The Catholic University of America

Procedures

Filing a Discrimination Complaint

Pre-Complaint Resolution Strategies

Individuals are encouraged first to being their concerns to the person allegedly responsible for the behavior or action. In many cases, self-corrective measures may be taken when those persons alleged to have committed inappropriate conduct become aware of how their actions or behaviors are being recieved. The matter may be concluded by mutual consent at this point. However, the University recognizes that such a strategy may be inappropriate or ill advised, especially when the conduct is severe or when the person responsible for the alleged behavior holds a position of authority. Thus, if satisfactory resolution does not occur, the individual should file a complaint of discrimination with the Office of Equal Opportunity. (OEO).

Purpose and Jurisdiction of the Discrimination Complaint Procedure

The process for filing complaints is restricted to complaints of discrimination as outlined in the federal anti-discrimination statutes, the state and local laws against discrimination, and the University anti-discrimination policies and regulations. This complaint process is internal to the University and applies to incidents that take place at the University and its affiliated off-site locations and/or activities, or are related to University operations. Individuals who may utilize this complaint process are limited to individuals applying for enrollment or employment to the University; students; regular and research faculty; visiting faculty; teaching or research assistants; research associates; employee, administrators; and users of University services.

The aggrieved party is referred to as the complainant, while the person alleged to have engaged in discriminatory conduct is referred to as the respondent. An aggrieved party does not have to utilize the internal process. He/she has the right to proceed directly to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC) to file a complaint of discrimination. However, it is encouraged that students, staff, and faculty will utilize the internal complaint process provided by the Office of Equal Opportunity.

Responsibilities for Implementation

The President delegates to the Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity overall responsibility for assuring University compliance with anti-discrimination laws and statutes, investigation internal complaints of discrimination, and maintaining an effective and impartial complaint investigation process. In addition, the President has the authority to appoint an alternate investigator at his/her discretion when circumstances require.

Confidentiality

Complainants, respondents, witnesses and any other parties involved in a complaint of discrimination shall refrain from disclosing information about a complaint of discrimination to anyone who does not have a legitimate, business need or right to know. Violations of this clause of confidentiality are inappropriate and unprofessional and may result in disciplinary action.

Timelines

The date upon which a written complaint is recieved by the Office of Equal Opportunity shall be referred to as Date of complaint. The Office of Equal Opportunity will make every reasonable attempt to adhere to the time limits as set forth in these procedures. However, circumstances may necessitate that an extension of time be granted for investigations. Therefore, the Director of Equal Opportunity may extend the time limits set forth in these procedures.

Complaint Procedure

Discrimination complaints shall be filed with the Office of Equal Opportunity. The Office of Equal Opportunity will process a formal complaint of discrimination (OEO Complaint Form) in which the complainant must sign in order for the investigation to commence. The information on the OEO Complaint Form will identify the complainant, identify the respondent(s), describe the alleged discriminatory conduct, the date of the alleged incident(s) and authorize the Office of Equal Opportunity to proceed with an investigation into the matter.

Jurisdiction Decision: After the initial intake interview with the complainant, the Office of Equal Opportunity will determine whether or not the allegations fall within the purview of the Office of Equal Opportunity. If the allegations do not fall within the purview of the Office of Equal Opportunity's jurisdiction, the complainant will be notified in writing within fifteen (15) calendar days of the interview. The Office of Equal Opportunity will provide recommendations for other options to address the issue(s). No appeal may be made internally of this determination. If the allegations fall within the purview of the Office of Equal Opportunity, the Director of Equal Opportunity will interview the complainant to initiate filing a formal complaint, to discuss the investigatory process, and to obtain any additional information pertinent to the allegations. To initiate a formal investigation into the alleged incident(s) of discrimination, the complainant shall notify the Office of Equal Opportunity within thirty (30) calendar days after the alleged discriminatory conduct has occurred. This notification can be made in person at Leahy Hall - Room 291, by phone at (202) 319-6594, or in writing addressed to the Director of Equal Opportunity.

Preliminary Assessment of Allegations: Upon filing a formal complaint with the Office of Equal Opportunity, the Director of Equal Opportunity may conduct and initial fact-finding inquiry to determine whether the allegations warrant an investigation. The complainant will be notified in writing if the Director of Equal Opportunity determines that the allegations do not warrant an investigation. No appeal may be made internally of this determination.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: The complainant may authorize the Office of Equal Opportunity to utilize Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques, such as mediation, at any time prior to filing a complaint or during the investigatory stage of the complaint process. These ADR attempts will focus on resolving the dispute through mediation, managing the conflict, and empowering the parties to devise a settlement agreement.

The Investigative Process

Subsequent to complainant formally filing a written complaint of discrimination, the Director of Equal Opportunity shall notify the appropriate management officials of the complaint of discrimination within a timely manner. (NOTIFICATION OF COMPLAINT OF DISCRIMINATION MEMORANDUM).

Also, subsequent to complainant formally filing a written complaint, the Director of Equal Opportunity will schedule an interview with the Respondent to discuss the allegations, provide a copy of the EEO Complaint Process procedures, and discuss the complaint process in general. When the occasion necessitates, the Director of Equal Opportunity may collect relevant documents and information, and establish a deadline for the receipt of the aforementioned.
The Director of Equal Opportunity will also interview any relevant witnesses to the allegations and may request documentation from the various departments and offices at the University.

After the investigation has been completed, the Director of Equal Opportunity will render a decision as to the probability of whether discrimination has or has not occurred. The Director of Equal Opportunity will issue the following written documents within ninety (90) calendar days of the initial complaint filing date and subsequent to the investigation: (1) DETERMINATION MEMORANDUM; (2) LETTER OF DETERMINATION TO COMPLAINANT; (3) LETTER OF DETERMINATION TO RESPONDENT; AND (4) THE OFFICIAL REPORT OF INVESTIGATION [1] .

The decision of the Office of Equal Opportunity will be final within The Catholic University of America. However, if the complainant disagrees with the decision of the Office of Equal Opportunity, he/she may file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the DC Office of Human Rights, or the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

Determination of Disciplinary Action

Students: If the respondent is a student, the Dean of Students will determine and administer the appropriate disciplinary action.

Staff: If the respondent is a staff member, the Director of Equal Opportunity will recommend appropriate disciplinary action to the appropriate supervisor and Director of Human Resources.
Faculty: If the respondent is a faculty member, and his/her conduct warrants discipline that is less severe than discharge, suspension, or reassignment in lieu of suspension, the Director of Equal Opportunity will recommend sanctions to the Provost or the faculty member's Dean. In cases where the faculty member's conduct warrants discharge, suspension, or reassignment in lieu of suspension, the Director of Equal Opportunity may recommend to the President that termination proceedings be initiated. If the President accepts the recommendation, the matter will proceed in accordance with Part II, Article 24 (Dismissal for Cause) of the Faculty Handbook. Faculty members may appeal the disciplinary action to the Faculty Grievance Committee.

Complaint Initiated by Administration

The President, Vice Presidents, Deans, Directors, Supervisors, or Chairs may request to the Director of Equal Opportunity that an investigation into allegations of discrimination be conducted, if there is sufficient evidence to render such a request. The administrator requesting the investigation will act as the complainant and must specify the person(s) responsible for exhibiting the alleged discriminatory conduct. The Director of Equal Opportunity will use the same notification and procedural guidelines outlined in the discrimination complaint process.

Records Management

The Office of Equal Opportunity shall maintain all records for complaints filed pursuant to these procedures, including the complaint, the respondent's statement, witness statements, Reports of Investigation, and any other evidence gathered during the course of the investigation. The records shall be maintained in the Office of Equal Employment or in archived files for at least five (5) years.

Filing a False Complaint of Discrimination; Falsifying Evidence; or Retaliating against Participants in the EEO Complaint Process

It is the responsibility of all students, faculty, and staff to act in accordance with the University's Equal Opportunity policy. As such, participants are expected to be truthful in all of their statements to the Office of Equal Employment and provide legitimate and authentic evidence, when requested to do so. Similarly, retaliating against participants in the complaint process is prohibited and charges may be brought against the person alleged to have retaliated. The above-mentioned acts are considered to be serious misconduct issues and could result in severe disciplinary action.

Alternative Complaint Resolution Procedures

  1. Initiation of ADR Efforts: ADR efforts may be initiated by the party within thirty (30) calendar days of the disputed decision or action or anytime during an active administrative complaint process. A student, faculty, or staff member who is a party to a dispute or disagreement may initiate ADR efforts by contacting the Director of Equal Opportunity or his/her designee and by filing a Request to Utilize ADR Techniques Form. The Director of Equal Opportunity may recommend ADR efforts where the dispute appears to be amenable to the ADR process. If the student, faculty, or staff member requests coaching or intervention/empowerment techniques, the matter will also be referred to the Director of Equal Opportunity or his/her designee.
  2. Mediation Conference: If the student, faculty, or staff member requests mediation, the Director of Equal Opportunity or his/her designee shall determine whether the dispute is eligible for mediation. If the dispute can be mediated and the opposing party agrees to participate in the mediation, the Director of Equal Opportunity or his/her designee shall make every effort to schedule a mediation conference in a timely manner. Prior to the scheduling of a mediation conference, the disputing parties shall sign an Agreement to Mediate in good faith and to keep the mediation communications confidential. The Director of Equal Opportunity shall select a neutral mediator. In order to preserve the non-adversarial nature of the mediation process, the parties shall attend the mediation conferences without lawyers or representatives. All mediation conferences shall be informal and evidentiary rules of evidence and procedure shall not apply. The parties shall not call witnesses or testify under oath. The mediator shall establish the ground rules before the mediation conference commences and encourage frank dialogue, without interruption between the disputants.
  3. Suspension of EEO Complaint Process: If the parties agree to mediate an issue or dispute that is or could be the subject of an EEO complaint, the time frames of the EEO complaint process shall be suspended until the mediation process ends or a resolution is reached. If the mediation ends and a settlement agreement or resolution is not reached, the parties may proceed with the EEO complaint process. The mediator shall issue a Termination of Mediation Conference Letter that terminates the mediation process and advises the parties of their rights to proceed under the EEO complaint process. All communications and actions by the parties or the mediator during the mediation conference shall remain confidential and shall not be disclosed by either party during the EEO complaint process.
  4. Settlement Agreement: If a settlement agreement is reached during or after a mediation conference, the Settlement Agreement shall be reduced to writing, signed by both parties, and shall be binding upon all parties to the settlement agreement. If a supervisor, manager, employee, or faculty member who is a mediation participant does not have settlement authority, he or she shall obtain in writing settlement authority (Authority Settlement Letter) prior to entering the settlement agreement and shall provide copies to the mediator.
  5. Withdrawal of EEO Complaint: If the parties settle or resolve a dispute through mediation or any of the other ADR techniques that is the subject of an EEO complaint process, the complaint shall be administratively withdrawn and the Office of Equal Opportunity will officially close complaint.

Internal: The complainant must use the Office of Equal Opportunity's complaint process in order to file a formal complaint of discrimination unless another procedure is specifically required or permitted by a union contract. Should the complainant elect to use any other internal grievance procedure, s/he may not use the procedure operated by the Office for the same complaint.

External: Any person who believes that s/he has been discriminated against may contact one of the following agencies listed below for advice, assistance, and explanation of filing dates:
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

DC Human Rights Commission

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
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[1] This document will not be distributed to the complainant, the respondent, or respondent's supervisor. It will remain in the Office of Equal Employment's Official File. Only those individuals with a legitimate business need to know, including legal process, will be permitted to review this document.

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Policy taken from The Catholic University of America Staff Manual.

Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint

Students

Any CUA student who suspects that she or he has been sexually harassed by another student, a faculty member or a staff member should report the incident to the Dean of Students or to the Equal Opportunity Officer. The Equal Opportunity Officer will consult with the Dean of Students, conduct an investigation and, at the conclusion of the investigation, will take one of the following courses of action:

  1. If a preliminary investigation reveals that there is insufficient evidence to support the allegation of sexual harassment, the complaint will be dismissed.
  2. If the Equal Opportunity Officer determines that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the allegations of sexual harassment probably have merit, but the behavior is not serious enough to warrant suspension, discharge or dismissal, the Equal Opportunity Officer will consult with the complainant about informal methods of resolving the complaint, including discussing the allegations with the alleged harasser. If the complainant does not wish to participate in an informal resolution or if an attempt at informal resolution is not successful, the Equal Opportunity Officer may proceed without the complainant to attempt a resolution to eliminate the sexual harassment and ensure that the behavior does not recur.
  3. If the alleged harasser and the complainant are both students and the complainant wishes to file a peer harassment complaint as a violation of the Student Code, the complaint will be handled by the Student Judiciary in accordance with the procedures described in the Student Handbook unless the Vice President of Student Life determines that the complaint should be handled administratively. In the case of administrative discipline, the respondent may use the appeal process described in the Student Handbook.
  4. If the respondent is a staff or faculty member, the Equal Opportunity Officer will conduct the investigation. The complaint will be handled in accordance with the procedures described in paragraphs 6.2.4.2 and 6.2.4.3

Staff

If a CUA staff member believes that she or he has been sexually harassed by a CUA staff member, faculty member or student, she or he should report the incident to the Equal Opportunity Officer. If a student is involved, the Equal Opportunity Officer will notify the Dean of Students. The Equal Opportunity Officer will normally take one of the following courses of action:

  1. If a preliminary investigation indicates that there is insufficient evidence to support the allegation of sexual harassment, the complaint will be dismissed.
  2. If preliminary information indicates that there is sufficient evidence to determine that the allegations of sexual harassment probably have merit, but the behavior is not serious enough to warrant discharge, the Equal Opportunity Officer will consult with the complainant about informal methods of resolving the complaint, including discussing the allegations with the alleged harasser. If the complainant does not wish to participate in an informal resolution or if an informal resolution is not successful, the Equal Opportunity Officer may proceed without the complainant to attempt a resolution to eliminate the sexual harassment and ensure that the behavior does not recur. The respondent may appeal the decision in accordance with the grievance procedures defined in the Staff Handbook (if the respondent is a staff employee) and in the Faculty Handbook (if the respondent is a faculty member).
  3. If the preliminary information reveals evidence which indicates that the allegations of sexual harassment probably have merit and are so serious as to warrant terminating the respondent's employment if the allegations are determined to be accurate, the Equal Opportunity Officer will conduct a complete investigation.
    1. If the respondent is a student, the Dean of Students will determine and administer the appropriate disciplinary action.
    2. If the respondent is a staff member, the Equal Opportunity Officer will recommend appropriate disciplinary action to the department head.
    3. If the respondent is a faculty member, and his or her behavior warrants discipline less severe than discharge, suspension or reassignment in lieu of suspension, the Equal Opportunity Officer will recommend sanctions to the faculty member's dean or to the Provost.

Faculty

If a faculty member believes that she or he has been sexually harassed by a CUA faculty member, staff member or student, the alleged harassment should be reported to the Equal Opportunity Officer. If a student is involved, the Equal Opportunity Officer will inform the Dean of Students. The Equal Opportunity Officer will normally take one of the following courses of action:

  1. If a preliminary investigation indicates that there is insufficient evidence to support the allegation of sexual harassment, the complaint will be dismissed.
  2. If the preliminary information indicates that there is sufficient evidence to determine that the allegations of sexual harassment probably have merit, the Equal Opportunity Officer will consult with the complainant about informal methods of resolving the complaint, including the option of discussing the allegations with the alleged harasser. If the complainant does not wish to participate in an informal resolution or if an informal resolution is not successful, the Equal Opportunity Officer may proceed without the complainant to attempt a resolution to eliminate the sexual harassment and ensure that the behavior does not recur.
  3. If the preliminary investigation reveals evidence which indicates that the allegations probably have merit and are so serious as to warrant formal disciplinary action including possible discharge, the Equal Opportunity Officer proceed as follows:
    1. If the respondent is a student, the Dean of Students will determine and administer the appropriate disciplinary action.
    2. If the respondent is a staff member, the Equal Opportunity Officer will recommend appropriate disciplinary action to the department head.
    3. If the respondent is a faculty member, and his or her behavior warrants discipline less severe than discharge, suspension or reassignment in lieu of suspension, the Equal Opportunity Officer will recommend sanctions to the faculty member's dean or to the Provost.

In cases where the faculty member's behavior warrants discharge, suspension, or reassignment in lieu of suspension, the Equal Opportunity Officer may recommend to the President that termination proceedings be initiated. If the President accepts the recommendation, the matter will proceed in accordance with Part II, Article 24 (Dismissal for Cause) of the Faculty Handbook. Faculty members may appeal the disciplinary action to the Faculty Grievance Committee.

See also Sexual Harassment Policy.

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Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedure

Interviewing Guidelines

  1. Be consistent with the questions asked of each applicant. Do not ask questions about marital status, age, race, physical or mental disability, or family responsibilities. Do not ask questions of individuals with a disability that you do not ask of all applicants.
  2. Ask only questions relevant to the job that is open. You may ask about education, knowledge, skills, abilities and minimum experience needed as specified in the vacancy announcement.
  3. Go over necessary qualifications for and essential functions of the job and ask the applicant if he or she can perform the essential functions of the job. If applicant indicates that he/she will need accommodation, it is permissible to ask what type of accommodation will be needed.
  4. Review CUA's drug-free workplace policy with the applicant however do not ask questions about possible drug use.
  5. Review CUA's leave and attendance policies with the applicant, but do not ask how much sick leave the applicant used at prior jobs.
  6. Conduct the interview in a private location that is free of distractions for both you and the applicant.

Questions to Avoid

  1. Do not ask if an individual has a disability or has been disabled even if the disability is apparent.
  2. Do not ask questions about marital status, age, physical or mental disability, race or family responsibilities
  3. Do not refer to, comment on, or inquire about the seriousness of an obvious disability.
  4. Avoid asking questions about possible disabilities an applicant may have, including, but not limited to, hearing loss, vision impairment, mental condition, drug addiction or alcoholism.
  5. Do not inquire about past Workers' Compensation benefits an applicant may have received.
  6. Do not inquire if a member of the applicant's family or a friend has a disability.

General Counsel Webpage

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Hiring a New Employee; Equal Opportunity Considerations

  1. Managers and supervisors must prepare position descriptions for jobs within their units. Job descriptions include essential functions or tasks, the environment in which such activities occur, and any physical demands of the job such as lifting, climbing, etc. Such documentation may be developed with the assistance of the Director of Human Resources or the Equal Opportunity Officer and must be reviewed periodically.
  2. Essential job functions are duties or responsibilities that are an integral part of the position and which the employee in the job must be able to perform. For a duty to be an essential duty, it is not necessary that it be performed frequently if it is a critical part of the job.
  3. Each position must be advertised on campus for at least five working days before it may be filled on a regular basis. No one may be employed in a temporary, acting, or reduced-time capacity with a view to transfer to regular status without advertisement of the position.
  4. Any advertisement for a position should include the statement "The Catholic University of America is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer."
  5. In considering an individual with a disability for employment, promotion or any other personnel action, the disability should not adversely affect the employment decision. Employment opportunities will not be denied to anyone because of the need for a reasonable accommodation.
  6. It is appropriate to determine an applicant's ability to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. In some cases, an employee may be asked to provide medical verification of the need for a reasonable accommodation. Before requesting such verification, consult the Equal Opportunity Officer or the General Counsel.
  7. Assure the applicant or employee that the University will make every attempt to provide a reasonable accommodation. Consult the Equal Opportunity Officer or General Counsel for guidance on determining an appropriate accommodation.

For more information on hiring procedures please consult the Human Resources Page.

For clarification on matters regarding religion and employemnt please consult the General Counsel Page.

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Performing Reference Checks

Reference checks should be conducted using the same focus for gathering information as prescribed for interviews, i.e., the demonstrated ability of the applicant to do the job. Do not ask questions of a reference or former employer that you cannot ask of an applicant.