Code of Conduct Incident Response Plan

The audience for this document is the Code of Conduct committee for Elastic (but anyone is welcome to read it!). The goal of this document is for the committee to have a consistent method of handling any CoC incidents reported during Elastic events.

Code of Conduct committee members

  • Aaron Aldrich, Andrae Middleton, Andrew Grant, Anna Ossowski, Brian Curtin, Daliya Spasova, Elyssa Emrich, Fabio Busatto, Katherine Thiel, Kiley Davidson, Leah Sutton, Manja Wittig, Mark Walkom, Michail Yasonik, Morgan Adams, Nik Everett, Raya Fratikina, Sarah Etter, Shaun Mc Gough, Shay Banon, Yaduvendra Singh, Yaniv Eliash
  • If necessary, the committee members may escalate events involving Elastic employees to Leah Sutton, Shay Banon, or any Elastic Leadership Team member

Reporting methods

Each Elastic event will include a phone number to make a Code of Conduct report. Attendees are also advised to contact an event organizer to make a report.

On call schedule

The entirety of the Elastic event (each event will have different official start and end times). 

Conflicts of interest

When responding to reports, sometimes Code of Conduct committee members have a conflict of interest. Examples of conflicts of interest include:

  • The reporter or reported person is your manager
  • You have a romantic or platonic relationship with either the reporter or the reported person. It’s fine to participate if they are an acquaintance.
  • The reporter or reported person is your metamour. (This is a term used in the poly community; the short definition is here, and a longer description is here.)
  • The reporter or reported person is your family member
  • The reporter or reported person is your direct client
  • The reporter or reported person is someone you work closely with. This could be someone on your team or someone who works on the same project as you.
  • The reporter or reported person is a maintainer who regularly reviews your contributions

When a report comes in, committee members are required to state if they have a conflict of interest. Committee members don’t need to state why they have a conflict of interest, only that one exists. Other committee members should not ask why the person has a conflict of interest.

Committee members who have a conflict of interest should not have access to discussion of the report, documentation of the report, or information about who made the report. If you receive a report via phone call and you suspect you have a conflict of interest, take the person’s contact details and get another committee member to take the report.

Receiving a call

  • Introduce yourself: “Hi, this is [NAME] and you’ve reached the Code of Conduct helpline for Elastic events. How can I help you?”

  • If this is an out-of-scope call (e.g. routine enquiry about the conference unrelated to a CoC report), politely direct the caller to the registration desk.

  • Get the reporter’s name.

  • Assure the reporter that we are here to help.

  • The reporter’s safety is paramount. Ask where they are located + what they are wearing in case you need to find them to ensure safety.

  • Let the reporter know that we’d like to meet them in person to get their detailed report in writing. Ask them where they are so you can coordinate a place to meet up. If they are not comfortable with meeting in person you can take the report on the phone but this should really not be the preferred option.

Talking to hesitant reporters

Sometimes a reporter may seem hesitant to meet with you or reluctant to provide details in a report. They may fear retribution. They may be worried you won’t act on the report. They may be worried that you won’t believe them. There are several different things you can do. Try them in order:

  • Reassure them that their report will remain confidential
  • Offer that they report to another member of the team (“Would you be more comfortable talking to Michelle or Elyssa, who are also on the team?” “Would you be more comfortable talking to someone other than me?”)
  • Offer to take an anonymous report. You will not record the reporter’s name or contact information. Unfortunately, that means they will not receive a follow-up about the report.
  • The last option if the reporter is still hesitant is to allow the reporter to escrow a report. They can provide a description of the incident and the Code of Conduct committee will not act on it unless the behavior is repeated, or a past pattern of behavior is found.

Taking a report

  • Take down a written report of the incident (see the Google form which is accessible to CoC committee members only).
  • Be calm and patient with the reporter when noting details of incident down. 
  • Get contact details for the reporter (phone number, email address, whatever the attendee is comfortable providing).
  • Let the reporter know the committee will be reviewing the report immediately.
  • Avoid making any promises regarding what kind of action will be taken.
  • Let the reporter know we’ll notify them on updates unless they would prefer not to be involved any further, in which case let them know we will respect their wishes.
  • Thank them for making the report.
  • Ask if we can do anything to make them more comfortable at this point. We are able to use the provided resources, such as the CoC room, to facilitate this.

Dealing with immediate danger

  • If there is immediate danger (e.g. occurrence or threat of physical violence), call venue security, a crisis line, or other non-emergency numbers. Only call law enforcement if the reporter asks you to.
  • If an incident is creating a physically unsafe situation, any incident responder has the power to immediately decide a response without convening a meeting of the Code of Conduct committee. Examples of unsafe situations needing immediate response include: a physical fight, sexual assault or groping, or publishing personal contact information.

Documenting a report

  • Copy this Incident Response and Review template into a new Google Doc. This is where we document the response and review process, including timeline, involved parties, etc. 
  • Note the URL of the Google Doc you just created, share the report with other CoC committee members by adding their email addresses to have edit permissions. Do not turn on link sharing. Add the report documentation link to the incident report and response spreadsheet (the last column, only accessible to CoC committee members).
  • Privacy guidelines: keep the report, and the identities of the reporter and the reported person as confidential as possible. Specifically, this information should only be shared with the CoC committee. Only involve law enforcement at the request of the reporter. If law enforcement is involved, please share any information given to them with Shay; he can inform appropriate Elastic leadership.

Discussing a report

  • Create a separate private channel on the Elastic Slack for discussing that report. Only discuss that report in that channel.
  • Inform the other CoC committee members of the report. This can be done in the private “code_of_conduct” Slack room or by email at codeofconduct@elastic.co. State “[name] has been reported by [phone/Twitter DM/etc]. Who does not have a conflict of interest for discussing this report?” People who do not have a conflict of interest will be added to the private channel, and obtain access to the documentation for that report.
  • It’s okay to have a small discussion at this point, but keep it to just a couple of minutes (at this point; there will be time for further discussion later).
  • Does this report involve an Elastic employee?
    • If the report includes an Elastic employee and a community member, Leah from Elastic HR should be notified of the incident. The Code of Conduct committee will make the final evaluation and resolution, taking into account any information from HR. HR should state whether they are aware of past instances of similar behavior, so that the Code of Conduct committee can determine a plan to prevent patterns of inappropriate behavior.
    • If the report includes only Elastic employees, the Code of Conduct committee will make a clean hand-off to the HR team. HR should provide a report back to the Code of Conduct committee stating: whether the report was a Code of Conduct violation, what the reported person’s behavioral modification plan was, and what consequences (if any) the reported person faces.
    • If HR has determined they will not take action on a report, the Code of Conduct team who may choose to re-evaluate it.
    • Elastic HR will not have access to the committee email address. After HR provides any pertinent information in a case that involves a community member and an Elastic employee, HR will be dropped from the committee discussion. HR will not have access to report documentation that does not involve two Elastic employees.
  • Arrange a primary and secondary incident owner. If you are unable to be either of those for any reason, it is your responsibility as the person receiving the initial report to make sure this incident owners are established.

Decide what actions to take:

  • Decisions are finalized by a simple majority of the committee members who are in the private slack meeting.
  • Decide whether the incident is a Code of Conduct violation.
  • Decide what behavioral modification plan you should give to the reported person.
  • Decide whether there needs to be consequences to ensure the behavior is not repeated.
  • Decide what response to take if the person does not understand why their behavior was inappropriate, or refuses to accept the behavioral modification plan.

Potential consequences

What follows are examples of possible responses to an incident report. This list is not inclusive, and Elastic reserves the right to take any action it deems necessary. Possible responses to an incident include:

  • Nothing, if the behavior was determined to not be a Code of Conduct violation
  • A verbal or emailed warning
  • Requiring that the reported person avoid any interaction with, and physical proximity to, another person for the remainder of the event
  • Requiring that the reported person not direct message an online community member
  • Requiring that the reported person not join specific chat channels
  • Requiring the reported person not attend evening events
  • Refusal of alcoholic beverage purchases at events
  • Ending a talk that violates the Code of Conduct early
  • Not publishing the video or slides of a talk that violated the Code of Conduct
  • Not allowing a speaker who violated the Code of Conduct to give (further) talks at the event now or in the future
  • Immediately ending any event volunteer responsibilities and privileges a person holds
  • Requiring that a person not volunteer for future events your organization runs (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
  • Requiring that a person refund any travel grants and similar they received (this would need to be a condition of the grant at the time of being awarded)
  • Requiring that a person immediately leave the event and not return
  • Banning a person from future events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
  • Removing the reported person from community online chat servers or mailing lists (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
  • Removing the reported person from admin or moderator rights to community infrastructure
  • Removing a person from leadership of relevant organizations
  • Removing a person from membership of relevant organizations
  • Publishing an account of the incident and calling for the resignation of a person from their responsibilities (usually pursued by people without formal authority: may be called for if the person is the event leader, or refuses to stand aside from the conflict of interest, or similar, typically event staff have sufficient governing rights over their space that this isn't as useful)

Talking to a reported person

Talk to the reported person to discuss their behavior, its impact on the reporter, and a plan of action to ensure the inappropriate behavior is not repeated. Take someone else from the committee with you.

When talking to a person who was reported, discuss the incident in terms of their behavior, its impact, and behavioral modification plan. Example:

  • Behavior: "When you joined this chat channel, you greeted people by saying, 'hey guys!'"
  • Context: "Women are underrepresented in our community. People often assume a woman is not part of our community, and that hurts our women community members. The word 'guys' implies a group of men."
  • Impact: "When you used the greeting 'hey guys', women in our community felt invisible and unwelcome."
  • Call in: "I need your help ensure our community is welcoming to everyone."
  • Behavioral modification plan: "I need you to not use 'guys' to refer to our community members."

If the reported person wants to apologize, tell them that you will relay their apology, but that they should not contact the reporter. Apologies often center the hurt feelings of the reported person and put the reporter in the awkward position of having to forgive the person. As an incident responder, you can choose to relay the reported person's apology, or you can choose not to if it is not genuine.

Re-evaluating reports

After talking to the reported person, add any additional context they provided to the incident report. In some cases, you may have to talk with the committee again and decide on a different response.

Sometimes a reported person does not understand why their behavior was inappropriate, or they will not agree to the behavioral modification plan. If this happens, there may be a risk of the inappropriate behavior repeating. You may need to respond with a more severe consequence than a warning, such as removal from an event or a temporary ban from an online community.

Following up with reporters

If needed, discuss the additional context with the CoC committee members in the private slack channel to decide on a different response to the incident.

  • Follow up with the reporter. Talk to them or send them an email outlining what behavioral modification plan was given to the reported person. Let them know of any additional steps that will be taken.
  • If you cannot find the reported person at an event, give the reporter daily updates as you search for the reported person.
  • The committee should send an email acknowledging emailed reports or reports via web form within 24 hours. Reporters should receive an email back with the committee’s decisions and actions taken within 1 week. If deliberations are taking longer than a week, you should email the reporter letting them know that the report will take more time to handle.

Transparency reports

Once a quarter, the Elastic Code of Conduct committee will provide a public transparency report about the resolved and ongoing reports it has handled.

The transparency reports will remove any information about the reporter and the reported person. If there is no way to anonymize the report without revealing the identity of the reporter or the reported person, the transparency report will simply note that a report was made.

Transparency reports will include:

  • A description of how the Code of Conduct was promoted to community members
  • A summary of the total number and types of incidents that have occurred since the last transparency report
  • A summary of the resolutions to those incidents, including unresolved incidents
  • A generalized description of each incident, and how the incident was resolved

Examples of transparency reports include:

Off-boarding committee members

The Code of Conduct committee members will be asked every six months if they wish to continue serving on the committee. If they wish to resign, they will be off-boarded.

If a committee member displays behavior that makes them unfit to continue serving on the Code of Conduct committee, the committee should discuss their removal. One person should email all committee members privately to discuss the person’s conduct. If necessary, committee members will vote whether to remove the member. The vote must pass with a simple majority of all Code of Conduct committee members. If the vote passes, the committee chair will email the person to let them know they have been removed from the committee. Their access to committee resources should be revoked before the email is sent.

When a committee member is resigning or being removed, they should have access to the following resources revoked:

  • Committee mailing lists or google groups
  • Aliases they use to send email
  • Private slack channels for the committee members
  • All documents for reports
  • The spreadsheet for report statuses
  • Event registration data

License and attribution

The Elastic Incident Response Plan is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. It was updated by Sage Sharp of Otter Tech. Our Incident Response Plan was inspired by and borrows content from plans by other open source projects and events, including:

Additional resources

  • http://jessenoller.com/blog/2012/12/7/the-code-of-conduct
  • From Elastic{ON} '15:
    • Our committee will follow up on your report by taking notes about the violation, making note of your contact details and letting you know what steps we intend to take to follow up. You will be notified about follow up steps in the process if you wish for these updates, but we respect your wishes if you are most comfortable making the report but not being involved in the follow up.