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PS 02.B.18 - Staff Ombuds Policy

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Effective Date: 06/29/2023

Issue #: 1

President: Loren J. Blanchard

1. Purpose

This PS describes the university policy regarding the Staff Ombuds position.

2. Definitions

2.1 Staff Ombuds: A University of Houston-Downtown staff employee serving as a resource to staff who have questions about staff rights, responsibilities, and the working environment. The Staff Ombuds strives to promote fairness and foster a positive work environment by offering a number of mechanisms for early conflict resolution and problem-solving.

2.2 Staff Employee (or Staff): A non-probationary employee employed on a regular basis for a period of at least four and one-half months, excluding students employed in positions that require student status as a condition for employment and those holding a teaching and/or research position classified as faculty.

2.3 Employee Relations Officer (ERO): A full-time Employment Services and Operations staff member who manages conflicts among staff and between staff and leadership. The ERO investigates and resolves workplace issues and may recommend appropriate disciplinary action. Staff employee concerns, disputes, and complaints related to sexual harassment (SAM 01.D.08) and harassment and discrimination (SAM 01.D.07) are addressed by the Title IX/Equal Opportunity Officer.

3. Policy

3.1 The Staff Ombuds is a person trained to assist staff members. The Staff Ombuds is a confidential, impartial, informal, and independent resource for all staff at UHD. The Staff Ombuds also identifies trends and challenges and makes recommendations for change in University policies or practices when appropriate. The Staff Ombuds is not a decision maker. The person in that role does not have the power to establish, change, or set aside University rules, policies, or management decisions.

3.2 The Staff Ombuds:

3.2.1 Is available for consultation upon request.

3.2.2 Receives and reviews concerns or complaints related to staff rights, responsibilities, and workplace and employment issues from members of the UHD staff.

3.2.3 Promotes the values of fairness, justice, equality of opportunity and mutual respect.

3.2.4 Assists staff in determining the overall context of the dispute, concern or problem.

3.2.5 Provides information and assistance in accessing and interpreting University policies and procedures.

3.2.6 Makes referrals to appropriate University resources.

3.2.7 Helps staff analyze complaints by identifying issues and outlining available options.

3.2.8 Coaches staff in addressing and managing conflict.

3.2.9 Makes recommendations to the Vice President for Employment Services and Operations and the University President regarding changes to University policies and procedures that may reduce or eliminate recurring workplace issues, enhance the effectiveness of University resources, or increase the quality of work-life for staff.

3.3 To the extent possible, all consultations with the Staff Ombuds will be confidential. However, there are certain circumstances under University policy and law that require disclosure of information.

3.4 The Staff Ombuds is independent of the University's administration.

3.5 The Staff Ombuds is not an avenue to officially appeal decisions made by the Grievance Committee.

3.6 The Staff Ombuds does not have the power to change any decisions, but can only advise, refer, and/or review concerns.

3.7 The Staff Ombuds will consult with the ERO about personnel, policy, and legal questions, and the Title IX/Equal Opportunity Officer about sexual harassment or harassment and discrimination.

4. Procedures

4.1 To qualify for the Staff Ombuds position, staff members must:

4.1.1 Be in a Staff Employee position.

4.1.2 Have been employed at the University of Houston-Downtown for at least five years, have received an overall performance rating of meets or exceeds expectations in the most recent annual performance evaluation, and have not been subject to disciplinary action or a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) within the past twelve months.

4.1.3 Have had staff supervisory experience at UHD.

4.1.4 Have demonstrated leadership attributes.

4.1.5 Have served on a University Committee.

4.1.6 Be familiar with University policies and procedures, especially those pertaining to staff.

4.1.7 Command the respect of colleagues and be able to respect the private and confidential nature of issues brought to his/her attention.

4.2 Application and Selection Process

4.2.1 Applicants/nominees must complete an application and submit it to the Staff Council Executive Committee.

4.2.2 The Staff Council Executive Committee, in consultation with the Vice President for Employment Services and Operations, will screen applications and interview prospective nominees.

4.2.3 The following staff are ineligible for Staff Ombuds nomination/appointment: Members of the President's Cabinet, members of the Staff Council Executive Committee at the time of the nomination process, and Employment Services and Operations staff.

4.2.4 The Staff Council Executive Committee will recommend the appointment of a Staff Ombuds to the University President.

4.2.5 If approved by the President, the appointment will begin the month following completion of the required training, as outlined in 4.3. If the recommendation is not approved by the President, the President will meet with the Staff Council Executive Committee to determine a course of action.

4.3 Term of Appointment, Training, and Compensation

4.3.1 The Staff Ombuds will serve a three-year term and will be eligible to apply for reappointment.

4.3.2 Before Ombuds work may commence, the selected Staff Ombuds must successfully complete required conflict resolution training and Ombuds training offered by the International Ombudsman Association.

4.3.3 The Staff Ombuds will be required to complete annual professional development as prescribed by the International Ombudsman Association.

4.3.4 The Staff Ombuds will be compensated for work at the rate of $150 per month.

4.3.5 The Staff Ombuds is expected to continue to perform their regular job duties in addition to their duties as the Staff Ombuds. The Staff Ombuds will communicate with their supervisor about their Staff Ombuds schedule and will modify the schedule if requested by their supervisor. The Staff Ombuds shall make all attempts to schedule their time to the Staff Ombuds duties as to not disrupt their normal job functions.

4.3.6 In addition to the employee's staff office, the Staff Ombuds will have access to a private office, private phone, and office equipment.

4.3.7 Funding for the Staff Ombuds stipend and professional development shall be arranged through the Office of the President.

4.4 Performance Review

4.4.1 Each staff member who consults with the Staff Ombuds will be given a brief survey to complete and return anonymously to the Staff Council President. The survey shall be developed by the Staff Council Executive Committee and will include the following: staff member's perception of the Staff Ombuds' effectiveness, including such matters as availability, knowledge of the issue, and ability to resolve it. The survey may not ask for either the name of the staff member or the purpose of consultation. No changes to the survey may be made without Staff Council Executive Committee approval and due notice to the Staff Ombuds.

4.4.2 For reporting purposes, the Staff Ombuds will keep a record of the number of staff consultations, the time required for resolution of the staff member's problem, and a general categorization of the problem.

4.4.3 By September 15, the Staff Ombuds will meet with the Staff Council Executive Committee and the Vice President for Employment Services and Operations to provide a report of the work during the previous fiscal year, and a list of the most relevant issues brought to the Staff Ombuds' attention. The Staff Council Executive Committee and the Vice President for Employment Services and Operations will provide feedback to the Staff Ombuds, based on the surveys completed by staff who consulted with the Staff Ombuds, and make recommendations to the Staff Ombuds as needed.

4.4.4 By October 1, the Staff Council Executive Committee and the Vice President for Employment Services and Operations will report to the President's Executive Cabinet their assessment of the Staff Ombuds' performance during the previous fiscal year.

4.4.5 The Staff Council Executive Committee, in consultation with the Vice President for Employment Services and Operations, may counsel the Staff Ombuds at any time regarding performance.

4.4.6 The Staff Council Executive Committee and the Vice President for Employment Services and Operations may, at any time, recommend removal of the Staff Ombuds to the staff and, if supported by a two-thirds vote of the voting staff members, the recommendation will be forwarded to the President.

4.4.7 For Significant Offenses, Significant Acts of Misconduct, or Significant Rule Violations, the Staff Ombuds may be removed immediately by the Staff Council President after consultation with the Vice President for Employment and Operations.

4.4.8 Upon removal of the Staff Ombuds, the selection of the replacement will begin as expeditiously as possible and follow the steps set forth in 4.2. The newly elected Staff Ombuds will finish the term of the previous Staff Ombuds and will be eligible for reappointment.

5. Review Process

Responsible Party (Reviewer): Staff Council Executive Committee and Vice President for Employment Services and Operations

Review: Every two years on or before September 1st.

Signed original on file in Employment Services and Operations.

6. Policy History

No prior issues of this policy.


SAM 01.D.08 Sexual Misconduct Policy

SAM 01.D.07 Anti-Discrimination Policy