Complaint Resolution

The following are commonly asked questions regarding the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure. Please click on the question to be directed to the relevant policy section.

  1. What is the university’s Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure and what purpose does it serve?
  2. To whom does the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure apply and under what circumstances would it be used?
  3. Where can I seek advice and assistance relating to this policy?
  4. What if I have concerns about retaliation?
  5. What are the steps of the complaint resolution process?
  6. What other information is important to know about the process?

 

I.      Policy
The university values open and constructive discourse and encourages staff members to make reasonable efforts to resolve complaints promptly, directly, and fairly, consistent with the university’s core values.

The purpose of the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure is to provide staff members with a mechanism for resolving complaints that allege a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of a university or departmental policy or procedure. While this Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure is provided as a mechanism for resolving such complaints, it does not alter in any way the employment-at-will relationship between the university and its at-will staff members.

 

II.    Eligibility and Scope
The Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure is available to regular full-time and part-time staff members who have completed the initial evaluation period.

Although most complaints are raised by one staff member, more than one staff member may work together to resolve a complaint that they share. A staff member may also name more than one person as respondents to his or her complaint.

Eligible staff members may use the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure to address complaints that arise out of the administration, interpretation, or application of a university or departmental policy or procedure. A “complaint” is defined as an allegation that there has been a violation, misinterpretation or misapplication of a university or departmental policy or procedure. For example, a staff member might use the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure to address his or her belief that a supervisor is not distributing overtime according to university policy. However, a staff member may not use the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure to appeal a supervisor's decision that overtime is required to meet departmental goals.

The university reserves the sole right to make management decisions regarding changes in employment, performance, pay and benefits, in accordance with applicable departmental and university policies, laws and regulations. In cases where staff members disagree with those management decisions or have differences of opinion about such decisions, the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure does not apply. However, in the event that a staff member believes or alleges that the policies underlying the management decision were violated, misinterpreted, or misapplied, the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure provides a process to address such concerns. Allegations concerning discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual misconduct are addressed using the university’s Campus Policy and Procedure Prohibiting Harassment and Sexual Misconduct.

The complaint resolution process may affirm corrective action already taken or result in corrective action being taken against a staff member as part of the resolution of a complaint. The Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure does not prevent the university from making employment decisions concerning a staff member or from taking corrective action unrelated to a complaint.

 

III.   Policy Advising
Staff members seeking information regarding the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure may consult with Human Resources for advice and assistance. If necessary, Human Resources will collaborate with the involved staff members’ supervisor(s) to authorize the staff member(s) to be absent from his or her duties for the purpose of participating in the complaint resolution process within reasonable limits in consideration of the facts and circumstances. Such time shall be considered regular work hours, without loss of pay or leave credits.

 

IV.  Retaliation Prohibited
A staff member may not be threatened, intimidated, or retaliated against for using the Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure or for assisting others to use the policy and procedures. Similarly, a staff member who is responding to a complaint may not be threatened, intimidated, or retaliated against because a complaint has been made about his or her action or inaction. Any such conduct by anyone participating in the complaint resolution process or against anyone participating in the complaint resolution process will itself constitute a violation of this policy and may subject the offender to corrective action.

No assumptions should be made and no conclusions should be drawn about a staff member involved in the complaint resolution process simply because a complaint has been raised. An intentionally false complaint will also constitute a violation of this policy and may subject the offender to corrective action. A complaint is not considered to be falsely reported merely because the evidence does not suffice to support a finding.

As noted above, the complaint resolution process may occur concurrent with the university’s making employment decisions concerning a staff member or taking corrective action unrelated to a complaint.

 

V.    Complaint Resolution Procedures
The following steps outline the complaint resolution processes and procedures. At any point in the complaint resolution process, a staff member is encouraged to consult with Human Resources for counsel and guidance.

 

Step 1:  Consultation with Human Resources and Direct Dialogue Meetings
The university encourages open and direct discussion as the first step in resolving a complaint by initiating a direct dialogue meeting between a staff member who raises a compliant and the other party or parties.

 

Step 1a: Consultation with Human Resources (Time Period: Within 30 calendar days of the incident resulting in a complaint)
To begin the complaint resolution process, a staff member should contact Human Resources, generally within 30 calendar days of the incident resulting in a complaint to schedule a conference to discuss his or her complaint and to help explore how a staff member might address and resolve the complaint directly with the other party or parties.

In advance of the conference with Human Resources, a staff member should be prepared to discuss his or her specific complaint, the specific university and/or departmental policy or procedure that may have been violated, misinterpreted or misapplied, what actions he or she has taken to resolve the complaint, and the desired resolution of the complaint. Human Resources may help the complainant identify whether this policy applies to the circumstances and will assist in developing a range of informal and formal options for resolution, taking into consideration any steps the complainant has already taken to resolve the complaint.

 

Step 1b: Direct Dialogue Meetings (Time Period: within seven calendar days following completion of consultation with Human Resources)
In instances when the consultation with Human Resources fully equips the staff member to initiate and participate in a direct dialogue regarding the concern, the complaint may be resolved and the process ends. In order to continue in the complaint resolution process under this policy, the staff member either participates in the direct dialogue meeting or proceeds to step 2.

 

Step 2:  Written Presentation of a Complaint (Time Period: Within seven calendar days of the completed consultation with Human Resources or the direct dialogue meeting)
If a staff member determines that a direct dialogue meeting is not appropriate, or in the event that the direct dialogue meeting does not resolve the complaint, then a staff member (the “complainant”) presents his or her complaint in writing to Human Resources. Human Resources presents the complaint to the other party/ies (the “respondent/s”) within seven calendar days of receiving the complaint.  Assistance is available upon request to help a staff member write the complaint. The complainant should describe the specific action(s) or inaction(s) which gave rise to the complaint, the specific policy or policies and/or procedures that may have been violated, misinterpreted or misapplied, and what actions have been taken to resolve the complaint. The complainant should also identify for the respondent what he or she believes to be an appropriate resolution for the complaint.

At the earliest possible opportunity and normally within two working days, Human Resources presents the complaint accompanied by a copy of this policy and procedure, advising the respondent of the next steps of the complaint and outlining the role of Human Resources in the process, including identifying the Human Resources staff member/s who will be assisting in guiding the completion of the complaint resolution process.

 

Step 3:  Written Response to a Complaint (Time Period: Within seven calendar days of receiving a written complaint)
The respondent should try to respond to a staff member's complaint in writing and deliver the response to Human Resources within seven calendar days of receiving a written complaint from the complainant. Human Resources is available upon request to help a respondent write a response to a complaint. At the earliest possible opportunity and normally within two working days, Human Resources delivers the response to the complainant.

At this stage, the complainant and the respondent are encouraged to resolve the complaint, either directly or with the assistance of a human resources representative.

If the complaint is not resolved by the persons directly involved through the exchange of written complaint and response, the complainant has seven calendar days from receiving a response to a complaint from Human Resources to proceed to step 4a or 4b. The complainant has the option to (4A) request a facilitated resolution meeting with the respondent, or (4B) request a three-person panel review (“panel”) of the complaint. The request would be made to Human Resources, who would notify the respondent of the request and either (A) describe the facilitated resolution meeting process and secure the respondent’s agreement to participate or (B) describe the panel process and initiate next steps, as applicable.

 

Step 4A:  Facilitated Resolution Meeting (Time Period: Within seven calendar days of the date when the complainant requested and the respondent agreed to a facilitated resolution meeting)
If the complainant chooses and the respondent agrees to a facilitated resolution meeting, Human Resources will try to schedule the meeting within seven calendar days of the date when the complainant requested and the respondent agreed to the meeting.

A facilitated resolution meeting offers parties an opportunity to resolve the complaint with the assistance of impartial facilitator(s).  The meeting includes uninterrupted time for each party to explain the situation as he or she sees it, building an agenda with the assistance of the facilitator, and negotiating a resolution to the complaint.  The facilitator assists with communication, assists in discerning facts, and facilitates negotiations while participants develop their own solutions to the complaint. 

If a facilitated resolution is reached by the parties, the facilitator will prepare a facilitated resolution memorandum outlining the agreed-upon resolution of the complaint to be signed by the complainant and the respondent.

Facilitator Selection
Human Resources will select the facilitator(s) from university staff members, faculty members, and/or from external professionals who have been trained in facilitation and/or complaint resolution.

Facilitator selection will be based on experience, subject matter knowledge, and availability among other factors. Facilitators agree to remain objective in facilitating the complaint resolution process. Facilitators do not make decisions for the parties involved and do not impose solutions. If either party to the complaint or Human Resources has concerns about the use of a specific facilitator, another facilitator will be selected.

 

Step 4B:  Panel Review of a Complaint (Time Period: Within seven calendar days of a facilitated resolution meeting or within seven calendar days of the respondent’s decision not to participate in a facilitated resolution meeting)
The complainant may request a three-person panel review of a complaint upon receipt of the written response from the respondent or at the conclusion of an unsuccessful facilitated resolution meeting. In these circumstances, the complainant must request that Human Resources initiate a panel review within seven calendar days. Additionally, if a respondent declines participation in a facilitated resolution meeting, the complaint generally proceeds to a panel review.

Human Resources convenes a three-person review panel that may consist of university staff members, faculty members who supervise staff members, and/or external professionals who have been trained in complaint resolution. The panel makes a recommendation to the vice president, who issues a finding. When the panel is designated, the complainant and the respondent are asked to identify panel members for whom serving on the panel might be perceived by the complainant or the respondent to have an actual or perceived conflict of interest. Designated panel members are appointed and changed at the university’s sole discretion. 

Human Resources provides the panel with a written complaint and response, the specific issue(s) to be addressed by the panel, and instructions about panel procedures and protocols. Human Resources will also provide information as needed to assist the panel and the vice president in developing recommendations and findings.

The panel will determine whether or not the complaint materials provide sufficient information to make a recommendation about the resolution of the complaint or whether a meeting with the complainant, respondent, and/or other individuals is needed to obtain additional or clarifying information. At any stage of the panel review, the panel may seek additional or clarifying information as needed from the complainant, respondent, and/or other individuals who may have information relevant to the complaint. If the panel determines that no additional information is needed, the panel will try to make its recommendation to the vice president within ten calendar days of receiving the complaint materials.

If the panel determines that a meeting with the complainant, respondent, and/or other individuals is needed, Human Resources will try to schedule a panel meeting within fourteen  calendar days after the complainant has made the request for a panel. After the meeting, the panel will present its recommendation as to how the complaint might best be addressed to the vice president. The panel will try to make its recommendation within seven calendar days of the panel meeting.

 

 

Step 5:  Vice Presidential Action on a Complaint (Time Period: Within seven calendar days of receiving the panel’s recommendation)
The recommendation of the panel will be reviewed by the area vice president if both the complainant and the respondent are staff members in the same vice presidential area. When the complainant and the respondent are not in the same vice presidential area, or when the area vice president is determined not to be appropriate (for example, due to availability, prior engagement of the issues being addressed in the complaint), Human Resources will select a vice president to review the panel's recommendation.

The vice president issues a finding to Human Resources within seven calendar days of receiving the panel's recommendation. Human Resources apprises the complainant, respondent, and panel as appropriate of the finding. The vice president’s finding is final and binding on the complainant and the respondent.

 

VI.  Other Considerations

Human Resources Role in the Complaint Resolution Process
The role of Human Resources in the complaint resolution process is to act as a process custodian by helping the parties foster an understanding of the complaint resolution policy and procedures, neutrally assisting the parties in navigating through the complaint resolution process, and monitoring the complaint resolution process timeframes. As process custodians in the complaint resolution process, Human Resources does not advise the parties about the outcome of a complaint, speak for the parties during the complaint resolution process,  or make decisions for the parties. It is not uncommon for Human Resources to consult with the complainant or respondent or both regarding the issues related to a complaint, prior to the complaint or during the complaint resolution process. It is expected that Human Resources staff will manage both the consulting and process custodian responsibilities consistent with the ethical standards of the human resources profession. If a party to a complaint believes that Human Resources’ service as process custodian presents a conflict, he or she should notify the Associate Vice President of Human Resources/CES to determine the appropriate alternatives based on the circumstances, which might include engaging other internal or external individuals who have been trained in complaint resolution as process custodians.

 

Support Persons Permitted
Both complainants and respondents have the opportunity to have a support person from among the university staff and faculty present throughout the complaint resolution process. If the complainant or respondent wish to have a support person present, they should seek advice and approval from Human Resources prior to inviting the support person into the complaint resolution process, in order to ensure that the desired support person will not present a conflict of interest or otherwise impede the complaint resolution process. Human Resources will provide the support person with information about filling this role and will collaborate with the support person’s supervisor to authorize the support person to be absent from his or her duties for the purpose of assisting staff members throughout the complaint resolution process within reasonable limits in consideration of the facts and circumstances. Such time shall be considered regular work hours, without loss of pay or leave credits.

The support person may not speak for the staff member. Although a staff member may engage his or her own legal counsel for advice regarding a complaint, legal counsel is not permitted to participate in the complaint resolution process.

 

Withdrawal of a Complaint
A staff member may withdraw his or her complaint at any time during the complaint resolution process. If a complaint is withdrawn, or if a staff member chooses not to proceed to the next step as described and within the timeframes outlined above, the staff member may not re-initiate the complaint resolution process for the same complaint or for a complaint arising out of the same situation, facts, or circumstances. However, the staff member may proceed to the next step if he or she believes that a direct dialogue or facilitated resolution meeting resulted in agreements that ultimately were not kept. A withdrawn complaint does not preclude the university from developing an institutional or departmental response or from taking action regarding a complaint in its sole discretion at any point once the complaint resolution process has started.

 

Panel Member Composition
All regular staff members and all regular faculty members who supervise staff members and external complaint resolution professionals are eligible to serve as panel members at the university’s discretion. Human Resources will select panel members based on the facts and circumstances of the complaint and the issues to be resolved.

 

Time Period and Policy Modifications
The university reserves the right to modify or revise stated time periods and the complaint resolution processes, policy, or procedures when, in its sole discretion, it deems such modifications or revisions appropriate. Such decisions will normally be made based on availability of parties or Human Resources staff (other factors), with the goal of timely resolution of complaints.

 

Confidentiality and Privacy
The complaint resolution process is confidential and private to the extent possible.

 

Revised: 1/2012