1.1. This Policy provides the exclusive mechanism for the University of Houston System and its universities (“University”) to manage the reporting of unlawful Discrimination and Harassment, as defined in this Policy, by providing a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution process. This Policy does not address allegations of sexual misconduct, which includes sexual harassment. (Please see SAM 01.D.08 (Sexual Misconduct), the applicable policy that addresses prohibited sexual misconduct and establishes a mechanism for processing complaints of sexual misconduct.)
1.2. Consistent with its commitment to addressing unlawful Discrimination and Harassment, the University complies with multiple laws that prohibit Discrimination and Harassment including, but not limited to, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, The Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and relevant state and local laws.
2.1. The University is committed to maintaining and strengthening an educational, working and living environment where students, faculty, staff, visitors, and applicants for admission or employment are free from Discrimination and Harassment of any kind. Discrimination and Harassment are antithetical to the standards and ideals of the University. The University will take appropriate action in an effort to eliminate Discrimination and Harassment from occurring, prevent their recurrence and address their effects.
2.2. The University is also committed to protecting, maintaining and encouraging both freedom of expression and full academic freedom of inquiry, teaching, service, and research (see SAM 01.D.15 (Freedom of Expression)). Academic freedom and freedom of expression shall be strongly considered in investigating complaints and reports of Discrimination or Harassment, but academic freedom and freedom of expression will not excuse behavior that constitutes a violation of the law or this Policy.
3.1. Complainant – An individual who may have experienced Discrimination, Harassment, or Retaliation by a Member of the University Community based on their Protected Class. Bystanders who are not a member of the Protected Class may make reports of alleged Discrimination or Harassment per Section 6 of this Policy but are not considered Complainants under this Policy.
3.2. Discrimination – Treating an individual or members of a Protected Class less favorably because of their membership in that class or having a policy or practice that has a disproportionately adverse impact on Protected Class members. For examples of Discrimination, see Section 5.
3.3. Equal Opportunity Coordinator – The person who is designated to coordinate efforts to comply with and implement this Policy. The Equal Opportunity Coordinator (or their designee) is responsible for conducting the administrative investigation of reports of Discrimination or Harassment and is available to discuss options, provide support, explain University policies and procedures, and provide education on relevant issues. The Equal Opportunity Coordinators for each university are located at the following Equal Opportunity offices: • University of Houston System/University of Houston Office of Equal Opportunity Services 713-743-8835 • University of Houston – Downtown Office of Title IX/Equity & Diversity 713-221-5771 • University of Houston – Clear Lake Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion – Title IX 281-283-2305 • University of Houston – Victoria Office of Title IX and Equal Opportunity (361) 570-4835 In the event that there is a conflict of interest for a University’s Equal Opportunity Coordinator, the UH System Equal Opportunity Coordinator will appoint another University’s Equal Opportunity Coordinator or designee to serve in their place. If the System Equal Opportunity Coordinator has a conflict of interest, the Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs will appoint another University’s Equal Opportunity Coordinator to serve in their place.
3.4. Formal Complaint – A document filed by a Complainant and accepted by the Equal Opportunity Coordinator alleging Discrimination or Harassment against a Respondent and requesting that the University investigate the allegation(s).
3.5. Harassment – Subjecting an individual on the basis of their membership in a Protected Class to unlawful severe, pervasive, or persistent treatment that is: • Humiliating, abusive, or threatening conduct or behavior that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group; • An intimidating, hostile or abusive learning, living or working environment, or an environment that alters the conditions of learning, living or working; or • An unreasonable interference with an individual’s academic or work performance. For examples of Harassment, see Section 5.
3.6. Member of the University Community – Members of the University Community include: • University faculty, staff, administrators, employees, and contractors; • University students; • Volunteers and participants in any University program or activity; • Applicants for admission and/or employment; and • Guests and visitors to campus, to any property owned or leased by the University, or to any property owned or leased by any UniversityAffiliated organization or group.
3.7. Personal Advisor – An individual serving as a personal advisor or support person to a named party in a report of Discrimination, Harassment, or Retaliation. Any named party is entitled to have one (1) Personal Advisor of their choice present during any meeting or proceeding related to the investigation. This advisor may be an attorney, provided at their own expense, with no cost to the University. Personal Advisors may attend any meeting, proceeding or hearing related to the investigation, but may not speak on behalf of the individual they are advising or be a witness.
3.8. Protected Class – A class of persons who are protected under applicable federal or state laws against Discrimination and Harassment on the basis of race, color, sex (including pregnancy), genetic information, religion, age (over 40), national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or status, gender expression, or any other legally protected status.
3.9. Resolution Agreement – As part of the informal resolution process, when a report alleges a non-violent violation of this Policy, the Complainant and Respondent may resolve the report by agreement. Under a Resolution Agreement, the Respondent will participate in training or other conditions as set forth in the Resolution Agreement. The Resolution Agreement is not an admission of guilt or responsibility by the Respondent, and neither party has the right to appeal. The Equal Opportunity office will document that the terms of the Agreement have been met and update the parties as appropriate.
3.10. Respondent – A party or person who is designated to respond to a report or Formal Complaint. Generally, the Respondent is the person alleged to be responsible for the prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, or Retaliation alleged in the complaint. The term “Respondent” may also be used to designate persons with administrative responsibility for procedures and policies in those areas covered in a complaint.
3.11. Retaliation – Retaliation has the meaning set forth in Section 5.2.A of this Policy.
3.12. Student – A person who: (a) is currently enrolled at the University; (b) is accepted for admission or readmission to the University; (c) has been enrolled at the University in a prior semester or summer term and is eligible to continue enrollment in the semester or summer term that immediately follows; (d) is attending an educational program sponsored by the University while that person is on University Premises; or (e) has engaged in prohibited conduct at a time when he/she met the criteria of (a), (b), (c), or (d).
3.13. University-Affiliated Activity – Any activity that is initiated, aided, authorized or supervised by the University or by an officially-recognized organization of the University. This also includes activities performed within the scope of employment.
3.14. University Premises – Buildings or grounds owned, leased, operated, controlled or supervised by the University.
The University has jurisdiction over, and will respond to, allegations of Discrimination or Harassment occurring on the University’s Premises, at University-Affiliated Activities, and where either the Complainant or Respondent is a student, faculty member, or staff member. In addition, if conduct occurs off University Premises between two UniversityAffiliated individuals, the University has jurisdiction. Other than the University Police Department which may conduct a criminal investigation as appropriate, the University does not have jurisdiction over allegations between visitors or non-affiliated persons under this Policy.
4.1. Allegations Involving University-Affiliated Organizations
- If a Formal Complaint is made alleging that a University-Affiliated organization has violated this Policy, the Equal Opportunity office will notify the appropriate administrative department and/or adjudicative body over that organization to ensure a timely, equitable process to determine if a University-Affiliated Organization violated relevant University policies.
- The Equal Opportunity office will work in partnership with the appropriate adjudicative body should there be concurrent investigations involving individuals and organizations, including, but not limited to, sharing information with appropriate University administrators who have a legitimate need to know.
- If a report is made involving a University-Affiliated Organization, the Equal Opportunity office will seek to identify any individuals who may be involved. The Equal Opportunity office will, in collaboration with the alleged victim whenever possible, determine whether a Formal Complaint will be filed against any identified individuals, as per this Policy.
4.2. The process outlined in this Policy is separate from any criminal proceeding related to the reported behavior and may occur while criminal proceedings are ongoing.
4.3. Proceedings under this Policy will not be dismissed or delayed because criminal prosecution is pending, criminal charges have been dismissed, or the criminal charges have been reduced.
4.4. Proceedings may also continue if a party is no longer employed with or a Student of the University.
4.5. To the extent that a concern is raised in an untimely manner (more than 180 calendar days from the last incident of Discrimination or Harassment) it is within the Equal Opportunity office’s discretion not to pursue the matter.
4.6. Reports Outside of University Jurisdiction If the University is notified that a Member of the University Community has reported an incident of Discrimination or Harassment, but the action occurred outside of the University’s jurisdiction as described in this Section, the University will still take reasonable steps to ensure the individual’s safety while on University Premises and to offer the individual information about resources both on and off University Premises.
5.1. Discrimination and Harassment
Discrimination and Harassment are violations of this Policy and will not be tolerated. The University prohibits Discrimination and Harassment against any Member of the University Community based on their membership in a Protected Class.
- Examples of Discrimination include, but are not limited to: denying an applicant employment because of their membership in a Protected Class, taking adverse employment or academic action against a person because of their Protected Class; denying admission to a University activity based on a person’s Protected Class; failing to provide reasonable accommodations to a person with a documented disability, for pregnancy or related medical conditions (See SAM 01.D.16), and for a sincerely held religious belief.
- Examples of Harassment include, but are not limited to: epithets or slurs, negative stereotyping, threatening, intimidating or hostile acts, denigrating jokes and display or circulation (including through e-mail or virtual platforms) of written or graphic material in the learning, living, or working environment.
- An individual’s subjective belief that behavior is intimidating, hostile, or offensive, in and of itself, is not sufficient to establish Discrimination or Harassment. The behavior must create a hostile environment from both a subjective and objective perspective such that it unreasonably interferes with, limits, or deprives a member of the university community of the ability to participate in or to receive benefits, services, or opportunities from the university’s education or employment programs and/or activities. In determining whether a hostile environment exists, the university will examine the context, nature, scope, frequency, duration, and location of incidents, as well as the relationships of the individuals involved, and apply the appropriate standard according to the applicable complaint resolution procedures.
- Minor verbal and nonverbal slights, snubs, annoyances, insults or isolated incidents including, but not limited to microaggressions, are not sufficient to establish Discrimination or Harassment. However, if such incidents keep happening over time and are targeting a Protected Class, they can constitute Discrimination or Harassment in violation of this Policy. General concerns of unprofessionalism should be addressed per normal departmental operating procedures. The Equal Opportunity office may refer concerns of general professionalism back to the supervisor(s) to review and address as appropriate.
- Retaliation under this Policy includes, but is not limited to, any adverse employment or educational action taken for making a report of unlawful Discrimination or Harassment, or for otherwise participating under this Policy (“Retaliation”).
- The University takes reports of Discrimination and Harassment very seriously and will not tolerate Retaliation against those who make reports of Discrimination or Harassment or who participate in the investigation or adjudication process.
- Any actual or threatened retaliation or any act of intimidation to prevent or otherwise obstruct the reporting of Discrimination or Harassment or the participation in proceedings relating to Discrimination or Harassment, may be considered a separate violation of this Policy and may result in disciplinary sanctions.
6.1. Any person, regardless of whether they are the person being subjected to Discrimination or Harassment, may report Discrimination, Harassment, or Retaliation to the Equal Opportunity Coordinator in person, by mail, by electronic mail, by telephone, or by the University’s electronic reporting system.
An individual should contact their University’s Equal Opportunity Coordinator as close to the date of the incident(s) as possible. An individual should be aware that by contacting the Equal Opportunity Coordinator, they are placing the University on notice of alleged Discrimination, Harassment, or Retaliation and, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, the Equal Opportunity office may not be able to keep the information confidential and may be obligated to act.
6.2. Required Reporting
- All employees, students, and third parties are encouraged to take reasonable and necessary action to prevent unlawful Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation and to report the conduct to the Equal Opportunity Coordinator.
- Employees in a supervisory capacity have a duty to act to not only prevent unlawful Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation, but to also report the conduct and behavior to the Equal Opportunity Coordinator. A supervisor who fails to act may be found to have violated this Policy, even if the underlying event does not constitute unlawful Discrimination and Harassment.
- All supervisors who receive a report of Discrimination or Harassment must share that information with the Equal Opportunity Coordinator and cannot maintain confidentiality, with the exception of: 1. The staff of a counseling or health center acting in their capacity as a counseling or health provider, and 2. Individuals who are associated with the University in the role of a pastoral counselor or confidential advisor acting in that capacity.
- D. In addition, some individuals who are not supervisors who must share reports of Discrimination or Harassment with the Equal Opportunity Coordinator include, but are not limited to:
- Academic Advisors
- Resident Advisors
- Elected members of Student Government Associations, and
- Individuals, including students, serving as supervisors, even if they are volunteers, at a University-Affiliated activity. These individuals could be teaching, graduate assistants, research assistants, chaperones, peer mentors, or retreat counselors.
These individuals are required to report because they are either in a position to do something about the alleged actions, may be perceived to be able to do something about the alleged action, or would otherwise have to report known or suspected incidents of Discrimination or Harassment.
6.3. Anonymous Reporting
- Alleged victims and others not required to report may submit a report through the Fraud and Non-Compliance Hotline, which allows the option of anonymity. The University will work with anyone who is identified via a Fraud and Non-Compliance report or subsequent investigation to provide anonymity to the full extent possible under this Policy.
- Upon receipt of an anonymous report that implicates this Policy, the Equal Opportunity Coordinator will notify the reporter of possible options including the process to submit a Formal Complaint.
- Where the University cannot take formal disciplinary action because of an individual’s insistence on anonymity or confidentiality, the University may pursue other steps to limit the effects of the alleged Discrimination or Harassment and attempt to prevent its recurrence.
6.4. Reporting to Outside Entities
An individual wishing to make a complaint may also contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
1301 Young Street, Suite 1169
Dallas, TX 75202
Phone: (800) 537-76970
FAX: (214) 767-0432
Employees may also contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to complain of Discrimination or Harassment:
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Houston District Office
1919 Smith Street, 6th Floor
Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (800) 669-4000
FAX: (713) 651-4987
TTY: (800) 669-6820
ASL Video Phone: (844) 234-5122
The Equal Opportunity office shall maintain documents related to reports and Formal Complaints under this Policy as required by law.
The confidentiality of a report or Formal Complaint under this Policy and all documents relating to the investigation will be maintained on a business need-to-know basis to the extent permitted by law.
PRELIMINARY RESPONSE PROCEDURES
8.1. When a report is received alleging a violation of this Policy, the University will take appropriate steps to assess whether additional actions, beyond a formal investigation and possible disciplinary sanctions, are appropriate. These actions may be implemented regardless of whether a Formal Complaint is filed and regardless of whether a finding of a violation is made.
8.2. A report of a violation of this Policy does not automatically begin the formal grievance procedures outlined in this Policy. Complainants may request informal services such as confidential support resources or an informal resolution (see Appendix A). Complainants may also seek a formal grievance process by filing a Formal Complaint as described in Appendix B.
8.3. When the Equal Opportunity office receives a report regarding an alleged violation of this Policy, it will take reasonable measures to do the following:
- Contact the Complainant and the Respondent to notify them of their rights and options under this Policy as appropriate;
- Implement any appropriate Supportive Measures;
- Conduct a preliminary investigation, as appropriate; and
- Advise the appropriate department(s) on the results of any preliminary investigation and responsibilities per this Policy, if applicable.
REQUIRED EMPLOYEE TRAINING
9.1. Equal Opportunity Coordinators and their designees will receive training at least annually on issues related to Discrimination and Harassment and how to conduct the processes outlined in this Policy while being both trauma-informed and impartial, protecting the safety of involved parties, and promoting accountability.
9.2. Members of the Equal Opportunity hearing board will receive training at least annually on issues related to Discrimination and Harassment. These individuals will also receive training on the role of the Equal Opportunity office to enforce this Policy, best practices for hearings and hearing panelists, and their role in ensuring and promoting safety, due process, and accountability.
9.3. The University will provide training for all incoming students and new employees that increase their knowledge about this Policy, their rights, and resources, as well as strategies to prevent violence, promote safety, and reduce perpetration. Employees will receive initial mandatory training within thirty (30) days after their hire date and supplemental training every two (2) years.
9.4. The University will provide on-going prevention and awareness campaigns for students and employees that will increase their knowledge about this Policy, their rights and resources, as well as strategies to prevent violence, promote safety, and reduce perpetration.
10.1. The University prohibits discrimination against any student, faculty, or staff member based on their religion. Reasonable workplace accommodations will be made for persons with sincerely-held religious beliefs. Students should make requests for religious accommodation directly to their instructor (See Religious Holy Days). Employees should make requests for religious accommodation directly to their supervisor. If there are any concerns by any party, please contact the applicable Equal Opportunity Coordinator.
10.2. Pregnant and parenting students and employees should refer to SAM 01.D.16 (Pregnant and Parenting Student and Employee Accommodations) for information regarding accommodations for pregnant and parenting students and employees.
10.3. Employees who have a disability should refer to SAM 02.E.09 (Reasonable Workplace Accommodations for Employees With Disabilities) for information regarding the workplace accommodation process.
10.4. Students who have a disability should refer to SAM 01.D.09 (Student Academic Accommodations) for information on the academic accommodation process.
REVIEW AND RESPONSIBILITY
Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs and General Counsel
Every five years
| ||Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs and General Counsel|
| ||Renu Khator|
|Date:||October 27, 2021|
RELATED STATUTES, POLICIES, OR REQUIREMENTS
Equal Pay Act of 1963
Title VI & VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, Pub. L. No. 92-261 Section 503 & 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008Civil Rights Act of 1991
Executive Order 11246
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008