Employee Complaint Resolution
The University of Washington encourages prompt resolution of complaints about the behavior of its employees, as referenced in UW Administrative Policy Statement (APS) 46.3. Employees may seek resolution assistance regarding behaviors that include but are not restricted to:
- Harassing, discriminatory or threatening behavior,
- Violation of University policy, or
- Mistreatment of members of the public.
Options for Resolving Complaints
Employees have several options for resolving complaints. These options include:
- Local Resolution
- The goal of local resolution is to address and resolve problems as quickly and directly as possible, and to stop any inappropriate behavior that may be taking place. Local resolution generally involves a discussion of the employee’s concerns with the supervisor, administrator, or a Human Resources Consultant (HRC). These are the people who may be closest to the issue and who are able to most quickly take any corrective measures that may be necessary. Local Resolution may include a fact-finding investigation, the results of which will be reviewed with the individual raising the concern.
- Office of the Ombudsman
- The University’s Ombudsman is a neutral third party, working within existing University policies and procedures to address and resolve disagreements informally. The goal is to achieve a fair and reasonable resolution of the complaint that is satisfactory to all parties involved. The person raising the complaint is actively involved in the process. The Ombudsman may facilitate mediation or conciliation between the parties.
The Office of the Ombudsman is available to all members of the University community for information, education, and a confidential consultation about a broad range of subjects. The Ombudsman will clarify the concerns of the person bringing a complaint and develop an action plan. No action will be taken by the Ombudsman's office without the explicit consent of the person seeking consultation.
When no resolution occurs, the Ombudsman will collaborate with the person raising the complaint to identify relevant referrals.
- University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO)
- UCIRO investigates complaints concerning the conduct of a University employee that is discriminatory or otherwise violates University policy. A UCIRO investigation may be requested by anyone having a complaint about the conduct of a University employee: staff, faculty, student, or member of the public. The administrative head of a University unit may request that UCIRO conduct an incident. UCIRO evaluates each complaint or investigation request to determine if an investigation is appropriate, and if not, what other action may be taken.
UCIRO conducts full, fair, factual investigations concerning the allegations of the complaint and, where possible, facilitates the resolution within 60 days of the complaint.
The UCIRO Investigation and Resolution Specialist acts as a neutral and objective fact-finder under the procedures outlined in the APS 46.3. The Specialist will interview the person making the complaint, the employee whose conduct is complained about, relevant witnesses, and other appropriate persons in order to determine the pertinent facts. When an investigation is completed, the Specialist provides a summary of the allegations investigated and the facts determined by the investigation to the person who made the complaint, the employee whose conduct was the subject of the complaint, and appropriate University administrative personnel. The Specialist may also initiate efforts to resolve the complaint prior to completion of the investigation.
Employees concerned about confidentiality should discuss their concerns early when exploring resolution options to understand the nature of the confidentiality that is available. Public records law may require the disclosure of certain written documents, and allegations of serious misconduct (such as theft or illegal discrimination, including sexual harassment) must be reported to the appropriate authority.
University policy prohibits retaliation against people who bring a complaint or who participate in the complaint investigation process. An employee who is found to have engaged in retaliatory conduct is subject to appropriate corrective action, including dismissal. All University employees are required to participate, provide information as requested, and otherwise fully cooperate with the complaint process.
Using work time to resolve a complaint
Under APS 46.3, an employee is entitled to use some work time to resolve a complaint. In order to be paid for time away from work, the employee must first obtain approval from their supervisor. In situations where an employee may not want to notify their supervisor of the concern or complaint, the employee may be able to arrange a meeting (with an HRC, the Ombudsman's Office, or UCIRO) using paid leave, or during a time outside the employee’s work schedule. Questions about using paid release time should be directed to a HRC.
APS 46.3 requires that all faculty and staff members report to their supervisors or the administrative heads of their organizations any complaints of discrimination they receive, and to otherwise fully cooperate with the processes that APS 46.3 describes. In addition, supervisors and administrators must report to the Office of the Ombudsman for Sexual Harassment any complaints of sexual harassment that they may receive.
Determining How to Pursue Your Complaint
Think about your goals for resolving your complaint:
- If you are comfortable discussing the complaint or concern with your supervisor, department administrator, and/or Human Resources Consultant, report your complaint to one of these individuals and explain what action you would like to see taken.
- If you are interested in a process which emphasizes mediation or conciliation, explore your concerns with the Ombudsman. Mediation or conciliation involves meeting with the person whose conduct is in question and attempting to resolve the complaint or concern with assistance from the Ombudsman.
- Contact UCIRO if you think you want a complete investigation by a neutral third party.
If your complaint involves misuse of University resources including fraud or other financial irregularity, contact the Department of Internal Audit. See also APS 47.1 on “whistle-blowing.”
If you have a concern about University assets or protection of vital records that takes place after normal business hours, contact the University Police.