Countering Discrimination and Harassment at the University

 

The University is committed to providing a workplace free of any form of discrimination or harassment. This commitment requires supervisory employees to be alert to possible discriminatory situations. Supervisors must not inadvertently allow for instances of perceived discrimination or harassment to occur due to unawareness of various laws that protect our employees. It is even more important for supervisors to assist the University in identifying and correcting situations where individuals are intentionally engaged in such unacceptable behavior.

Employees in your department should be made aware that they are protected against harassment and should be advised to bring such situations to your attention and to follow either the University's Grievance Procedure or Sexual Harassment Policy. Make sure that you and each member of your staff has read and understood both of these policies as they are outlined in the Personnel Manual. Complaints should be taken seriously and referred to the University's Affirmative Action Officer for further investigation. For example, DO NOT encourage an employee to avoid using the sexual harassment policy because you believe a particular offense to be trivial or because you do not believe the harassment was intentional. It is essential that you follow-up with the employee to make sure that corrective action has been taken and documented. Be aware that, not only is the University liable for settlements that can range from undetermined monetary settlements to reemployment with back pay of a discharged employee, but in certain situations you personally may be charged in a civil suit also. Therefore, it is important for you to identify cases of discrimination or sexual harassment, encourage staff to utilize the University's policies in the event of such situations, and create an atmosphere that will enable your staff to alert you if you unknowingly and inadvertently act in a discriminatory manner.

Finally, below are listed some examples of other type of situations that may occur and forewhich you must make reasonable accommodation in order to not act in a discriminatory manner.

a) Title VII prohibits religious discrimination and where reasonable accommodation without undue hardship on the conduct of business, can be made for employees to practice or observe their religious beliefs such accommodation must be made. The courts require an employee to notify the employer of a conflict between religious belief, practice, or observance and an employment requirement in order to bring the employer's duty to accommodate the religious observance into play. It is the University's position that, where it does not create an undue hardship on the department, the supervisor can authorize an individual to use a personal day if accrued, work another University holiday on a day where essential offices must be staffed, or grant leave without pay as a reasonable accommodation.

b) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination based on an individual's having one or more mental or physical disabilities, which effect one or more major life functions. The University has attempted to improve the accessibility of its facilities but the definition of disability goes well beyond physical limitations, such as those requiring a wheelchair. For example, if an individual has a respiratory disorder this may be perceived as a disability and, if brought to your attention, you should make reasonable accommodation for this individual to take his/her required medication. The accommodation does not extend to excessive absenteeism; the individual has to maintain the same level of attendance required of all other personnel. All requests for reasonable accommodation for a disability should be sent to the Director of Human Resouces.

c) The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employees over the age of 40 from being discriminated against in a wide range of employment decisions, including recruitment, hiring, compensation, benefits, promotion, job classifications, and termination. Therefore, be especially careful in making a job related decision that effects a protected employee in this age range. You should document the reasons for such decisions and determine if your actions will adversely effect anyone in this protected category. If it will, be certain that the decision was based on factors not age related and have documentation to support you decision. Review such documentation with the Human Resources Office before taking action. Finally, well intended suggestions recommending that an individual retire must not be made by supervisory personnel. Advertisements such as those seeking "college age students" are prohibited, but advertisements specifying "college graduate preferred" are permissible. These are two common examples of how age discrimination can occur.