A Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is useful to define accepted and acceptable behaviors and to promote high standards of professional practice. The goals of this code are to:

This is an unofficial proposal. Refer to Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for the operational version.


W3C is a growing and global community where participants choose to work together, and it is committed to maintaining a positive working environment, where each participant feels appreciated and respected and where everyone adheres to the same high level of standards of personal behavior. In that process we experience differences in language, location, nationality, and experience. In such a diverse environment, misunderstandings and disagreements happen, which in most cases can be resolved informally.

A Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is useful to define accepted and acceptable behaviors and to promote high standards of professional practice. The goal of this code of conduct is to ensure transparency in moderation of the working group and to ensure that the working group is an environment where everyone can participate without fear of harassment.It also provides a benchmark for self evaluation and acts as a vehicle for better identity of the organization.

This code (CEPC), complemented by a set of Procedures, applies to any member of the W3C community – staff, members, invited experts, participants in W3C meetings, W3C teleconferences, W3C mailing lists, W3C conference or W3C functions, etc. Note that this code complements rather than replaces legal rights and obligations pertaining to any particular situation.

Education and training materials are available from the Positive Work Environment public homepage.

Statement of Intent

W3C is committed to maintain a positive work environment. This commitment calls for a workplace where participants at all levels behave according to the rules of the following code. A foundational concept of this code is that we all share responsibility for our work environment.


Unacceptable behaviour

Including "unnacceptable behavior is new to CEPC. While we agree on the intent of this section, discussions about specific language, extent, specificity, and placement are still underway.

Some behaviors run counter to the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. This list of unacceptable behaviors does not cover every case. Each person you interact with is unique, and behavior must be assessed on an individual level. Ensuring that your behavior does not have a negative impact is your responsibility. W3C strictly prohibits discrimination, intimidation, harassment, and bullying of any kind and on any basis.

The enforcers of this Code should prioritise the safety of individuals within marginalised communities over the comfort of others, and reserve the rights not to take further actions on complaints regarding:

Expected Behavior


If you are concerned about your immediate safety, contact local law enforcement. For a face to face event you may need to contact venue staff for assistance contacting them.

You may also contact a W3C ombud who will assist you: ombuds@w3.org.

If you have an issue with someone’s behaviour along the lines of this Code then please raise it, there are a few potential people you could raise it to depending on your situation and your safety.

You are welcome to raise issues directly with the Ombuds who will assist you. All complaints will be taken seriously and will receive a response.

If it is applicable, You may instead choose to raise issues with a chair of the group. A group chair will have more context so may be better able to assist you. If they do not feel able to assist you, they should help you raise the issue with an Ombuds person. You may also ask for them to help you raise it to an Ombuds person immediately if you do not feel comfortable contacting the Ombuds directly.

If you are responsible for a community within the W3C such as a chair of a working group and you witness harassment or any other behaviour which goes against this code you are encouraged to raise issues directly with an Ombuds person who can assist you.

You can read more in the PWETF Procedures document.

If you've done something improper

As we engage in diverse communities we may accidentally cause offense, whether through using unknowingly offensive terminology or through missing social cues.

If you realise (or are told) that you have offended someone then take the appropriate steps:

  1. Acknowledge that you've done something improper
  2. Briefly apologize. Don't try to explain yourself or minimise the issue.
  3. If possible, edit your message, restate your communication in a better way or withdraw your statement. Publicly revising your statement helps define the culture for others.

Alice: “Yeah I used X and it was really crazy!” Eve: “Hey, could you not use that word? What about ‘ridiculous’ instead?” Alice: “oh sorry, sure.” -> edits old message to say “Yeah I used X and it was really confusing!”

This will allow conversation to quickly continue without any need of further action or escalating the situation.

If you don't understand what you did wrong, assume the the hurt party has good cause and accept it. We cannot know everyone's background and should do our best to avoid harm. You are welcome to discuss it with a W3C ombudsperson later.


This glossary has not been edited. A later draft will include an updated glossary.
Demeaning behavior
is acting in a way that reduces another person's dignity, sense of self-worth or respect within the community.
is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on criteria such as: physical appearance, race, ethnic origin, genetic differences, national or social origin, name, religion, gender, sexual orientation, family or health situation, pregnancy, disability, age, education, wealth, domicile, political view, morals, employment, or union activity.
Insulting behavior
is treating another person with scorn or disrespect.
is a record of the origin(s) and author(s) of a contribution.
is any conduct, verbal or physical, that has the intent or effect of interfering with an individual, or that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
Leadership position
includes group Team contacts, group Chairs, W3C management, and Advisory Board members.
includes the following persons:
  • W3C Team (employees, contractors, fellows)
  • W3C group participants (members and invited experts)
  • Advisory Committee Representatives (and their guests)
  • W3C Offices staff
  • Anyone from the Public partaking in the W3C work environment (e.g. comment on our specs or email us, attend our conferences, functions, etc)
is the genuine consideration you have for someone (if only because of their status as participant in W3C, like yourself), and that you show by treating them in a polite and kind way.
Sexual harassment
includes visual displays of degrading sexual images, sexually suggestive conduct, offensive remarks of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors, unwelcome physical contact, and sexual assault.
Unwelcome behavior
Hard to define? Some questions to ask yourself are:
  • how would I feel if I were in the position of the recipient?
  • would my spouse, parent, child, sibling or friend like to be treated this way?
  • would I like an account of my behavior published in the organization's newsletter?
  • could my behavior offend or hurt other members of the work group?
  • could someone misinterpret my behavior as intentionally harmful or harassing?
  • would I treat my boss or a person I admire at work like that ?

Summary: if you are unsure whether something might be welcome or unwelcome, don't do it.

Unwelcome sexual advance
includes requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, where:
  • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment,
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual,
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating hostile or offensive working environment.
Workplace Bullying
is a tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggressive or unreasonable behavior (e.g. verbal or written abuse, offensive conduct or any interference which undermines or impedes work) against a co-worker or any professional relations.
Work Environment
is the set of all available means of collaboration, including, but not limited to messages to mailing lists, private correspondence, Web pages, chat channels, phone and video teleconferences, and any kind of face-to-face meetings or discussions.

Feedback & Status