Complaint Procedures

Op1.02-2 Complaint Procedures

1.0 Policy and Principles

1.1 Non-discrimination Policy

Missouri State University is a community of people with respect for diversity. The University emphasizes the dignity and equality common to all persons and adheres to a strict non-discrimination policy regarding the treatment of individual faculty, staff, and students. In accord with federal law and applicable Missouri statutes, the University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin (including ancestry, or any other subcategory of national origin recognized by applicable law), religion, sex (including marital status, family status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other subcategory of sex recognized by applicable law), age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, or any other basis protected by applicable law in employment or in any program or activity offered or sponsored by the University. Sex discrimination encompasses sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence, and is strictly prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

This policy shall not be interpreted in a manner as to violate the legal rights of religious organizations or of military organizations associated with the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

The University maintains a grievance procedure incorporating due process available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against. Missouri State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action/Minority/Female/Veterans/Disability/Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity employer. Inquiries concerning the complaint/grievance procedure related to sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual assault, should be addressed to the Title IX Coordinator, Carrington Hall 205, 901 S. National Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65897, JillPatterson@missouristate.edu, 417-836-8506, or to the Office for Civil Rights. All other inquiries concerning the grievance procedure, Affirmative Action Plan, or compliance with federal and state laws and guidelines should be addressed to the Equal Opportunity Officer, Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, Park Central Office Building, Suite 111, Springfield, Missouri 65897, equity@missouristate.edu, 417-836-4252, or to the Office for Civil Rights. (Res. Board Policies No. 70-11; Bd. Min. 10-28-11.)

1.2 Declaration of University Community Principles

The community of scholars that is Missouri State University is committed to developing educated persons. It is believed that educated persons will accept responsibility to act in accordance with the following principles:

  • Practicing personal and academic integrity.
  • Being a full participant in the educational process, and respecting the right of all to contribute to the “Marketplace of Ideas.”
  • Treating all persons with civility, while understanding that tolerating an idea is not the same as supporting it.
  • Being a steward of the shared resources of the community of scholars.

 Choosing to accept these principles suggests that each participant of the community refrains from and discourages behavior that threatens the freedom and respect each member deserves.

2.0 General Information Regarding Complaints

All members of the University community, defined for purposes of this policy as students and employees, are free to seek relief from discrimination or harassment without fear of restraint, reprisal, interference, or coercion. No employee or student’s status with the University shall be adversely affected in any way because he or she utilizes these procedures. Any member of the University community who feels that he or she has been discriminated against or harassed may meet in consultation with the Equal Opportunity Officer. 

The following informal and formal complaint procedures are designed to ensure fairness and consistency in the University’s relations with its employees and students.  Nothing in these procedures shall be construed as abridging the right of an employee or student alleging discrimination to exercise constitutional or statutory rights, which may be available.

2.1 Application of Procedures

These procedures apply to complaints by members of the University community alleging that their rights under the University’s Non-discrimination Policy, the Prohibition of Discrimination and Harassment Policy, or the Affirmative Action Plan have been violated. These procedures are also applicable to complaints which may arise under Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments to Higher Education Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; Sections 503/504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; Section 402 of the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974; the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008; Executive Order 11246, as amended; and related federal and state laws and mandates.

Copies of the above-mentioned regulations are available in the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, Meyer Library, and at http://www.missouristate.edu/equity.

If members of the University community (e.g., faculty, staff or students) believe that their rights have been violated and wish further information, advice or assistance in filing a complaint, they should contact:

Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance
Missouri State University
901 S. National Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65897

417-836-4252
toll free:  877-967-8636
TTY:  417-836-6974

equity@missouristate.edu

For all complaints on the West Plains campus, the Equal Opportunity Officer and the Affirmative Action Liaison have shared responsibilities. If members of the University community on the West Plains campus (e.g. faculty, staff, or students) believe that their rights have been violated and wish further information, advice or assistance in filing a complaint, they may contact:

Institutional Equity and Compliance Liaison
Missouri State University - West Plains
Office of University/Community Programs
128 Garfield Street
West Plains, Missouri 65775
417-255-7966

2.2 Limitations

2.2.1    All complaints must be filed directly with the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance within one (1) calendar year of the occurrence of the alleged discriminatory act. While the following procedures are designed to affect a fair resolution of the complaint, the complainant should be aware that legal access to agencies outside the University must normally be initiated within the time period established by those agencies.  

2.2.2    All parties meeting with the Equal Opportunity Officer may be accompanied by an individual of his or her choice for support.  This support person may not act as an attorney, have a voice in the proceedings, or have any formal role other than to accompany and communicate with the party requesting support.  The employee or student may be required to sign a consent permitting the support person to have access to the employee or student confidential information.  The support person may not have access to confidential information regarding any other person. All parties meeting with the Equal Opportunity Officer are responsible for informing the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance in advance if he or she plans to bring a support person to his or her meeting, and the identity of the support person.

2.2.3    Any member of the Missouri State University community who has been subject to or witnessed discrimination (including harassment), on any basis not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees, is encouraged to report it immediately to their supervisor and/or the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance. (NOTE: Complaints of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, pregnancy, family status) should be filed with the University’s Office of Title IX.) One does not have to be the direct target of the discrimination or harassment to report it. The University is committed to handling complaints and reports of discrimination and harassment swiftly, fairly, and with sensitivity.

While the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance is formally charged with enforcing compliance with the Missouri State University Non-discrimination Policy, ensuring that the campuses are free of discrimination (including harassment), on any basis not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees, is a shared responsibility of all members of the University community. 

2.2.4    If discrimination, harassment, or retaliation is observed by or reported to a member of the University community:

  1. who has the authority to redress the discrimination or harassment;
  2. who has the duty to report to appropriate University officials discrimination and harassment;

the individual must either take appropriate action to resolve the matter or is required to report the case to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance within three (3) business days. If the individual takes action to resolve the matter, s/he must still report the incident and the resolution to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance. The fact that the alleged victim does not wish to file a complaint does not relieve the official of this responsibility. 

2.2.5    Cases involving discrimination against a group or class of individuals, reflecting a pattern and practice of discrimination, involving criminal violations or direct violations of federal or state mandates will be investigated and/or acted upon by the Equal Opportunity Officer whether or not there is an identified complainant.

2.2.6    Time limits listed herein apply except when availability of the parties involved necessitates an extension.

2.3 Prohibition of Retaliatory Actions

Complaints involving discrimination or harassment will be responded to promptly and equitably. The confidentiality of all members of the University community will be respected in each step of the complaint procedure, insofar as that is reasonably practicable.  In addition, retaliation against individuals for bringing complaints of discrimination or harassment or for participating in investigations is strictly prohibited. Similarly, retaliatory conduct against an individual simply because he or she has been accused of discrimination or harassment is strictly prohibited. An individual found to have engaged in harassment or discrimination or retaliation in violation of University policy will be subject to disciplinary action. Conversely, if a complaint is made in bad faith, then the complainant may be subject to disciplinary action.

Individuals who believe they have been retaliated against must follow the complaint procedures outlined herein, and such complaints will be processed in accordance with these procedures.

2.4 Confidentiality Provisions

Any member of the University community who in any way participates in proceedings regarding a complaint, response, investigation and/or disciplinary action shall keep all information and documents related thereto confidential.

Further, it is the policy of Missouri State University to protect the confidentiality of members of the community who may be involved in discrimination or harassment complaint procedures, insofar as that is reasonably practicable. Specifically, the identity of the individual making the complaint (complainant), the identity of the accused (respondent) and information relating to the complaint will be disseminated only to those individuals who have a legitimate need to know, or as reasonably necessary for the purpose of investigating or resolving the complaint. Any person who is the custodian of confidential information shall maintain a record of the dissemination and review of such information.

2.4.1. Waiver of Confidentiality
A complainant or a respondent may be deemed to have waived, directly or indirectly, the confidentiality provisions of the policy by voluntarily disclosing information about the complaint or the complaint proceedings to parties within or outside the University community who are not directly involved in the investigation or complaint process. For instance, if a complainant or a respondent makes any public statement regarding an investigation or complaint proceeding, the University shall have the right to disclose whatever information is reasonably required to address the statement.

3.0 Specific Complaint Procedures

3.1 Initial Consultation

Any employee or student is urged to communicate his or her complaint to the appropriate supervisor or department head, and each supervisor or department head should encourage such informal meetings.  Every effort should be made to resolve a complaint informally within the department.  Should, however, an employee or student feel that he or she is unable to discuss the complaint with the appropriate supervisor, then that employee or student should go to the major administrator of that unit, department, or division to discuss the issue. The employee or student may exercise his or her rights to resolve disputes with the assistance of the Equal Opportunity Officer.

Any employee or student of the University who feels that he or she has been discriminated against or harassed may meet in consultation with the Equal Opportunity Officer. The Equal Opportunity Officer will establish with the complainant a time and date for consultation.  In consultation, the Equal Opportunity Officer will discuss the individual’s concerns, review the complaint process, describe the available resolution options and provide the complainant a copy of the complaint procedures.

As a result of the initial consultation, the Equal Opportunity Officer will draw preliminary conclusions as to whether or not the subject matter is appropriate to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance.  The Equal Opportunity Officer may contact any other pertinent individuals who may have knowledge of or information relating to the matter.  If it is determined that the case should not be addressed by the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, the Equal Opportunity Officer will refer the complainant to the appropriate office or department.

The complainant will be asked to make a decision regarding confidentiality.  A request for confidentiality will be honored by the University, to the extent permitted by law and University policy. However, it must be understood that while some concerns or complaints can be resolved without disclosing the complainant’s identity, often successful resolution cannot be achieved under such circumstances. Further, individuals who are directly accused of unlawful and/or discriminatory behavior and who, as a result, may be subject to disciplinary action, are entitled to notice of the complaint and/or a summary of the charges against them.

If, during the initial consultation, the Equal Opportunity Officer determines that immediate action may be necessary to protect the rights or interests of the complainant, respondent or the University community, the Equal Opportunity Officer will conduct a preliminary inquiry to verify the need for immediate action and will advise the University General Counsel of the situation. Upon consultation with appropriate University officials, immediate action may be taken which may include temporary changes in duties and responsibilities, directives to complainant and respondent regarding personal contact, and warnings to the respondent.

3.2 Informal Resolution

This informal procedure is intended to affect a resolution of the matter by reconciling the parties’ differences and/or rectifying the alleged discriminatory action(s). If, after preliminary review of the matter, it is the judgment of the Equal Opportunity Officer that the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance should not address the case, the informal procedure shall be terminated and the Equal Opportunity Officer shall advise the complainant of other University offices and/or grievance procedures that may be applicable.

If the Equal Opportunity Officer finds the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance should address the complaint, the Equal Opportunity Officer will initiate the informal complaint procedure. The Equal Opportunity Officer may communicate directly with the respondent, specifically describing the behavior objected to without naming the complainant, if the complainant so desires. If this resolves the complaint, no other person will be contacted, although necessary supervisory and administrative personnel may be informed. The Equal Opportunity Officer may also meet with both parties, make inquiries to ascertain pertinent facts, and consult with other personnel to facilitate the process. If this option does not resolve the matter, all other options remain open to the complainant.

The Equal Opportunity Officer will make all reasonable attempts to resolve the matter within thirty (30) business days. The specific details of each case will determine the best possible means for achieving a satisfactory resolution. If attempts at informal resolution are not effective or the terms of the informal resolution are subsequently broken, the complainant may exercise the Formal Resolution Process.

3.3 Formal Resolution

The Formal Resolution procedures described below are established for those kinds of discrimination/harassment issues which remain unresolved after informal resolution has occurred, or in which the Equal Opportunity Officer determines the alleged behavior is egregious to such a degree that informal resolution is not likely to be successful. Formal resolution is available for all the same types of allegations as informal resolution.

3.3.1 Written Complaint
If the complaint has not been reduced to writing in the informal process, a written complaint signed by the complainant will be required for formal resolution.  The complaint must contain a detailed description of the conduct being complained about, the name of the alleged offender(s), the name of the victim(s), and the name of the person filing the complaint. Further, the complainant must confirm the veracity of the allegations. The Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance will provide assistance to anyone for whom completion of the written complaint is difficult or impractical.

3.3.2 Notification
Within ten (10) business days of the receipt of a signed complaint, the Equal Opportunity Officer will notify the respondent and the respondent’s major administrator of the complaint.  In providing notice to the parties, the Equal Opportunity Officer will provide a summary of the charges, identify the pertinent policies and procedures involved, and provide information regarding the investigative process and the rights and responsibilities of all parties.  Notice will be delivered in writing by hand or University email. The respondent will be provided an opportunity to make a formal statement in rebuttal.  The respondent has ten (10) business days after receipt of the complaint in which to respond to the allegations in the complaint in writing and submit the reply to the Equal Opportunity Officer.

Within ten (10) business days of the receipt of the reply, the Equal Opportunity Officer shall discuss the reply with the complainant.

3.3.3 Investigation
The Equal Opportunity Officer, or a qualified designee, will act as investigator. If the respondent elects not to participate in the formal resolution process, the case may be investigated without the respondent’s involvement.

If, during the investigation, the complainant indicates a desire to withdraw the complaint, the case will be closed and the complainant will not be permitted to re-file the complaint absent extraordinary circumstances. However, in cases where the investigation discloses a clear violation of University policy and/or state or federal statutory mandates, the Equal Opportunity Officer will take action to address those violations regardless of the complainant’s wishes.

The Equal Opportunity Officer, or qualified designee, is authorized to contact any and all University personnel and other individuals (e.g. agents, subcontractors, volunteers, or guests) who may have information relevant to the complaint.  The Equal Opportunity Officer, or qualified designee, will have access to all relevant records. The investigator will maintain a written record of interviews and investigation. The Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance retains this document as a permanent confidential record.

3.3.4. Report of Findings
Based on the findings of the investigation, the Equal Opportunity Officer shall prepare a Report of Findings which shall include: a description of the alleged discriminatory acts, a summary of the evidence collected, an evaluation of the pertinent evidence, and a finding of probable cause or no probable cause as to whether the conduct constitutes discrimination/harassment and/or a violation of University policies and procedures. Potential violations of University policies and procedures, which are discovered during the investigation but which are outside the jurisdiction of the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, will be referred to the appropriate University office or department for resolution.  The Report of Findings will be issued within sixty (60) business days after the commencement of formal procedures. Again, the time may be extended by mutual agreement or as is permitted in this policy. The Equal Opportunity Officer will provide copies of the report to the complainant, respondent and appropriate administrator(s). The complainant and respondent will be advised of the appeal process at that time.

3.3.5 Final Determination
When charges of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation are substantiated and probable cause is determined, the Provost or appropriate vice president, in consultation with the Equal Opportunity Officer, will render a determination regarding the proposed disciplinary and/or corrective action within twenty (20) days of receipt of the Report of Findings. The Equal Opportunity Officer’s input will be limited to issues presented in the case and specific questions regarding compliance with federal and state mandates. Decisions regarding disciplinary action shall be exclusively the province of the Provost or appropriate vice president. The Provost or appropriate vice president will be responsible for the implementation of all such disciplinary/corrective action. The Provost or appropriate vice president may refer the proposed disciplinary action to the appropriate dean and/or supervisor. At a minimum, the action taken should be designed to protect the complainant from future discrimination, harassment or retaliation and resolve any procedural or statutory violations. Depending on the case, substantiated evidence of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation can result in suspension or termination. Consistent with the University’s employee confidentiality policies, the complainant may not be fully advised of disciplinary actions imposed. The Provost or appropriate vice president, in consultation with General Counsel, will determine whether further hearing opportunities are required prior to determination of proposed discipline.

When charges of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation are not substantiated and no probable cause is determined, notification of such findings shall go to the Provost or appropriate vice president.

4.0 Outside Agencies

All individuals will be informed regarding their right to seek redress through the following outside agencies:

Kansas City Office
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
One Petticoat Lane
1010 Walnut Street, 3rd floor, Suite 320
Kansas City, MO 64106

Phone: 816-268-0550

Fax: 816-268-0599

TDD: 800-877-8339

Email: OCR.KansasCity@ed.gov

www.ed.gov/ocr/

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Robert A. Young Building
1222 Spruce Street
Room 8100
St. Louis, MO 63103

Phone: 800-669-4000

TTY: 800-669-6820

www.eeoc.gov

Missouri Commission on Human Rights
906 Olive Street, Suite 320
St. Louis, MO  63101

Phone: 314-340-7590

Fax: 314-340-7238

www.dolir.mo.gov

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
230 South Dearborn Street
Room 570
Chicago, IL  60604

Phone: 312-596-7010

Fax: 312-596-7036

https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/#