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ECRC Grievance Resolution Procedure

The Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC) designed the ECRC Grievance Resolution Procedure to provide support to individuals who report discrimination and to ensure a fair process for individuals who are Respondents of discriminatory conduct. The procedure describes the University's efforts to conduct timely, thorough, and fair investigation 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. The office strives to ensure a fair and respectful process in every part of the investigation.

This procedure applies to all aspects of Ohio University’s operations and programs, including regional campuses. It applies to all students, employees, volunteers, and agents of Ohio University. It 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 unlawful 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, 03.003, 03.004, and 03.006.)

I. Definitions

Inquiry : A request from a member of the University community for information about the University’s discrimination or harassment policies or the procedures for resolving a situation that involves discrimination or anonymous notification that discrimination may have occurred. An inquiry may also refer to a request for advice from a supervisor or third party who is charged with maintaining a harassment-free environment.

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.

Investigation : A fact finding examination conducted by ECRC that attempts to determine whether behavior in violation of university policies which prohibit discriminatory conduct occurred, and to make recommendations for resolution of the discriminatory conditions.

Complainant : An individual or individuals who allege that they have been subjected to discriminatory practices and/or who allege that they have been impacted by discriminatory conduct.

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.

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II. 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, 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.

a) Privacy Statement

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.

b) 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 may be limited if information contained in the report cannot be verified by independent facts.

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III. Procedure for an Inquiry

A Complainant may initiate an inquiry by contacting ECRC through the online complaint form [http://www.ohio.edu/equity-civil-rights/complaint.cfm], or by phone at (740) 593-9140. An ECRC staff member will respond 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.

A staff member will take notes during the interview to ensure that there is an accurate depiction of the situation. The Complainant should inform the ECRC staff member if they know of any witnesses that will help corroborate their account. Emails, letters, pictures, or web postings can be important corroborating information, so the Complainant should provide such documentation to ECRC.

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IV. Procedure for Informal Resolution

Ohio University encourages informal resolution options when the parties desire to resolve the situation cooperatively, or 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. Informal resolution may include an inquiry into the facts, but typically does not rise to the level of an investigation.

Informal resolution includes options such as referral to another campus office or program, mediation, separation of the parties when feasible, referral of the parties to counseling programs, or conducting targeted educational and training programs. Both parties will be informed when ECRC initiates informal resolution, and ECRC will document all steps taken by the office to help achieve a resolution. Situations that are resolved through informal resolution are subject to follow-up after a period of time to assure that resolution has been implemented effectively.

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V. 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; and where the Complainant does not wish to engage in informal resolution, where informal resolution is not appropriate, or where attempts at informal resolution are unsuccessful. 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, ECRC may initiate an investigation after making a preliminary inquiry into the facts, and will inform the person(s) who were allegedly harmed by discrimination of the decision to initiate an investigation.

Investigations will incorporate the following standards:

1. 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.

2. The individual(s) conducting the investigation shall be familiar with the policy prohibiting discrimination and have training and/or experience in conducting investigations.

3. The Respondent shall be given a copy of the written complaint or otherwise informed of the substance of the allegations. If the Respondent cannot be located, attempts at notification shall be documented.

4. ECRC will notify the Respondent’s supervisor of the allegations of discrimination, provided the supervisor is not an alleged perpetrator.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. At any time during the investigation, the investigator may recommend that interim protections or remedies for the complainant or witnesses be provided by appropriate university officials. These protections or remedies may include separating the parties, placing limitations on contact between the parties, placing the Respondent on administrative leave or reassignment, or making alternative workplace or student housing arrangements. Failure to comply with the terms of interim protections may be considered a separate violation of the applicable policy prohibiting discrimination.

8. The investigation shall be completed as promptly as possible and in most cases within 90 days of the date the written complaint was received. In the event that an investigation cannot be completed within 90 days, the parties shall be notified in writing.

9. An investigation will result in a written report 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 or harassing behavior, there are three possible findings:

a. Substantiated:

It is more likely than not that the allegation is true, based on the evidence reviewed.

b. Unsubstantiated:

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.

c. Unfounded:

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.

10. ECRC may make recommendations for resolution of the situation or to prevent further contact between the Complainant and the Respondent. These recommendations are directed to individuals who have authority to make decisions to ensure enforcement of the recommendations, such as an academic department chair, a residence life administrator, or a supervisor/manager. These recommendations could include educational programs, counseling/coaching, mediation, remedies for the Complainant, and a referral to disciplinary procedures, as appropriate.

11. When the investigation is completed, the Complainant and Respondent will receive a copy of the investigative report.

a. The Complainant shall be informed of the findings and of any actions taken or recommended to resolve the complaint that are directly related to the Complainant, such as a recommendation that the Respondent not contact the Complainant. The Complainant may be notified generally that the matter has been referred for disciplinary action, but will not be informed of the details of the recommended disciplinary action.

b. The Respondent shall be informed of the findings and actions taken or recommended to resolve the complaint and shall be notified of referrals and recommendations for disciplinary action.

12. Copies of the investigative report will be provided to those university administrators, academic leaders, and supervisors who are directly responsible for implementing measures to correct and prevent discriminatory or harassing conditions.

13. The report may be used as evidence in other related matters such as subsequent complaints, grievances and/or disciplinary actions.

14. University Human Resources (UHR) will generally consult with a supervisor after reading ECRC recommendations if the underlying issue involves employees of the University.

15. 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.

16. Regardless of the method of resolution or the outcome, the Complainant is at all times free to pursue a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the United States Department of Education (Office for Civil Rights), the United States Department of Labor (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs), or to consult with a labor/employment attorney at the Complainant’s own expense.

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VI. Retaliation Concerns

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).

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