Policy Number: 183

Equal Opportunity, Discrimination and Harassment

Subject:

Equal employment opportunity, equal educational opportunity, discrimination and harassment

Scope:

All members of the university community, including employees, students, residents, fellows and other trainees, volunteers, vendors, consultants, observers, and visitors as well as to applicants for employment or admission.

Date Reviewed: July 2009

Responsible Office: Human Resources; Office of Institutional Compliance

Responsible Executive: Vice President and Chief Human Resources officer; Assistant Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer

I.     POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston ("university") endeavors to foster an educational and working environment that provides equal opportunity to all members of the university community. The university expressly prohibits discrimination and/or harassment by any member of the university community on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or veteran status. No person shall be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity sponsored or conducted by the university or any of its component entities on any basis prohibited by applicable law or university policy.

To help achieve an environment free from prohibited discrimination and harassment, the university provides any individual who believes he or she has been subjected to discrimination or harassment a complaint process to address his or her concerns.

Individuals who engage in conduct that violates this policy are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination and/or dismissal.

II.     DEFINITIONS

A. Discrimination

Discrimination, including harassment, is defined as conduct directed at a specific individual or a group of individuals that subjects the individual or group to treatment that materially and adversely affects their employment or education or their participation in or receipt of the benefits of any university program or activity because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or veteran status.

B. Harassment

Harassment, as a form of discrimination, is defined as unwanted conduct directed at an individual or group because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or veteran status when such conduct is severe and pervasive, and materially interferes with an individual's or group's academic or work performance or creates a hostile environment. Constitutionally protected expression is not considered harassment under this policy.

C. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

D. Veteran

Veteran is defined as:

III.     PROCEDURE

A. Equal Employment Opportunity

The university's equal employment opportunity policy applies to all employment decisions, including those affecting hiring, promotion, demotion or transfer; recruitment; advertisement of vacancies; layoff and termination; compensation and benefits; performance appraisals and selection for training. Moreover, it extends to the maintenance of affirmative action programs for minorities, women, disabled persons and veterans, as required by law. A full description of the university's affirmative action programs is available to any employee or applicant for employment for inspection upon request and may be obtained from Human Resources - Equal Opportunity ("HR-EO").

All advertising copy generated by the university for recruitment purposes will include the following statement: "The UTHSC-H is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer: Minority/Female/Disabled/Veteran."

B. Veteran's Employment Preference

An individual who qualifies for a veteran's employment preference under Texas law will be accorded a preference for employment over other applicants for the same position who do not have greater qualifications.

Individuals entitled to a veteran's employment preference under Texas law grieving a decision of the university, related to hiring or to retention of the individual in a workforce reduction, must file the grievance with the President through HR-EO. The President will respond to the grievance within 15 business days of receipt.

C. Reporting Discrimination and/or Harassment

Any member of the university community who gains knowledge of an act of discrimination and/or harassment must report the incident immediately to HR-EO or to the Office Institutional Compliance ("Compliance").

D . Title IX Grievance Procedure

This complaint procedure shall also constitute the grievance procedure for complaints alleging unlawful sex discrimination required under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  As used herein, “complaint” is synonymous with “grievance.”

E. Bringing a Complaint

Individuals experiencing problems are encouraged to attempt to resolve them informally before exercising the formal processes described in this policy. Individuals should discuss the concerns openly with the individual with whom the problem exists and/or consult with their direct supervisors.

If resolution is not achieved by discussing the concern openly with the individual with whom the problem exists and/or his/her direct supervisor, an individual who believes he or she has been subject to discrimination and/or harassment as defined above should report the matter to the appropriate university office. This report should be made as soon as possible after the conduct giving rise to the complaint, but no later than 30 calendar days after the event occurred.

The appropriate university offices where complaints may be made are the applicable student affairs offices for reports regarding students or made by students, the Office of Graduate Medical Education in the Medical School for reports regarding medical residents or made by medical residents, the School of Dentistry's Office of Student Affairs for reports regarding School of Dentistry residents or made by School of Dentistry residents, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs for reports regarding fellows and other trainees or made by fellows or other trainees, and HR-EO or Compliance for reports regarding employees or made by employees.

Discussions between the reporting individual and the appropriate university official will be handled with sensitivity and discretion. The appropriate university official will inquire into all reports brought to his or her attention.

All meetings with a reporting individual must be documented by the appropriate university official.

During the initial consultation with the appropriate university official or within 30 calendar days after the incident giving rise to the complaint, the complainant shall provide a written, factual summary of his/her complaint to the appropriate university official.

The appropriate university official will inform the person against whom the complaint has been brought ("respondent") of the allegation, will provide him or her with a written summary of the complaint within ten calendar days of receipt of the signed written summary from the complainant, and will proceed as set forth below.

F. Resolving a Complaint

When a complaint is submitted, the appropriate university official will promptly discuss the matter with the parties and will initiate whatever steps he or she deems appropriate to effect an informal resolution of the complaint acceptable to both parties and to the university within 15 calendar days of the receipt of the complaint. If an informal resolution is reached, it will be documented in writing, approved by the applicable Dean or administrative equivalent, signed by the complainant and respondent, and filed with HR-EO.

If an informal resolution satisfactory to the parties is not reached within 15 calendar days after an incident is reported, the complainant will be referred to HR-EO to file a formal complaint.

Within five calendar days of receipt of a formal complaint, HR-EO will either dismiss the complaint or will begin an investigation of the complaint. A complaint may be dismissed if the facts alleged in the complaint, even if taken as true, do not constitute discrimination or harassment; the complaint fails to allege any facts that suggest discrimination or harassment occurred; or the appropriate resolution or remedy has already been achieved, or has been offered and rejected.

If a complaint is dismissed, HR-EO will notify the complainant in writing explaining the reason and informing the complainant that within 14 calendar days of the notification, he or she may appeal the decision to dismiss the complaint to the Executive Vice President, Chief Operating and Financial Officer ("EVPCOFO") or designee. The written appeal must explain why the decision to dismiss the complaint was in error. The EVPCOFO will respond within 14 calendar days of receipt of the appeal, and the EVPCOFO's decision is final. If the decision to dismiss is overturned, the complaint will be returned to HR-EO for investigation.

The complainant and respondent may present to HR-EO any document or information believed to be relevant to the complaint.

Any person believed to have information relevant to the complaint may be interviewed. Such interviews will be appropriately documented. University community members have an affirmative duty to participate in such investigations.

The investigation will be concluded in as timely a manner as possible. In investigations exceeding 30 calendar days, a justification for the delay will be presented to and reviewed by the Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer ("VPCHRO"). The complainant, respondent and appropriate supervisor will be provided an update on the progress of the investigation after the review by the VPCHRO.

Upon completion of the investigation, HR-EO will issue a written report to the appropriate administrative authority where the respondent is organizationally located, i.e., the Dean or administrative equivalent. The report shall include a summary of the investigation and the facts discovered during the investigation.

Within 14 calendar days of receiving the report, the appropriate administrative authority will a) request further investigation into the complaint; b) dismiss the complaint if the results of the completed investigation are inconclusive or there is insufficient reasonable, credible evidence to support the allegation(s); or c) issue a determination that a violation of this policy occurred.

If the appropriate administrative authority determines this policy was violated, he or she will take action appropriate to the severity of the conduct. Actions can include, but are not limited to, counseling, written reprimand, reassignment, suspension, termination or dismissal.

The appropriate administrative official shall inform the complainant and respondent in writing of his or her decision.

Disciplinary action against university community members will be implemented in accordance with applicable policies and procedures.

G. Retaliation

University employees and students who retaliate in any way against an individual who has brought a request for an informal resolution or a complaint pursuant to this policy or against an individual who has participated in an investigation of a complaint (whether informal or formal) are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination or dismissal. Refer to HOOP Policy 108 Protection from Retaliation.

H. Required Employee Training

Each employee shall receive training regarding the university's discrimination and retaliation policies not later than the 30th calendar day after the date the employee is hired and shall receive supplemental training every two years thereafter. All employees who complete training are required to verify their completion of the training.

I. Time Limits and Exceptions

Time limits may be extended for good cause by the VPCHRO.

Where time limits are indicated in this policy, "day one" will be the next calendar day. The failure of a complainant to process the complaint in a timely manner will constitute a withdrawal of the complaint.

J. Confidentiality Statement

Any member of the university community who in any way participates in proceedings regarding a complaint, response, investigation and/or disciplinary action may not disclose any information or documents related thereto unless required to do so by law.

K. False Statements

Any person who recklessly or knowingly and intentionally files a false complaint under this policy or makes false statements in the course of the investigation is subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination or dismissal.

L. Dissemination of Policy

This policy will be made available to all members of the university community. Periodic notices sent to students, residents, fellows and other trainees, and employees about this policy will include information about the complaint procedure and will refer individuals to the designated offices for additional information.

IV.     CONTACTS

ContactTelephoneEmail/Web Address
Human Resources 713-500-3130 http://www.uth.edu/hr/department/equal-opportunity/index.htm
Office of Institutional Compliance 713-500-3294 http://www.uthouston.edu/compliance/