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EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AND INCLUSION COMPLAINT AND INVESTIGATION PROCEDURES

I. INTRODUCTION

The University has established the following procedures (the "Procedures") to investigate alleged violations of its Non-Discrimination, Equal Opportunity and Inclusion Regulation (1.0040R) (the "Regulation").1 The purpose of these Procedures is to provide for a prompt, equitable, reliable, and impartial investigation into alleged violations of the Regulation.

 

Once an investigatory report is completed, if it is determined that there is a sufficient basis to believe a violation has occurred, the University will then engage further proceedings outlined in the Regulation so that it may take prompt, effective action when necessary to prevent, correct, and discipline individuals and organizations who violate the Regulation.

II. THE OFFICE OF EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AND INCLUSION

The Office of Equal Opportunity and Inclusion ("EOI") has the authority to receive, investigate, and where appropriate, attempt to conciliate violations of the Regulation.

 

Any member of the University Community may contact EOI to seek guidance regarding the Regulation or to file a complaint. "University Community" is broadly defined to refer to any person who is a student; faculty and/or staff member; University official; any other person employed or contracted with the University; volunteers, visitors, vendors, applicants, and any other individual interacting with the University. All of them are subject to both the Non-Discrimination, Equal Opportunity and Inclusion Regulation and the Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Sexual Harassment Regulation.

 

EOI may be contacted in person, by phone, by email, or online:

Office of Equal Opportunity and Inclusion

University of North Florida

J. J. Daniel Hall, Suite 1201

1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, Florida 32224-7699

(904) 620-2507 Voice & TDD or via 711 Florida Relay for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing or those with speech impairments and/or limitations.

eoi@unf.edu

https://www.unf.edu/eoi/

III. INVESTIGATION PROCEDURES

A. Definitions

For purposes of these Procedures, a "Complainant" is the person bringing the complaint who believes that they were subject to a violation of the Regulation. A "Reporting Party" means someone who is reporting an alleged violation that has come to their attention. A "Respondent" is an individual who has allegedly violated the Regulation.

B. Contacting EOI

Any individual may contact EOI to discuss their concerns regarding a potential violation of the Regulation. EOI will provide guidance and an explanation of available supportive resources.

 

If the individual wants EOI to take action to address their concerns, the individual will be required to file an EOI intake form, even if they are only seeking an informal resolution.

C. Completion of the Reporting Form

EOI utilizes a Reporting Form to facilitate orderly and timely investigations. The Reporting Form is available online. Through the Reporting Form, an individual provides details describing the manner in which they believe the Regulation has been violated and on what basis or grounds. The University encourages individuals to provide as many details on who, what, where, when, why, and how as possible. EOI will provide an individual alternative means of completing a Reporting Form if the individual is not able to complete it online.

 

Although the Reporting Form may be completed anonymously, please understand that an anonymous report may limit the University's ability to investigate, respond, and take action. Anonymous reporting is not permitted for faculty and non-faculty supervisors and managers who are required to report another individual's report of alleged violations of the Regulation.

 

Completion of the Reporting Form by Complainants and Reporting Parties is typically required; however, there may be situations in which EOI learns of a potential violation of the Regulation and chooses to complete the Reporting Form so it may conduct an investigation, even if the Complainant or Reporting Party has failed to complete the form or is unwilling to participate further. Generally, the University will only proceed in such cases when it determines that it would be clearly unreasonable in light of all the known circumstances to not take further action.

D. Investigator Review of the Reporting Form

Upon receipt of the Reporting Form, EOI will conduct an initial intake to determine jurisdiction of the matter. This process will include collecting enough information to determine if the matter falls with the purview of EOI or other office. If it is determined that the matter is not within the jurisdiction of EOI, it will be assigned to the appropriate university office. If it is determined that EOI has jurisdiction of the matter, the Director of EOI will assign one or more qualified and trained investigators to conduct the investigation, including University or third-party investigators. Depending on the needs and complexity of a particular case, the Director may add additional investigator(s) or reassign a case at any time.

 

The assigned investigator will determine whether the Reporting Form contains sufficient allegations to indicate that the Regulation has been violated. If the Complainant or Reporting Party failed to allege sufficient facts for there to be a reasonable belief that the Regulation was violated, the Investigator will then contact the individual reporting the violation to notify them of the deficiency and request supplemental information if necessary. If there are still insufficient grounds to believe that the Regulation has been violated, the investigator will inform a Complainant in writing of the basis for their conclusion and direct them to other appropriate University resources who may assist in resolving their concerns.

E. Interviewing the Complainant

If the allegations in the Reporting Form sufficiently state a potential violation of the Regulation, the investigator will interview the Complainant (when possible) and/or Reporting Party to review and discuss their concerns. Written notice will be given to the Complainant in advance of any interview so that they have sufficient time to prepare for meaningful participation and obtain an advisor if desired.

 

The purpose of this interview is to obtain additional details such as the name of the alleged offender(s), the date(s) or approximate date(s) on which the offending act(s) occurred, the name(s) of any witnesses, questions they would like the investigator to ask Respondent or other witnesses, any supportive measures needed, and the desired resolution(s). As noted below, the Complainant may have an advisor present during the interview. The investigator will also provide them an explanation of their rights a description of the investigative process, an opportunity to obtain an advisor, and a list of available resources. The Investigator will provide Complainant a reasonable amount of time to provide additional information if it cannot be provided at the initial interview.

F. Coordination within the University

After obtaining information from a Complainant, EOI will coordinate with appropriate University administration to inform them of a pending complaint so that appropriate measures may be considered and implemented.

 

When a complaint has some components that are within the jurisdiction of EOI and others that are not, to minimize the impact to a complainant, respondent, and witnesses in having to provide the same information multiple times in separate investigations, EOI will coordinate with other applicable University officials in an effort to consolidate and streamline the investigations. In some instances, this may involve having a University official from another department participate in the interview simultaneously, and in others, it may involve departments sharing interview notes and memoranda. These examples are for illustration only, and nothing in this paragraph restricts the University from conducting investigations in the most prompt, effective, and thorough manner available in each case.

G. Alternative Dispute Resolution

Depending on the nature of the alleged violation, the Director of EOI may provide the Complainant with the option to select an alternative dispute resolution. Alternative dispute resolution is not permitted for all cases, and the decision on whether to offer an alternative dispute resolution process is in the sole discretion of the Director.

 

Prior to offering alternative dispute resolution as an option to the parties, the Director will coordinate with appropriate University officials to ensure they are in agreement that it should be offered in the given circumstances. For example, when a student is a respondent, EOI will consult with Student Conduct prior to offering alternative dispute resolution.

 

If alternative dispute resolution is offered, and if the Complainant is agreeable to attempting it, the investigator will then contact the Respondent(s) in writing to inform them of the pending investigation, a summary of the reported violations and sources of information, resources available to them, and their rights, along with an invitation to participate in an alternative dispute resolution.

 

If the Complainant and Respondent(s) mutually agree to attempt an alternative dispute resolution, EOI will then refer the matter to the appropriate office to conduct the alternative dispute resolution process. For example, generally cases where the parties are students will be referred to Student Conduct, faculty cases will be referred to Academic Affairs, and staff cases will be referred to Human Resources. The University will use a flexible approach to select the office most appropriate to attempt resolution on a case by case basis. If the Director and parties agree on an alternative dispute resolution process, then further investigation may be suspended pending a successful resolution.

H. Notice to and Interviews of Witnesses

If the case is not resolved informally, the investigator will typically next notify potential witnesses of the pendency of an investigation and the need for information they may provide. The investigator will also provide information regarding their rights as a result of participating in an investigation. The investigator will then attempt to schedule interviews of the witnesses and interview them.

I. Notice to and Interviews of Respondents

Before interviewing the Respondent, the investigator will provide them written notice. This notice will include sufficient details on the identities of the parties involved, the specific section of the Regulation allegedly violated, the conduct allegedly constituting the potential violation, and the date and location of the alleged incident, to the extent known. It will also provide an explanation of their rights, explain the opportunity to obtain an advisor, and list other available resources. It will also be given with sufficient notice to allow the Respondent sufficient time to prepare for meaningful participation.

 

The investigator will then interview the Respondent. As noted below, the Respondent may have an advisor present during the interview. The investigator will provide a full opportunity for the Respondent to rebut the allegations, provide evidence, identify other witnesses who they believe should be interviewed, request supportive measures, and ask Respondent whether there are questions they would like the investigator to ask Complainant or other witnesses. The investigator will also provide the Respondent an explanation of their rights, a description of the investigative process, and a list of available resources. The Investigator will provide Respondent a reasonable amount of time to produce these items if they cannot be provided at the initial interview.

J. Completion of Investigation

In addition to interviewing the Complainant, Respondent(s), and available witnesses, the investigator is empowered to undertake any other investigatory action necessary to conduct a full, complete, impartial and reliable investigation into alleged violations of the Regulation. This includes but is not limited to requesting to review text messages, email messages, photos, videos and social media platforms of the parties.

K. Preparation of a Written Report

After investigating, the investigator will prepare a written report outlining the investigation, the evidence considered, and the findings. At the conclusion of the written report, for cases with a student respondent, the investigator will determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that the Regulation was violated. For cases with a non-student respondent, the investigator will determine whether there is a preponderance of the evidence to determine that Respondent violated the Regulation. The investigator may include recommendations to remedy any violation of the Regulation.

 

Complainants and Respondents will both be given ten (10) business days to review the report and provide any comment before the report is finalized. Once finalized, the Complainant and Respondent will simultaneously be notified in writing of the outcome of the investigation and any disciplinary proceeding to be scheduled.

 

The final report will be shared with appropriate University officials for further proceedings as necessary. Generally, the report is not shared with third parties who report alleged violations, unless applicable law requires the University to disclose it.

 

In all stages, the University will comply with due process and confidentiality requirements under FERPA, the Clery Act, Title IX, and other applicable laws regarding access to and use of the written report.

IV. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REGARDING INVESTIGATIONS

A. Timeliness of an Investigation

It is EOI's intention to complete an investigation within ninety (90) days, although its good-faith efforts to conduct a fair, impartial investigation in a timely manner may require a different timeline depending on the circumstances.

 

If additional time is required, the parties will be advised of the reasons for the delay and the anticipated completion date.

B. Investigator Discretion

The investigator retains the right to structure interviews and other investigatory steps in a manner that they believe will be most effective in determining the truth of allegations and for completing the investigation in a timely manner. Therefore, the investigator may vary from the order of interviews set forth in the Procedures above. For example, the investigator may decide to initially interview a Respondent prior to interviewing a witness.

 

In exercising this discretion, the investigator will comply with all due process and notice requirements.

C. Not a Disciplinary Process

EOI's processing, review and investigation is a fact-finding process and does not constitute a disciplinary proceeding. Any discipline that may result from an investigation's findings is a distinct and separate process. All disciplinary action is subject to applicable University Regulations, including but not limited to University Regulation 4.0270P (University Complaint and Grievance Resolution for Non-Union Employees), University Regulation 5.0010R (Student Code of Conduct), personnel policies, and applicable collective bargaining agreements.

D. Supportive Measures

Although EOI's Procedures are not disciplinary, the University must take steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the University Community. This may include implementing supportive measures during the pendency of an investigation that do not unreasonably burden either the Complainant or Respondent.

 

If EOI determines that supportive measures may be necessary, it will coordinate with the appropriate entity (such as Student Conduct, the Provost, Human Resources, Housing, and so forth) for issuance of such measures. Supportive measures may include, but are not limited to, no contact orders, trespass orders, and changes in class, work, or housing assignments.

E. Available Remedies Outside the University

The filing of a complaint under these Procedures shall not toll or otherwise affect a complainant's right to file a police report or charge of discrimination pursuant to an appropriate federal or state statute, including the filing of a timely charge with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Complainants are urged to contact these external agencies directly to learn the filing deadlines and procedures for each agency.

F. Participation of Students, Faculty, Staff

All members of the University community are expected to cooperate with an investigation of allegations of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, retaliation or sexual misconduct. Should a member of the community fail to cooperate with this standard, such conduct would constitute reasonable grounds for discipline.

G. Frivolous/False/Fraudulent Claims or Statements

Any person who knowingly or fraudulently files a frivolous, false or fraudulent EOI complaint will be referred to the appropriate University representative(s) for discipline. Similarly, any person who knowingly makes false statements in any investigation, proceeding, or hearing regarding alleged discrimination and/or harassment and/or retaliation pursuant to this procedure will be referred to the appropriate University representatives for disciplinary action.

V. RIGHTS OF THOSE INVOLVED IN INVESTIGATIONS

A. Equal Rights

The investigator provides equal rights, opportunities to present information and witnesses, and access to resources to both Complainants and Respondents.

B. Right to an Advisor

All individuals who participate in an investigation under these Procedures are entitled to have an advisor assist them. The term "advisor" refers to any one person chosen by the individual. The advisor serves at the requestor's own expense and initiative. A person may not serve in this capacity if their service would unreasonably conflict with a fair investigation. It is the individual's responsibility to make appropriate arrangements for their advisor to attend any interviews or other meetings, which will not be delayed due to scheduling conflicts of the chosen advisor. The advisor may be present to advise the individual but cannot speak for the individual, present a case, serve as a witness, or otherwise participate directly in any meeting. An advisor may be removed if they are disruptive.

C. Confidentiality

The University recognizes the importance of confidentiality and understands that some individuals may want their identity to remain anonymous and/or confidential when filing complaints or otherwise becoming involved in an investigation. In all cases, issues of confidentiality must be balanced against the University's need to investigate and take appropriate action and applicable law. The University will respect the privacy and confidentiality of individuals involved in an investigation to the fullest extent possible. If you have any questions regarding confidentiality, please contact EOI.

D. Protection from Conflicts of Interest

If an individual believes that the selected investigator has a conflict of interest that would prevent them from conducting a fair investigation, that individual may provide the basis for this request. The University will then appoint a different investigator if good cause has been shown to suggest a potential conflict. If there are concerns about conflicts of interest, an individual may contact the University's Chief Compliance Officer at compliance@unf.edu.

E. Presumption of Non-Responsibility

In all cases, the Respondent is presumed to be not responsible for the alleged conduct until a determination of responsibility is made after the investigation.

VI. REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION

EOI's decision on whether there is, or is not, reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the Regulation has occurred in cases involving a student respondent, or a preponderance of the evidence to demonstrate a violation with non-student respondents, is not subject to a request for reconsideration or appeal. However, as noted above, EOI's investigation process is not a disciplinary process. If EOI has made an adverse finding, then the affected individual may challenge the investigation and its findings if discipline is to be imposed. Conversely, if new information becomes available to the Complainant or subsequent incidents occur after a complaint is dismissed, the Complainant may submit the additional information for further consideration and/or submit a new complaint.

 

For students, the subsequent disciplinary proceeding occurs through the process outlined in the Student Code of Conduct. Within that proceeding, the student has the opportunity to select a hearing process and introduce evidence and witnesses that they believe demonstrate they are not responsible for the alleged violation and/or that the EOI investigatory result is incorrect or not persuasive.

 

Similarly, faculty and staff may grieve any subsequent discipline through the process outlined in the applicable collective bargaining agreement and/or personnel policy. For all other respondents, discipline will be referred to the Vice President for the responsible area. As with students, all respondents will have the opportunity to present information that they believe demonstrate they are not responsible for the alleged violation and/or that the EOI investigatory result is incorrect or not persuasive.

VII. COMPLIANCE AUDIT

In addition to EOI's power to investigate reported violations of the Regulation, EOI also has the power to conduct a compliance audit. EOI may, without a complaint being filed, review a department or unit's compliance with this Regulation utilizing similar investigatory procedures outlined above. Compliance audits will not focus on the allegations of one particular person; rather, the audit will be based on general compliance with the Regulation.

 

After completion of the Compliance Audit, EOI will prepare a written report of the findings and share them with the appropriate University administrators. Where applicable, EOI will recommend corrective action.


1The University maintains a separate regulation governing sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. See Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Sexual Harassment Regulation, 1.0050R. Because of the unique nature of such claims and the requirements of Title IX, the University uses separate procedural steps for such claims as set forth in the Sexual Misconduct Regulation. The Procedures outlined herein only apply to retaliation claims arising under the Sexual Misconduct Regulation.