Volume II: Campus Community

2.7 Guidelines for Resolving Discrimination Complaints

2.7 Guidelines for Resolving Discrimination Complaints

2.7.1 General

The College shall respond to complaints of discrimination, including sexual harassment, promptly, equitably, and in accordance with these guidelines. Complaints by students against employees and complaints by employees against other employees will be resolved using the formal and/or informal procedures of the Ithaca College Guidelines for Resolving Discrimination Complaints. When the individual accused of violating the policy is a student, complaints will be resolved in accordance with relevant provisions of the Ithaca College Student Conduct Code.

In extreme cases, when an employee's continued presence may seriously and adversely affect the functioning of the College or jeopardize the safety or welfare of any person, the employee may be suspended immediately. In such cases the president will send a letter notifying the employee of the employee's immediate suspension to the employee's home address by registered mail with restricted delivery. If the return receipt is not received within five days, the College will make additional efforts to notify the employee.

Complaints should be brought to the Office of Employee Relations within the Office of Human Resources as soon as possible following emergence of the problem, preferably no longer than one year after the most recent incident. Any delay in the reporting of a violation of College policy could hamper a successful investigation and resolution of the problem. Complaints received after more than one year will be pursued only at the discretion of the Director of Employee Relations.

Allegations of discrimination are extremely serious and involve highly sensitive issues. All parties involved in the resolution of a complaint are expected to treat information related to the allegations confidentially.

A demonstrated effort will be made to resolve allegations of discrimination within 90 days of such incidents (excluding campus holidays) being reported to the Office of Employee Relations.

Ithaca College encourages resolution of complaints through informal means when appropriate. Should informal means fail, or if the Director of Employee Relations determines that informal approaches would be inappropriate or ineffective, the complainant may request that the formal procedures be invoked.

Both formal and informal procedures are intended to provide an opportunity for the internal hearing of complaints and resolution of problems. The procedures are not legal proceedings, and do not preclude the affected parties from seeking satisfaction through legal means outside of the College. Parties may not bring legal counsel into either informal meetings or the formal hearings.

2.7.2 Informal Approaches to Problem Solving

Ithaca College encourages informal problem-solving approaches when appropriate in the resolution of discrimination complaints.

Informal approaches may include, but are not limited to, discussion of the problem with the alleged offender individually or with the applicable supervisor, mediation, and written communication from the complainant to the alleged offender. Informal resolution should be attempted only with assistance and guidance from the Director of Employee Relations.

The Director of Employee Relations shall prepare a summary memorandum to document the process. A copy of the memorandum shall be provided to the complainant and the alleged offender. A copy will also be retained in the files of the Office of Human Resources. The memorandum shall be kept separate from the employees' personnel files.

If informal attempts at resolving the problem are unsuccessful or deemed inappropriate by the Director of Employee Relations, the complainant may request resolution through the formal discrimination complaint procedures.

2.7.3 Formal Discrimination Complaint Procedures

2.7.3.1 General

The formal discrimination complaint procedures require a signed statement of complaint specifying the nature of the problem. The statement of complaint should be submitted to the Director of Employee Relations as soon as possible, preferably within one year of the most recent incident. Any delay in the reporting of a violation could seriously hamper a successful investigation and resolution of the problem. Complaints received after more than one year will be pursued only at the discretion of the Director of Employee Relations.

2.7.3.2 Reasonable Grounds Investigation

Following submission of the statement of complaint, the Director of Employee Relations will investigate to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that there has been a violation of the College's nondiscrimination policy. Before conducting an investigation, the Director of Employee Relations will provide the respondent with a copy of the statement of complaint, inform the respondent that the investigation is imminent, and explain College policies and procedures.

If the Director of Employee Relations determines that reasonable grounds do not exist, he or she will communicate that in writing to the complainant and respondent, and no further action will be taken by the Office of Employee Relations.

If the Director of Employee Relations determines that reasonable grounds do exist, he or she will communicate that finding in writing to the complainant and the respondent and determine whether a discrimination complaint review board will be convened.

2.7.3.3 Establishment of a Discrimination Complaint Review Board

Each academic year the Director of Employee Relations, in cooperation with staff council and the appropriate faculty representative group within each school, will select a pool of individuals to be available for appointment to a discrimination complaint review board.

Faculty members will be selected at the school level. Each school will send three names to the Office of Employee Relations, except for the School of Humanities and Sciences, which will send six names. Similarly, staff council will recruit and appoint 18 staff to the pool. Thus, the pool will consist of a total of 36 individuals. The pool should, to the extent possible, reflect the diversity of the Ithaca College workforce. It is the responsibility of the staff council chair, faculty committees, and the Director of Employee Relations to try to achieve this diversity.

The pool of appointees will receive training and information to be coordinated by the Office of Human Resources on sexual harassment, discrimination, and applicable College policies and procedures. Appointees must agree to receive appropriate training to be eligible for appointment to a review board. Appointees will serve three-year staggered terms.

Following a reasonable grounds finding and determination that a review board should be convened, the Director of Employee Relations will select six individuals from the pool for possible appointment to a review board. When the respondent is a faculty member, four of the six will be faculty members and the remaining two will be staff members; when the respondent is a staff member, four of the six will be staff members and the remaining two will be faculty members.

The complainant and respondent may review the list of six names. If either party believes that any of the individuals is not capable of performing their duties in a fair and impartial manner, the complainant or respondent may challenge that individual's appointment to the review board "for cause." The Director of Employee Relations will approve or deny the challenge, and the decision of the Director of Employee Relations is final.

2.7.3.4 The Hearing

The Director of Employee Relations will appoint three individuals from the list to the review board. When a staff member is a respondent, the review board shall be composed of two staff members and one faculty member. When a faculty member is the respondent, the board shall be composed of two faculty members and one staff member.

The charge to the review board is to conduct a fact-finding hearing and to determine, based on the preponderance of evidence, whether a violation of the College policy of nondiscrimination has occurred.

The Director of Employee Relations will establish a time and a place for the hearing. The hearing will occur no fewer than 5 business days and no more than 30 business days from the reasonable-grounds finding, unless the Director of Employee Relations deems that an earlier or later hearing is necessary.

In preparation for the hearing, the complainant and respondent may provide the Director of Employee Relations with the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses whom they wish to appear at the hearing, along with a brief explanation of why their testimony is necessary.

The Director of Employee Relations will convene the review board to explain action (if any) taken relative to the allegations to date. The Director of Employee Relations shall provide each member with a copy of the complaint, any statement of response from the respondent, summary memorandum of any informal action, and list of complainant's and respondent's witnesses.

Drawing from the complainant's and respondent's list, as well as any developed by the review board, the review board will decide which witnesses (if any) may attend the hearing. When possible, the Director of Employee Relations will contact and invite those witnesses to attend the hearing. Witnesses may, in the alternative, choose to submit written, signed statements to the review board. Because it is important that a reasonable effort be made to keep the allegations as confidential as possible, the board should exercise discretion in determining which witnesses are necessary to the investigation.

2.7.3.5 Rules for the Hearing

In addition to the review board members and the Director of Employee Relations, the following participants, as called by the review board, are the only individuals entitled to be present during the hearing: the complainant, the respondent, and witnesses. However, at the discretion of the Director of Employee Relations, each party may be permitted to be accompanied by another individual at the hearing. Such individual may not participate in or interfere with the proceedings, but may provide moral support for the parties affected.

Judgments regarding whether such an individual may accompany a party will be made by the Director of Employee Relations, whose decision is final. In keeping with these guidelines, parties may not bring legal counsel into hearings.

The review board will elect a member to chair the hearing and to speak on behalf of the board. The Director of Employee Relations will provide guidance during the hearing regarding procedures, the maintenance of order, and fairness.

The complainant and the respondent may offer testimony, introduce evidence, and respond to questions from the review board. All parties have the right to offer testimony without being in the presence of the complainant and/or respondent. However, the complainant and the respondent have the right to hear all testimony while it is being given. The Director of Employee Relations will ensure that equipment necessary for this arrangement is provided.

Members of the review board may question the complainant, the respondent, the Director of Employee Relations, and the witnesses. When addressing the review board, parties have the right to respond to evidence presented by the opposing party and witnesses and to suggest to the review board questions that should be asked. Otherwise, parties may respond only to questions from the review board. If any party fails to appear at the hearing, the review board may proceed in their absence.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the review board will meet in closed session to determine, based on the preponderance of evidence, whether a violation of College policy has occurred. The review board's determination must be unanimous. Only the three review board members will be present for the closed session. The Director of Employee Relations will be available to the review board to answer any questions and provide guidance as needed. The review board will then report its finding to the Director of Employee Relations, who will discuss appropriate sanctions with the review board.

Within five business days of the hearing, the review board will report its findings, including recommended sanctions, if any, in writing to the complainant, respondent, Director of Employee Relations, and the executive officer overseeing the division in which the respondent is employed. The review board's decision regarding whether a violation of policy has occurred is binding on the executive officer.

The review board's recommendation for sanctions is not binding. Should the executive officer determine that the recommended sanctions are inappropriate, the executive officer will meet with the review board and explain the executive officer's determination of the final sanctions. The executive officer will then communicate the decision regarding the sanctions to the complainant and the respondent within five business days of the executive officer's meeting with the review board.

2.7.3.6 Final Review Process

If the complainant or respondent is not satisfied with the findings of the review board and/or the sanction(s) imposed by the executive officer, the complainant or respondent may seek final review by the President. The request for final review must be submitted to the President in writing within 10 business days of notification of the decision of the review board and/or executive officer and must fully demonstrate one or more of the following:

  1. that the hearing was inconsistent with established procedures; or
  2. that the sanction imposed was not appropriate; or
  3. that relevant evidence offered by the party was not reviewed by the review board; or
  4. that new evidence is now available and should be considered; or
  5. that the process itself was fundamentally unfair and resulted in an unfair outcome.

The President may dismiss the request for final review or order further action based on it, the President's decision is final.

Last Updated: January 14, 2014