Procedures for Resolving Grievances against Employees
Grievance Resolution Procedure for Resolving Complaints of Discrimination and Harassment, Including Sexual Misconduct
The Office of University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC) designed the ECRC Grievance Resolution Procedure to provide for the prompt, fair and equitable resolution of reports of alleged discriminatory conduct, including sexual misconduct, relationship violence, and stalking. The procedure, consistent with due process principles, describes the University's efforts to conduct timely, thorough, and fair investigations as required by law. ECRC is not an advocate for any party, but a neutral office that has been given the responsibility of investigating issues of discrimination.
This procedure applies to all aspects of Ohio University’s operations and programs, including regional campuses. It applies to all employees, volunteers, and agents of Ohio University, and it applies to all students making reports against employees, volunteers, and agents of Ohio University. When a student complaint involves the alleged conduct of another student, this procedure will not apply, but the complaint instead will be resolved in accordance with the processes found at the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility ( https://www.ohio.edu/communitystandards/about/ ). This ECRC procedure also applies to all visitors or guests on campus to the extent that there is an allegation of discrimination made by them against university students or employees.
For the purposes of this grievance procedure, the terms “discrimination” and “discriminatory conduct” refer to sexual misconduct and other forms of prohibited discrimination on the basis of protected status including discriminatory acts, harassment, and retaliation for bringing or participating in a complaint of discrimination or discriminatory conduct. (See relevant policies 40.001: Equal Employment and Educational Opportunity, 03.003: Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance, 03.004: Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, and Stalking, and 03.006: Whistle-blowing and Retaliation.)
Complaint : A description of facts that allege violation of the University's policies against discrimination or harassment. ECRC may request that a complaint be made in writing.
Complainant : An individual or individuals who allege that they have been subjected to discriminatory practices or an individual or individuals who are otherwise identified as having experienced discriminatory, harassing, or retaliatory conduct.
Consultation : A request from a member of the University community for information about the University’s discrimination/harassment/retaliation policies or the procedures for resolving a situation that involves discrimination/harassment/retaliation or a request for information from a supervisor or other university-affiliated individual who is charged with maintaining a harassment-free environment.
Inquiry : On receipt of information suggesting possible discrimination, harassment, or retaliation or a complaint of alleged discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, an ECRC investigator will conduct an inquiry to evaluate whether the alleged facts, if substantiated, would constitute a policy violation. If the ECRC investigator determines that the alleged facts, if substantiated would violate university policies prohibiting discrimination, then the ECRC investigator will initia investigation.
Investigation : A fact finding examination conducted by an ECRC investigator(s) to determine whether prohibited discriminatory conduct has occurred; and if discriminatory conduct is determined to have occurred, to make recommendations for appropriate remedial action to address the discriminatory conduct.
Preponderance of the Evidence : The standard of proof ECRC uses to determine whether prohibited discrimination has occurred. The preponderance of the evidence standard means that the facts and information are sufficient to support a conclusion that it is more likely than not a particular finding is true when weighed against the facts and information in opposition to such a finding.
Respondent : A member of the University community who allegedly discriminated against another person. Respondents may be individuals, groups, programs, academic or administrative units, or the institution. For the purposes of the investigation, the Respondent is the party who the complaint is brought against.
Witness : An individual who has information about the alleged discrimination that will tend to prove, disprove, or otherwise illuminate the investigation of a complaint.
REPORTS OF POTENTIAL DISCRIMINATION, HARASSMENT, AND/OR RETALIATION
Chairs, deans, department administrators, and supervisors have a duty to identify and report discriminatory behavior. Employees and persons with responsibility for supervising or ensuring safety of others (including student employees in the course of their employment duties) have a duty to report discriminatory conduct observed or reported to them. Chairs, Deans, department administrators and supervisors will cooperate with ECRC and its designees to resolve allegations of discrimination.
ECRC will notify the Respondent’s supervisor of allegations of discrimination when an investigation is initiated, provided the supervisor is not also accused of wrongdoing. Chairs, Deans, department administrators and other supervisors have a duty to monitor the Respondent's behavior and to take appropriate disciplinary action if he or she continues to violate university policy or procedure, including further acts of discrimination and/or acts of retaliation.
Reports of discrimination/harassment or discriminatory/harassing conduct, including retaliation, may be made to ECRC through the online complaint form [http://www.ohio.edu/equity-civil-rights/complaint.cfm], by phone at (740) 593-9140, or in person at ECRC’s office located in Lindley 006. An ECRC staff member will respond promptly to the report, typically within 48 hours, to set up an intake appointment.
Any behavior that makes a Complainant feel unsafe or uncomfortable is serious enough for initial contact with ECRC. If a third party contacts ECRC on behalf of a Complainant, the ECRC staff member will interview the third party, then the Complainant. When submitting a complaint or report, the individual making the report or complaint should inform ECRC they know of any witnesses or information (emails, letters, texts, pictures, etc.) that will help corroborate the information being reported.
ECRC attempts to balance the needs of the parties for privacy with the institutional responsibility of ensuring a safe educational environment and workplace. An individual's requests regarding the confidentiality of reports of discrimination must be considered in the dual contexts of the University's legal obligation to ensure a working and learning environment that is free from discrimination and the due process rights of the Respondent to be informed of the allegations and their source. Therefore, some level of disclosure is necessary to ensure a complete and fair investigation.
The University shall protect the privacy of individuals involved in a report of discrimination or sexual misconduct to the extent allowed by state and federal law and university policy. A report of discrimination may result in the gathering of extremely sensitive information about individuals in the University community. Therefore, in the course of an investigation, ECRC will only inform those individuals who must be involved to ensure a fair report and a fair process. Participants in the process are encouraged to keep the matter private. All participants in ECRC resolution processes should note that the University may be required to disclose personal information in accordance with Ohio Public Records law.
Third party and Anonymous Complaints
The University shall respond, to the greatest extent possible, to reports of discrimination or sexual misconduct brought anonymously or brought by third parties not directly impacted by the discrimination or sexual misconduct. However, the response to such reports, including any investigation, may be limited if information contained in the report cannot be verified by independent facts.
REQUEST FOR CONFIDENTIALITY (ANONYMITY)
Complainants may request that their name not be used as part of an investigation that the university may initiate. Referring parties may share that a complainant wishes to request confidentiality, but it will not be considered a formal request until made by the complainant to ECRC.
Complainants requesting confidentiality need to understand that if their request for confidentiality is granted, the University’s ability to meaningfully investigate the incident may be significantly impeded, and in most cases, because of due process requirements, the University’s ability to pursue disciplinary action against an alleged Respondent also would be significantly impeded. Additionally, confidentiality can also impact the interim measures the university is able to put in place. For example, a no-contact directive could not be issued if the complainant’s name cannot be shared.
Should a complainant wish to request confidentiality, that request will be reviewed by ECRC. The University will honor the Complainant’s request for confidentiality to the extent possible based on a careful balancing of the request with any legal reporting requirements, the risk of harm to any individual, and the University’s duty to maintain a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all. Some of the reasons a request for confidentiality may be denied include, but are not limited to the following:
- The reported use of force during the commission of an alleged violation of sexual misconduct, relationship violence, or stalking.
- The reported use of a weapon during the commission of an alleged violation of sexual misconduct, relationship violence, or stalking.
- Significant physical injury resulting from an alleged violation of sexual misconduct, relationship violence, or stalking.
- The involvement of multiple respondents in the commission of an alleged violation of sexual misconduct, relationship violence, or stalking.
- Prior allegations (substantiated or not) of sexual misconduct, relationship violence, or stalking made against the respondent.
ECRC will notify the complainant in writing regarding the decision on the request for confidentiality. In situations where confidentiality has been granted, if another report is made regarding the same alleged respondent, the request for confidentiality may be reconsidered in the interest of the safety of the campus community. In those instances, ECRC will attempt to contact the complainant to discuss the need to revoke confidentiality. If the complainant is unable to be reached or does not respond after two attempts, ECRC will notify the complainant in writing regarding the revocation of confidentiality before proceeding to use the complainant’s name. If no request for confidentiality is made, ECRC’s inquiry and investigation will proceed using the complainant’s name.
On receipt of information of possible discrimination/harassment or discriminatory or harassing conduct, including retaliation, an ECRC investigator will conduct an inquiry to evaluate the information to determine whether the facts, if substantiated, constitutes conduct prohibited under the policies for which ECRC has responsibility. An inquiry may involve gathering some information to clarify or understand the alleged facts, but typically an inquiry does not rise to the level of an investigation.
When inappropriate behavior does not rise to the level of violation of university policy as determined by ECRC, but nonetheless is adversely affecting the workplace or educational environment, ECRC may conclude that an educational conversation, training, or other intervention is merited. In such instances, ECRC will work with the appropriate individuals or entities within the university.
If information received by ECRC is determined not to rise to the level of a university policy violation, then ECRC will close the matter as a consultation.
PROCEDURE FOR A FORMAL INVESTIGATION
ECRC is the designated university unit to conduct formal investigation of allegations of discrimination, and to coordinate university response(s) to these complaints.
ECRC will conduct a formal investigation in response to good faith complaints of discrimination when the allegations, if true, would constitute a violation of the policies against discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. In such cases, the individual making the report shall be encouraged to file a written complaint.
In cases where ECRC has notice of alleged discrimination that comes to it by means other than a Complainant, ECRC may initiate an investigation after making a preliminary inquiry into the facts. In such instances, ECRC will inform the person(s) who were allegedly harmed by discrimination, harassment, or retaliation of the decision to initiate an investigation.
Investigations will incorporate the following standards:
- ECRC will evaluate the complaint to determine if the office has a duty to investigate. If ECRC is not the proper office to handle the complaint, the Complainant will be referred to the right office for assistance.
- The individual(s) conducting the investigation shall be familiar with the policy prohibiting discrimination and have training and/or experience in conducting investigations.
- The Respondent shall be given a copy of the written complaint or otherwise informed in writing of the substance of the allegations. If the Respondent cannot be located, attempts at notification shall be documented.
- ECRC will notify the Respondent’s supervisor of the allegations of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, provided the supervisor is not an alleged perpetrator.
- The investigation generally shall include, as appropriate, interviews with the Complainant and Respondent, interviews with witnesses, and a review of relevant documents. Witnesses should be able to describe incidents they have seen, heard or experienced to help the investigator understand the situation. Parties may be interviewed more than once, or may be contacted to clarify an earlier statement. In any meeting with ECRC, a party may be accompanied by a support person or attorney (at the party’s own expense) of their choosing. However, the support person cannot be a witness in the matter in question.
- ECRC will disclose facts to witnesses as reasonably necessary to conduct a fair and thorough investigation. Participants in an investigation shall be advised that maintaining privacy is essential to protect the integrity of the investigation and will be asked to refrain from discussing the pending investigation.
- At any time during an investigation, ECRC may ascertain that interim measures are necessary to prevent the continuation or recurrence of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, or to preserve the integrity of the investigation process. When ECRC ascertains that interim measures are necessary, the investigator may recommend that interim measures be provided by appropriate university officials. Interim measures may include, but are not limited to, separating the parties, placing limitations on contact between the parties, placing limitations on access to university facilities or property, placing the Respondent on administrative leave or reassignment, or making alternative workplace or student housing arrangements. Failure to comply with the terms of interim measures may be considered a separate violation of the applicable policy prohibiting discrimination.
- University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC) endeavors to complete an investigation as promptly as possible. In the event that an investigation cannot be completed within 90 days, the parties will be notified by ECRC in writing.
- On completion of an investigation, University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC) will deliver to the Complainant and Respondent a written report (Memorandum of Findings) that, at a minimum, includes a statement of the allegations and issues, a summary of the information considered, findings of fact, and a determination by the investigator as to whether university policy has been violated. For allegations of discrimination/harassment/retaliation, there are three possible findings:
It is more likely than not that the allegation is true, based on the evidence reviewed.
It is not possible to determine whether the allegation is true or untrue. There is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove that the allegation is true.
It is more likely than not that the allegation, while made in good faith, is untrue. A finding that the allegations are unfounded does not indicate that the complaint was improper or knowingly false.
- The ECRC report (Memorandum of Findings) may make recommendations to prevent, remedy, or address discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. These recommendations are directed to individuals who have authority to make decisions to ensure enforcement of the recommendations, such as the Provost, a Dean, an academic department chair, a residence life administrator, or applicable supervisor or manager. These recommendations could include educational programs, counseling, coaching, mediation, remedies for the Complainant, and a referral to disciplinary procedures, as appropriate.
- Copies of the investigative report (Memorandum of Findings) will be provided to those university administrators, academic leaders, and supervisors who are directly responsible for implementing measures to correct and prevent discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
- The report (Memorandum of Findings) may be used as evidence in other related matters such as subsequent complaints, grievances and/or disciplinary actions.
- University Human Resources (UHR) will generally consult with a supervisor after reading the ECRC report (Memorandum of Findings) and recommendations if the underlying issue involves employees of the University.
- The supervisor or UHR will contact ECRC within 30 days of the close of the complaint with a statement regarding the implementation of ECRC’s recommendations.
An individual who is subjected to retaliation (e.g., threats, intimidation, reprisals, or adverse employment or educational actions) because they (a) made a report of discrimination in good faith, (b) assisted someone with a report of discrimination, or (c) participated in any manner in an investigation or resolution of a report of discrimination, may make a report of retaliation under these procedures. ECRC will investigate and resolve allegations of retaliation that are connected to underlying civil rights claims (e.g. a claim of retaliation stemming from the Complainant’s involvement in a gender-based pay equity dispute). Other retaliation claims will be referred to the appropriate academic or administrative supervisor and to the University Office of Legal Affairs (See also Ohio University Policy 03.006 Whistleblowing and Retaliation).
FILING WITH EXTERNAL AGENCIES
Any person may file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or the United States Department of Labor (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Contact information for these agencies may be obtained from ECRC or found on the ECRC website.