University of Washington Policy Directory

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*Formerly part of the University Handbook
Administrative Policy Statement

Resolution of Complaints Against University Employees

(Approved by the Provost and Executive Vice President by authority of Executive Order No. 4, the Senior Vice President for Finance and Facilities by authority of Executive Order No. 5, the Vice President for Human Resources by authority of Executive Order No. 9, and the University Ombud by authority of Executive Order No. 18)

1.  Overview

In the course of their education, employment, or use of University services, individuals may have complaints about the behavior of University employees, including complaints alleging that the behavior of University employees may have violated the University’s non-discrimination and non-retaliation policies (Executive Order No. 31). This policy statement describes the processes the University will follow in responding to such complaints, referred to here as "complaints against employees."

It is against University policy to penalize or retaliate against any party for his or her participation in these complaint processes.  Employees will be given reasonable release time from their regular work schedules to participate in these processes, following notification of appropriate administrative personnel.

Note: This policy statement does not address, and the expression "complaints against employees" does not encompass, complaints for which other specific administrative or contractual procedures exist, such as collective bargaining contract grievances, the professional staff complaint process, or whistleblower complaints (APS 47.1). Further, this policy statement does not affect the following:

  • Classified non-union employee rights to appeal alleged rule violations to the Washington State Department of Personnel (DOP). However, concerns regarding the interpretation or application of DOP rules may be addressed through the local investigation and resolution option of this policy statement and, if not resolved, are considered withdrawn.

  • Faculty members' rights under the "Administrative and Conciliatory Proceedings for the Resolution of Differences" and "Adjudicative Proceedings for the Resolution of Differences" (Faculty Code, Chapters 27 and 28 respectively).

  • Student conduct, except in those cases where the behavior is related to their status as employees. All other complaints about the conduct of students should be made to the Office of the Vice President and Vice Provost for Student Life.

  • Patients' or family members' rights to report any concerns about care and safety, or to register a complaint, with any member of the medical staff, with the manager or staff at the point of care of service, or with Patient Relations. The University may obtain the assistance of the University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO) when such complaints allege discrimination.

2.  Internal Complaint Processes

Complaints against University employees may be addressed using the following internal processes:

  • Local investigation and resolution;
  • University Ombud Services; or
  • University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO).

No one process is required before another may be utilized; however, the University encourages resolution of complaints at the lowest local level. Typically, these internal processes are not undertaken simultaneously.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations in order to participate in these complaint processes should contact the Disability Services Office.

a.   Local Investigation and Resolution

All individuals are encouraged to discuss complaints against University employees with the appropriate supervisor or, if the supervisor is the source of the conflict, with the administrative head of the employing organization.

When the complaint concerns a staff employee, Human Resources Consultants are available to facilitate discussion and, when appropriate, to assist in implementing informal complaint resolution. Complaints may be concluded by mutual consent at this point. Human Resources Consultants are assigned to each department at the University.

b.   University Ombud Services

The Office of the University Ombud (hereafter referred to as "Ombud") is available to students, staff, faculty, and others who use University facilities.

In responding to complaints, the Ombud may use education, consultation, conciliation, or mediation in an effort to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of a dispute. Active participation is necessary for all relevant parties to the conflict. Often at this level, the conflict is resolved. If resolution does not occur at this level, appropriate referral options are identified and discussed. In addition, the Ombud may find that the dispute raises issues of concern to the University and may refer the matter to UCIRO. (For more information about the Ombud, see Executive Order No. 18.)

c.   UCIRO Investigation and Resolution

When an individual with concerns contacts UCIRO (University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office), UCIRO will review the concerns to determine if the matter falls within UCIRO’s purview for investigation. UCIRO investigates complaints that a University employee has violated the University’s non-discrimination or non-retaliation policies. When concerns fall outside UCIRO’s purview for investigation, UCIRO will refer individuals to other available resources. A UCIRO investigation also may occur at the request of the administrative head of a University organization or in response to a complaint filed with a state or federal agency.

Matters which occurred more than 365 days prior to a request for investigation by an individual or, in the case of a state or federal agency complaint, outside the prescribed time periods, will not be accepted for a UCIRO investigation.

In conducting a UCIRO investigation, the investigator acts as a neutral, objective fact-finder, and typically will interview the individual submitting the complaint, the employee(s) whose behavior is the subject of the complaint, and other appropriate persons in order to determine the facts. UCIRO attempts to investigate and resolve allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation as quickly as possible. The time frame for completing an investigation will vary based on the circumstances and complexity of a matter and how quickly necessary information can be obtained. Whenever possible, investigations are completed within 60 working days. When warranted, resolution teams composed of appropriate staff may be convened to attempt to resolve the complaint. While resolution activities are underway, the UCIRO investigation is usually suspended. The investigator or resolution team may recommend appropriate corrective action to the administrative head of the organization.

If, during the course of the UCIRO investigation, the complaint is withdrawn or resolved, the UCIRO investigation will be terminated and the matter administratively closed. When a UCIRO investigation requested by an individual is completed, the investigator will provide the individual, the employee(s) whose behavior is the subject of the complaint, and the supervisor or administrative head of the organization with a summary of the allegations investigated and the facts determined. There is no internal appeal mechanism; individuals who are not satisfied with the results of the UCIRO investigation may contact state or federal agencies.

3.  Complaints Filed With State or Federal Agencies

Individuals have a right to file complaints alleging discrimination or retaliation with state or federal agencies within the agencies' prescribed time periods. State and federal agencies establish their own processes for responding to and processing these complaints. Filing a complaint with a state or federal agency can be done in lieu of or in addition to the University’s complaint processes.

4.  Responsibility to Report and Cooperate

University employees are encouraged to inform their supervisors or the administrative heads of their organizations and their Human Resources Consultant of inappropriate or discriminatory workplace behavior. All University employees are required to report to their supervisors or the administrative heads of their organizations any complaints of discrimination they receive and to participate, provide information as requested, including personnel or student files and records and other materials recorded in any form, and otherwise fully cooperate with the processes described in this policy statement.

All complaints of sexual harassment must be reported by the supervisor or administrator to the Office of the University Ombud.

University employees who fail to report complaints received or to cooperate fully with these complaint processes are subject to disciplinary action by their supervisors or the administrative heads of their organizations. If a supervisor or the administrative head of an organization disciplines a University employee as a result of information obtained in the course of these processes, the employee may appeal such disciplinary action through the mechanisms appropriate to his or her employment status.

5.  Additional Information

For additional information, contact the following:

  Academic Human Resources

  Disability Services
  • Phone: 206-543-6460 (voice); 206-543-6452 (TTY)
  • Campus mail: Box 354560
  • Email:

  •   Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action

      Human Resources  
      Secretary of the Faculty

  • Location: 4311 11th Avenue NE, Suite 630, Seattle
  • Phone: 206-616-2028
  • Campus mail: Box 354996
  • Email:

  •   University Ombud  
  • Location: 339 HUB
  • Phone: 206-543-6028
  • Campus mail: Box 352238
  • May 1, 2002; April 4, 2011; RC, February 27, 2013.