Discrimination Complaint and Investigation Procedures
1.0 Non-discrimination Policy
Consistent with G1.05 Non-Discrimination Policy Statement, Missouri State University (“University”) does not discriminate, or permit discrimination, 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 (“Protected Class”) 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.
Accordingly, and consistent with G1.31 Reporting Allegations of Discrimination on the Basis of a Protected Class, the University has established this policy for purposes of processing all complaints of discrimination or harassment based on a Protected Class, except that allegations of sexual harassment as defined by Title IX (including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking), will be processed in a manner consistent with Op1.02-11 Title IX Sexual Harassment Grievance Procedure Policy.
2.0 General Information Regarding Complaints
All members of the University community (defined for purposes of this policy as current or former students, faculty, and staff) are free to seek relief from discrimination or harassment without fear of retaliation, interference, or coercion. The University strictly prohibits retaliation, as further discussed in Section 2.3, below. 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 (“EOO”) or their designee.
The following Complaint Procedures are designed to ensure fairness and consistency in the University’s relations with its community. Nothing in these procedures shall be construed as abridging the right of an individual alleging discrimination to exercise any rights that may be available to the individual.
2.1 Jurisdicational Requirements for Procedures
These procedures apply to complaints by members of the University community alleging that their rights under the G1.05 Non-Discrimination Policy Statement 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 (with the exception of complaints of sexual harassment, that meet the definitional and jurisdictional requirements of Title IX, which are instead subject to Op1.02-11 Title IX Sexual Harassment Grievance Procedure Policy); 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; the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”); and other applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations.
Any member of the University community who has questions concerning the complaint/grievance procedure related to sex discrimination (including sexual harassment, sexual assault, or discrimination on the basis of marital status, family status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression) should contact the Title IX Coordinator, Carrington Hall 205, 901 S. National Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65897; Title IX@MissouriState.edu; 417-836-8506.
All other inquiries concerning the complaint/grievance procedure related to discrimination and/or harassment on the basis of a Protected Class other than sex should be addressed to the Equal Opportunity Officer, Carrington Hall, 205, Springfield, Missouri, 65897; Equity@MissouriState.edu; 417-836-4252; TTY: 417-836-6974.
Complaints arising on or from the West Plains campus are subject to this policy and, depending on the basis of the complaint, should be addressed to the Title IX Coordinator or EOO, as indicated above. Alternatively, members of the University community on the West Plains campus may contact the Equal Opportunity/Title IX Liaison, at Missouri State University-West Plains, Office of University/Community Programs, 128 Garfield Street, West Plains, Missouri 65775; 417-255-7966.
Allegations of discrimination or harassment that are subject to this policy may be processed by the EOO, the Title IX Coordinator, or their designees (hereafter generally referred to as “Equity Investigator(s)”).
All complaints subject to this policy must be filed within 180 days of the occurrence of the alleged discriminatory act. If a complaint includes a series of alleged discriminatory acts, provided that at least one (1) of the alleged acts occurred within the preceding 180 days, the timeframe set forth in this Section 2.2.1 will be satisfied. While the following procedures are designed to achieve a fair resolution of the complaint, the complainant should be aware that external complaints made to state or federal agencies (e.g., the Missouri Human Rights Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, etc.) are generally time-barred if not initiated within the time period established by those agencies.
All parties meeting with the Equity Investigator 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’s or student’s confidential information. The support person may not have access to confidential information regarding any person other than the person to whom they are providing support. Any party who desires to bring a support person with them to a meeting with the Equity Investigator is required to notify the Equity Investigator in advance that they plan to bring a support person to their meeting, and to include the identity of the support person in such notice.
As required by G1.31 Reporting Allegations of Discrimination on the Basis of a Protected Class, all employees are required to report any allegations of discrimination or harassment involving members of the University community of which they become aware. The fact that the employee does not possess all of the facts surrounding the allegations or is uncertain whether the allegations actually rises to the level of discrimination or harassment is irrelevant. The fact that the alleged victim does not wish to file a complaint does not relieve an employee with knowledge of alleged discrimination or harassment of their reporting responsibility.
Reports should be made as soon as possible, but in no event later than three (3) calendar days after learning of the allegation. Additionally, reports must be made to either the Title IX Coordinator or the EOO, as indicated in Section 2.1 of this policy. Reporting an allegation of discrimination or harassment to a supervisor, without also reporting to the Title IX Office or the EOO (as applicable), does not satisfy an employee’s reporting obligation under this policy. Employees are not required or permitted to undertake any investigation of the allegations pursuant to this policy. An employee who refuses, delays, or otherwise fails to report an allegation or concern under this policy is subject to disciplinary action.
Members of the University community who believe they, themselves, have been subject to discrimination or harassment are likewise encouraged to report such concerns consistent with this policy.
Cases involving discrimination against a group or class of individuals, reflecting a pattern and practice of discrimination, or involving criminal violations or direct violations of federal or state mandates, may be investigated and/or acted upon by the EOO or another Equity Investigator. Such cases may be investigated and/or acted upon whether or not there is an identified complainant, as well as in cases where the complainant is an applicant for admission or employment, rather than a member of the University community.
Time limits set forth in Section 3.0, below, may be extended for good cause, including in circumstances when the availability of the parties or witnesses 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 allegations of and/or 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 an allegation or complaint is made in bad faith, then the reporter/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, and only to the extent reasonably necessary for the purpose of investigating or resolving the complaint.
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 that statement.
3.0 Specific Complaint Procedures
3.1 Initial Consultation
Any member of the University community (as defined in Section 2.0) who feels that they have been discriminated against or harassed should contact the EOO, or designee, to arrange a meeting. As deemed appropriate by the EOO, the individual may meet in consultation with an Equity Investigator. The Equity Investigator will establish with the individual a time and date for consultation. In consultation, the Equity Investigator will discuss the individual’s concerns, review the complaint process, describe the available resolution options and provide the individual a copy of this Policy.
As a result of the initial consultation, the Equity Investigator, in consultation with the EOO or Title IX Coordinator (depending on the subject matter) will draw preliminary conclusions as to whether or not the subject matter meets the jurisdictional requirements of this policy. The Equity Investigator may contact any other pertinent individuals who may have knowledge of or information relating to the matter. If it is determined that the subject matter is outside the jurisdictional parameters of this policy, the Equity Investigator will refer the matter and/or the individual to the appropriate office or department. However, the Equity Investigator will retain any concerns that meet the definitional and jurisdictional of sexual harassment under Title IX and process them according to Op1.02-11 Title IX Sexual Harassment Grievance Procedure Policy.
During the Initial Consultation, any request for confidentiality by the individual/complainant will be honored by the University, to the extent reasonably practicable. However, it must be understood that while some concerns or complaints can be resolved without disclosing the complainant’s identity, successful resolution can seldom 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 allegation(s) against them.
If, during the initial consultation, the Equity Investigator determines that immediate action may be necessary to protect the rights or interests of the complainant, respondent, or the University community, the Equity Investigator will conduct a preliminary inquiry to verify the need for immediate action and will advise the University’s General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer of the situation. Upon consultation with appropriate University officials, immediate action may be taken, which may include placing an employee on paid administrative leave, implementing temporary changes in duties and responsibilities, imposing directives to complainant and respondent regarding personal contact, and/or providing warnings to the respondent.
3.2 Informal Complaint Procedure
If the Equity Investigator determines that the concern or complaint is subject to this policy, the Equity Investigator will initiate the Informal Complaint Procedure. The Informal Complaint Procedure is intended to achieve a resolution of the matter by reconciling the parties’ differences and/or rectifying the alleged discriminatory action(s).
The Equity Investigator may communicate directly with the respondent to discuss the behavior at issue. If this resolves the complaint, no other person will be contacted, although necessary supervisory and administrative personnel may be informed. The Equity Investigator 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 Equity Investigator will make all reasonable attempts to resolve the matter within 30 business days. The specific details of each case will determine the best possible means for achieving a satisfactory resolution. If, at the conclusion of the Informal Complaint Procedure, the Equity Investigator determines that the respondent has engaged in conduct that constitutes discrimination or harassment as prohibited by G1.05 Non-Discrimination Policy Statement, or is in violation of other University policy, the Equity Investigator will prepare a written summary of findings.
If either party is dissatisfied with the results of the Informal Complaint Procedure, the complainant may exercise the Formal Complaint Procedure.
3.3 Formal Complaint Procedure
The Formal Complaint Procedure, described, below is utilized for those kinds of discrimination/harassment issues which remain unresolved after Informal Complaint Procedure has been completed, or in which the Equity Investigator determines the alleged behavior is egregious to such a degree that informal resolution would not be sufficient to address the allegations of discrimination.
The Formal Complaint Procedure is also used for sexual harassment complaints that have been routed under this policy for evaluation under Title VII after having first been processed as a formal complaint, and subsequently dismissed, pursuant to Op1.02-11 Title IX Sexual Harassment Grievance Procedure Policy due to failure to meet the definitional or jurisdictional requirements of Title IX. Procedural steps that, in substance, have already been completed under Op1.02-11 Title IX Sexual Harassment Grievance Procedure Policy will not be repeated under the Formal Complaint Procedure. Rather, the Equity Investigator will ensure that an investigation comparable, as a whole, to that outlined in this Section 3.3 is performed.
The Formal Complaint Procedure is available for all the same types of allegations as the Informal Complaint Procedure.
3.3.1 Written Formal Complaint
If the complaint has not been reduced to writing in the Informal Complaint Process, a written Formal Complaint signed by the complainant will be required for initiation of the Formal Complaint Procedure. The written Formal Complaint must contain a detailed description of the conduct being complained about including, if known, the name of the alleged offender(s), the name of the victim(s), the date of the alleged conduct, and the name of the person filing the complaint. Further, the complainant must confirm the veracity of the allegations. The Equity Investigator will provide assistance to anyone for whom completion of the written complaint is difficult or impractical.
Within 10 business days of the receipt of a signed written Formal Complaint, the Equity Investigator will notify the respondent (and, if the respondent is an employee, the respondent’s major administrator) of the Formal Complaint. In providing notice to the parties, the Equity Investigator will provide a summary of the charges, identify the pertinent policies and procedures implicated, and provide information regarding the investigative process and the rights and responsibilities of all parties. Notice will be delivered in writing by the University email address assigned to the respondent. The respondent will then be given 10 business days from receipt of the Formal Complaint to provide the Equity Investigator with a formal written statement rebutting or otherwise responding to the Formal Complaint.
The Equity Investigator will then commence an investigation of the allegations within the Formal Complaint and the respondent’s rebuttal statement (if any). If the respondent elects not to participate in the Formal Complaint Process, the matter will be investigated without the respondent’s involvement.
If, during the investigation, the complainant indicates a desire to withdraw the Formal Complaint, the investigation may be closed and the complainant will not be permitted to re-file the complaint absent a showing of extraordinary circumstances and at the discretion of the EOO. The Equity Investigator, however, may, in consultation with the EOO or the Title IX Coordinator (depending on the subject matter), decide to complete the investigation, depending on the nature, extent, and/or severity of the allegations.
During the investigation, the Equity Investigator 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 Formal Complaint. The Equity Investigator will have access to all relevant University records. The Equity Investigator will maintain a written record of interviews and investigation, which will be considered to be a permanent confidential record, subject to Op8.18 Records Management Policy (Records Retention Policy).
3.3.4. Report of Findings
At the conclusion of the investigation, the Equity Investigator 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, based on the preponderance of the evidence, 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 this policy, 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 Complaint procedures. Again, the time may be extended by mutual agreement or as is permitted in this policy. The Equity Investigator will provide copies of the report to the complainant, respondent and appropriate administrator(s).
3.3.5 Final Determination
When charges of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation are substantiated based on the preponderance of the evidence, the appropriate University administrator shall initiate the appropriate disciplinary process based on the status of the respondent. For example, if the respondent is a student, the Report of Findings will be provided to the Director of Student Conduct for consideration of disciplinary action consistent with the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities; if the respondent is a staff member, the Report of Findings will be provided to the appropriate major administrator and the Director of Human Resources for consideration of disciplinary action consistent with the Employee Handbook; and if the respondent is a faculty member, the Report of Findings will be provided to the Provost and the Director of Human Resources for consideration of disciplinary action consistent with the Faculty Handbook.
The University administrator may consult with the Equity Investigator with respect to the issues presented in the case and specific questions regarding compliance with federal and state mandates. Decisions regarding disciplinary action, however, shall be exclusively the province of the appropriate administrator (e.g., Director of Student Conduct, Vice President, Director of Human Resources, Provost, etc.). The University administrator, or their designee, will be responsible for the implementation of all such disciplinary/corrective action. Depending on the case, substantiated evidence of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation may result in dismissal from the University (in the case of a student) or termination of employment (in the case of faculty or staff).
At a minimum, the action taken should be designed to protect the complainant from future discrimination, harassment or retaliation and resolve any violations of University Policy. Consistent with University policy and applicable privacy laws (e.g., the Missouri Sunshine Law, FERPA, HIPAA, etc.), the complainant may not be fully advised of disciplinary actions imposed.
When charges of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation are not substantiated and no preponderance of evidence is found, written notification of such findings shall be provided to the appropriate University administrator.
4.0 Outside Agencies
All individuals subject to this Policy have the 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
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Robert A. Young Building
1222 Spruce Street
St. Louis, MO 63103
Missouri Commission on Human Rights
3315 West Truman Blvd #212
Jefferson City, MO 65109
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
230 South Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60604