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FAQs - Legal Issues

What are the University of Missouri rules concerning discrimination? Are they the same for faculty, staff, and students?

The University of Missouri has a straightforward policy concerning discrimination. Essentially the policy states that equal opportunity shall be provided for all employees, students, and applicants on the basis of their demonstrated ability and competence without discrimination on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or status as a Vietnam era veteran.

For more information about discrimination and the University prohibitions see section 320.010 of the Collected Rules and Regulations.

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What procedures are available to those who feel the University's commitment to creating a positive work and learning environment have been violated?

With respect to violations of the policy, faculty, staff and students can utilize the standard grievance procedures approved by the Board of Curators, each of which is referenced below in the Collected Rules and Regulations of the University of Missouri.

For information about the staff grievance process see the Collected Rules and Regulations Section 380.010.

For information about the faculty or academic grievance process see the Collected Rules and Regulations Section 370.010.

For information about filing student grievances see Section 390.010 of the Collected Rules and Regulations.

 

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A staff member in my department wants to file a grievance. I have heard the grievance procedures are essentially the same for faculty, staff, and students. Is that true?

No, actually there are separate University grievance procedures for faculty, staff and students. Each requires that the employee or student carefully follow the steps in the process and work through the proper channels

Faculty:

The administration of the University of Missouri recognizes the importance of providing a prompt and efficient procedure to resolve grievances with the University without fear of prejudice or reprisal. However, to the extent possible, all grievances should be settled through informal discussions at the lowest administrative level.

There are essentially three bases for academic grievances. These include:

  1. There has been a violation, misinterpretation, or arbitrary or discriminatory application of a University policy that applies personally to the faculty member in relation to privileges, responsibilities, or the conditions of employment as a faculty member, or
  2. The faculty member has been discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, status as a Vietnam era veteran, or by action inconsistent with the Board of Curators' Policy on Maintaining a Positive Work and Learning Environment, or
  3. There has been an infringement on the academic freedom of the faculty member.

 

For faculty members desiring to file a grievance challenging the non renewal of a tenure track appointment, the bases for filing a grievance are different. After first exhausting all appeals concerning the non renewal decision, the faculty member may file a grievance so long as he or she can claim one of the following:

  • That the decision resulted from inadequate consideration
  • That the decision was based on a violation of academic freedom
  • That the decision was based on a violation of governing policies on equal employment opportunity.

See section 310.020 F.3 for more specific details

Faculty members have 180 calendar days from the alleged grievance act or decision to file a formal grievance. Filing a formal grievance does not preclude the possibility of reaching a mutually agreed upon resolution prior to the formal hearing.

For faculty the procedure is outlined in the University of Missouri Collected Rules and Regulations Section 370.010.

Staff:

The University recognizes the right of employees to express their grievances and to seek a solution concerning disagreements arising from working relationships, working conditions, employment practices or differences of interpretation of policy which might arise between the University and its employees.

The time period for staff members to file a grievance is 10 "working days" after the alleged action or decision except when filing a grievance based on discrimination and then the time period is 180 calendar days.

For more information about staff grievance procedures see the University Human Resource Manual section 502.

For staff members the procedures are outlined in the University of Missouri Collected Rules and Regulations Section 380.010.

Students:

The University of Missouri provides equal opportunity for all enrolled students and applicants on the basis of merit without discrimination on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, Vietnam era veteran status, or an action inconsistent with the Board of Curators Policy on Maintaining a Positive Work and Learning Environment.

As a result, all University of Missouri prospective or enrolled students have a grievance procedure available to them for resolving complaints and/or grievances regarding alleged discrimination. Students must file within 180 calendar days and can only file a grievance for discrimination.

For students the procedures are covered in the University of Missouri Collected Rules and Regulations Section 390.010.

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A faculty member in my department is accused of sexual harassment. What am I obligated to do to protect the rights of the professor as well as the person making the charge?

First, you must report all claims of sexual harassment to your designated campus representative (refer to list of campus contacts). The institution has the obligation to investigate all claims of sexual harassment in order to protect other students and staff as well as the person who is being accused.

This means that even if a student or staff member does not want the matter to go beyond your office, the issue must still be investigated to protect all parties. Consequently, when you speak to someone making an allegation he or she should understand from the beginning that you can not guarantee confidentiality and that the charge must be investigated.

Second, sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination and is covered under University Policy, state, and federal laws. As such it must be viewed as a serious charge and handled thoughtfully and carefully. Further, the University Rules on sexual harassment may vary from the federal and state laws and University of Missouri employees are expected to abide by the University policies and federal and state laws. Lastly, the University has a five year limit from the date of occurrence to file a charge that may lead to discipline.

There are two separate paths by which a claim of sexual harassment may be addressed. One is that the University must investigate the claim that may result in some disciplinary action if the claim is substantiated. The other is a grievance procedure undertaken by the accuser where he or she may seek relief.

There are two common forms of sexual harassment:

  • One form of sexual harassment involves a "quid pro quo" act where some reward or the threat of adverse reaction is offered by a person in a position of power or authority in exchange for sexual favors.
  • Another form of harassment is where the conversations or actions of employees or students create a "hostile environment." This occurs when:
    • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used explicitly or implicitly as a condition for academic or employment decisions; or
    • The purpose or effect of such conduct is to interfere unreasonably with the work or academic performance of the person being harassed; or
    • The purpose or effect of such conduct to a reasonable person is, to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

 

After the investigation, a number of options exist for the University including taking no additional actions, holding discussions with the parties involved to clarify misunderstandings or reduce conditions that might foster hostile climates, a formal letter of reprimand, and disciplinary actions against the accused.

Any time within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination the accuser may also file a formal grievance against the accused.

Each campus has its own processes, but for the most part they require that a campus official review the allegations, gather information about the allegations and make a report of the findings. Contact the appropriate person on your campus for specific procedures (see list of campus contacts).

One important issue for all involved to understand is that no retaliatory action can be taken against the accuser, regardless of the findings of the investigation. Federal and state laws, as well as University policy, prohibit retaliation against anyone who assists with the investigation or resolution of a sexual harassment accusation.

More information about the University's policies on sexual harassment can be found in the University of Missouri Collected Rules and Regulations Section 330.060.

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What protection does the University provide to its employees for actions taken in the normal course of their jobs?

In general, the University of Missouri will provide defense and protection from personal liability for employees who are named as defendants in non criminal lawsuits or proceedings for acts within the scope of their employment. To obtain these services the employee must submit a request for defense and protection to the President.

The request should include:

  • A brief description of the circumstances surrounding the incident that gave rise to the legal action;
  • Documentation to verify that the employee was acting within the scope of his or her official duties at the time of the incident; and
  • A copy of the summons or petition served on the named individual.

The President will then determine if the employee was acting in good faith and within the scope of his/her authority and if defense is legally permissible by the University. No protection will be provided if a court determines that the action arose out of malfeasance in office or a willful or wanton act of neglect of duty.

Assuming the President decides the employee is entitled to defense, it shall be provided by the insurer, by the University General Counsel or by an outside counsel appointed by the General Counsel.

For more information consult section 490.010 of the Collected Rules and Regulations.

In addition to the policy on defense and protection above, some University employees may have additional protection under the University of Missouri Medical, Professional, and Patient General Liability Self-insurance Plan. For more details about the coverage consult the Collected Rules and Regulations
http://www.umsystem.edu/ums/rules/collected_rules/benefit/ch490/490.020_medical_professional_and_patient_general_liability.

There are special defense and protection policies applicable to University employees involved in health care or engaged in or responsible for the handling of hazardous or radioactive materials. Those special policies also provide defense and protection for non criminal lawsuits and proceedings and limited defense related to criminal investigations.

Information regarding applicability of the special policies related to health care.

Specific information regarding applicability of the special policies related to hazardous waste.

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Reviewed 2011-05-26.