated. Confidentiality will be honored to the extent permitted as long as the rights of others are not compromised.

The American Planning Association reserves the right at any time to investigate situations that arise at the conference and in APA-sponsored online communities provided in connection with the conference. If an event participant experiences inappropriate conduct, harassment or discrimination at the participant's own or another institution, at a place of work, at a research facility, or online but not via APA-sponsored channels (e.g., direct emails between parties), APA may be unable to investigate and encourages individuals to contact the appropriate officer/official(s) at that location or institution who handles such issues.

Investigation Procedure

The following procedure will be followed for investigations.

  • The complainant will be asked to submit a report using APA's online form. Failure to provide a report in writing may limit APA's ability to formally follow up on a complaint. This limitation does not apply to complaints by APA staff.
  • A designated APA investigator will discuss the details first with the individual filing the complaint, then with the alleged offender. The investigator may seek counsel or consult with other APA staff, management, officers, and/or legal counsel as needed if the appropriate course of action is unclear.
  • Findings and results of all investigations will be reported to the APA Executive Committee.
  • APA will notify the individual filing the complaint regarding any action taken on the basis of the report.
  • Any APA staff or member involved in the investigation of an incident who believes they have a conflict of interest will recuse themselves from the investigation.
  • Investigations may be conducted on site at a meeting or, if impractical or inappropriate, at any other time.

Disciplinary Action

If it is determined that an individual has engaged in prohibited conduct, APA shall determine the appropriate action to be taken, which may include, but is not limited to:

  • Private reprimand.
  • Removal from the event without warning or refund.
  • Implementation of conditions upon attendance at future APA events.
  • Restriction from attendance at future APA events.

In the event of the potential for serious, injurious, or offensive conduct, when it seems reasonable to preserve the peace and decorum of the event or to limit harm or to avoid further incidents, APA may take immediate action and ask a person to leave an event, depending on the nature of the issue; follow-up may occur later.

APA may, but is not required to, report any incident to proper authorities, including but not limited to event security and law enforcement, if in APA's sole discretion such reporting is appropriate.


APA will not tolerate any form of retaliation against persons who file a complaint or assist in the investigation of a complaint. Retaliation is a serious violation of this policy and, like harassment or discrimination itself, will be subject to disciplinary action.

DISCLAIMER: In adopting and disseminating this Code of Conduct, Harassment and Discrimination Policy for APA Meetings, APA's main purpose is to encourage appropriate behavior and to address inappropriate behavior. It is important to recognize that the Association is a nonprofit professional association and is not authorized to adjudicate or enforce the law. However, APA believes in the importance of taking action in good faith and in the best interest and protection of members and attendees. Nonetheless, APA is not responsible for the conduct of any individual, assumes no duty to halt, limit, or address any problematic or illegal conduct, and shall not have liability for conduct between and among any individuals.