Nondiscrimination and Discrimination Complaint/Grievance Procedures

Procedure Section: 
Human Resources
Effective: 
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Last Revised: 
Monday, September 19, 2016
Procedure: 

I.   General Procedures

A.    Reporting
Incidents should be reported as soon as possible after the time of their occurrence.  No person is required to report discrimination or harassment to the alleged offender.

B.   Reporting Responsibility
Every supervisor, administrator, and College official is responsible for promptly reporting incidents of discrimination and harassment in violation of this policy that come to their attention.  Incidents should be reported to the Chief HRO. 

C.   Resolution Options
A person who believes that s/he has been subjected to discrimination or harassment in violation of this policy and seeks to take action may use either the informal resolution process or the formal complaint procedure or both.  The informal resolution and formal complaint procedure described in this policy are not mutually exclusive and neither is required as a pre-condition for choosing the other.  However, they cannot both be used at the same time.

II.     Informal Complaint Procedures

A. Students and employees are encouraged to resolve their complaints informally.  This may occur by discussing the complaint directly with the respondent and/or with the respondent’s supervisor.

B. A complainant may also meet and consult with the Chief HRO or other college officials without making a formal written complaint.  At the informal level the Chief HRO or other College official meeting with the complainant should notify the complainant of the grievance process for filing formal complaints.  At the informal level the Chief HRO or other College official meeting with the complainant are required to report the complaint under section I.B above.

C. The Chief HRO may arrange and/or participate in an informal resolution meeting, either upon his/her own initiative or at the request of any party to the informal complaint.

D. The complainant may at any time decline to continue with this informal process.  Use of this informal procedure is not required prior to making a formal written compla

  1. Any complaint may be initially filed with the Chief Human Resource Officer.
  2. A complaint involving discrimination on the basis of disability is addressed separately by the SPSCC Procedures and Appeals Process for Accommodating Students with Disabilities and Disability Discrimination Complaints.  Those procedures may be found at the College’s Access Services Office, at the College’s  Human Resource Office, and and online at https://spscc.edu/procedures
  3. A college employee or volunteer other than the Chief HRO who receives a written complaint alleging discrimination shall forward the original of that complaint to the Chief HRO.
  4. This complaint procedure shall also constitute the grievance procedure for complaints alleging unlawful discrimination.  As used herein “complaint” is synonymous with “grievance”.

III.      Formal Complaint Procedures

A.    Complaint

Any person may begin the formal complaint procedure by filing a written complaint as follows:

  1. Any complaint may be initially filed with the Chief of Human Resources Office.
  2. A complaint involving discrimination on the basis of disability is addressed separately by the SPSCC Procedures and Appeals Process for Accommodating Students with Disabilities and Disability Discrimination Complaints.  Those procedures may be found at the College’s Office of Disability Support Services, at the College’s Office of Human Resources, and online at http:new.spscc.edu/policy
  3. A college employee or volunteer other than the Chief HRO who receives a written complaint alleging discrimination shall forward the original of that complaint to the Chief HRO.
  4. This complaint procedure shall also constitute the grievance procedure for complaints alleging unlawful discrimination.  As used herein “complaint” is synonymous with “grievance”.

B.    Confidentiality

Complaints will be treated confidentially to the extent permitted by public disclosure laws, FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), other relevant governing laws, and by the College’s other obligations to protect the rights of the complainant and the respondent, while at the same time promptly investigating alleged discrimination and taking any appropriate remedial action.  Ordinarily no formal action will be taken against a respondent unless the complainant consents to be identified to the respondent so that the respondent can provide his/her own version of what happened.  However, the College reserves the right to take appropriate corrective action regardless of a complainant’s actions.

C.    Substance and Time Limit; and Timeline

The written complaint should be dated and signed and should describe (i) the specific conduct complained of, including the dates, times, locations, and circumstances of the alleged acts of discrimination; (ii) the names and any contact information for known witnesses; and (iii) any particular action requested to resolve the situation.  The College encourages a complainant to file the written complaint within thirty (30) calendar days and no later than sixty (60) calendardays of the alleged discriminatory act(s) in order to assist in effective and timely investigation and corrective action if appropriate.  Complaints filed after sixty (60) calendar days will be considered untimely.

The timeline anticipated by these procedures is as follows:

  • Supervisors, administrators, and college officials who are informed or believe that discrimination is occurring must report such activity to the Chief Human Resources Officer (Chief HRO) within eight (8) calendar days.
  • Written complaint should be filed within thirty (30) calendar days but no later than sixty (60) calendar days of the alleged discriminatory act.
  • Written acknowledgment of receipt of complaint by HRO with copy of procedures issues to complainant within eight (8) calendar days of receipt of complaint.
  • The complaint shall be promptly investigated within thirty (30)calendar days of the date of the complaint.
  • The respondent should provide to the investigator, a written response to the complaint within seven (7) calendar days of receiving a copy of the complaint.
  • The Chief of Human Resources will send a notice of decision not to proceed with investigation to complainant (i.e., dismissal of complaint) within fifteen (15) calendar days of that decision.  The complainant may appeal that decision to the President within fifteen (15) calendar days of notification of the decision.
  • President will respond to appeal of dismissal of complaint within twenty (20) calendar days of receipt of appeal.
  • Corrective measures will be decided within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt of the investigator’s report by the appointing authority.
  • Employee respondent and student respondent may appeal corrective measure by filing a written request for such review with the College President within twenty (20) calendar days of notice of the corrective measure.
  • Complainant may request reconsideration by the President of findings or outcome of complaint within twenty (20) calendar days of the decision.
  • President issues written decision on appeal or request for reconsideration within fifteen (15) instructional days of receipt of appeal or request for reconsideration.

D.    Documentation

The College shall maintain documents related to complaints under this policy as required by law.  The Human Resources Office shall be primarily responsible for records related to all complaints.

E.    Acknowledgement

Within eight (8) calendar days after receipt of a written complaint, the Human Resources Office will send the complainant a brief acknowledgment of the complaint, stating that the complaint will be evaluated and advising the complainant(s) that s/he will be contacted within a given time.  The acknowledgement letter will include a copy of these complaint procedures.

F.     Complaint Evaluation

A formal investigation will be initiated if a complaint is complete, timely, within the scope of this policy and articulates sufficient specific facts, which, if determined to be true, would support an allegation that this policy was violated.  The College may not proceed with a formal complaint investigation under a variety of circumstances, such as:

  • A person fails to provide a written, signed complaint;
  • A complaint fails to describe in sufficient detail the conduct that is the basis of the complaint;
  • The conduct described in the complaint is not covered by this policy;
  • A complaint is not timely (i.e., it is filed more than sixty (60) calendar days after the event or act occurs which is the subject of the complaint);
  • The complainant declines to cooperate in the College’s investigation;
  • The complaint has been withdrawn; or
  • An appropriate resolution or remedy has already been achieved.

G.   Notice of Dismissal of Complaint

If it is determined that the College will not proceed with a complaint investigation, the Human Resources Office will send a notification letter explaining the reason(s) to the complainant with a copy to the alleged offender within fifteen (15) calendar days of decision not to proceed. The notification letter will also include a statement informing the complainant that, within fifteen (15) calendar days of the notification, s/he may appeal to the College President. the determination not to proceed with a complaint investigation.

H.    Appeal of Dismissal of Complaint

The request for appeal must be a signed, written document articulating why the decision to dismiss the complaint was in error.  The President will respond within twenty (20) calendar days of receipt of the appeal.  If the decision to dismiss is upheld, that decision is final.  If the decision to dismiss is overturned, the complaint is sent back to the Human Resources Office for investigation in accordance with the procedures outlined below.

I.      Notice to Respondent

The respondent will be given a copy of the complaint and a description of these procedures.  The complainant will be given a copy of the procedures.  The respondent is strongly encouraged to provide the investigator with a written response to the complaint within seven (7) calendar days of receiving a copy of the complaint.  However, even if the respondent fails or chooses not to answer a complaint or participate in an investigation, this will not prevent the process from proceeding.

J.     Representation

The complainant may bring a person of his or her choice to any and all meetings regarding the complaint.  Respondents represented by a collective bargaining unit may also bring a union steward, or other person of their choice, to meetings regarding the complaint and subsequent investigation.

K.    Investigation Responsibility

The complaint will be promptly investigated by the Chief HRO or another person designated by the Chief HRO. 

L.    Investigation Process and Findings

This investigation generally will include the investigator interviewing the complainant(s), the respondent(s), and persons who are considered to have pertinent factual information related to the complaint.  The investigator shall also gather and examine documents relevant to the complaint.  Findings will be based on the totality of circumstances surrounding the conduct complained of, including but not limited to:  the context of that conduct, its severity, frequency, whether it was physically threatening, humiliating, or was simply offensive in nature.

M.   Submission of Evidence

During the complaint investigation process, the complainant(s) and the respondent(s) will provide the Human Resources Office with any documents that are necessary regarding the issues raised in the complaint.

N.    Retaliation

During the investigation, the college will attempt to safeguard the rights of the complainant and the respondent, as well as any witnesses involved.  All parties involved have the right to protection from any retaliating behavior.  A student, faculty, or staff member who retaliates in any way against an individual who has brought a complaint pursuant to this policy or who retaliates against anyone who participated in good faith in an investigation of such a complaint is subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from the college.

O.   Filing of False Complaints

Any person who knowingly and intentionally files a false complaint under this policy is subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from the college.

P.    Effect on Pending Personnel Actions or Student Status

The filing of a nondiscrimination or retaliation complaint will not stop or delay any evaluation or disciplinary action related to the complainant or respondent, whether employee or student, who is not performing up to acceptable standards or who has violated college rules, policies, or job terms or requirements.

Q.   Resolution

A formal investigation may be terminated at any time by the investigator if a satisfactory resolution can be reached without the necessity of a written report.

R.   Conflicts of Interest

When the Chief HRO, or any staff of the Chief HRO, is a respondent, the complaint shall be referred to the College President who will designate someone else to perform the Chief HRO’s responsibilities under these complaint procedures.  When the College President is a respondent, the complaint should be referred to the Board of Trustees for appropriate handling.

S.    Report of Findings and Recommendation

Upon completion of the investigation, the investigator will promptly make a written report, including any appropriate recommendation, and may also directly take such action as is within her/his authority.  The findings of the investigation shall be reported to the complainant, respondent, Chief HRO (if the respondent is an employee),the Vice President for Student Services (if the respondent is a student), and College President.  If the respondent is a College employee, the investigator may also make a recommendation to the employee’s appointing authority.  If the respondent is a student and found to have violated this policy, the student shall be subject to disciplinary action as outlined in the Code for Student Rights and Responsibilities.  For these purposes, prompt investigation and reports will ordinarily mean reports made within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of the complaint, unless the investigator determines that more time is needed.

T.    Corrective Measures and Review

Corrective measures, if any, will be promptly decided within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt of the investigator’s report, by the appointing authority upon appropriate consultation with the investigator and Chief HRO and consistent with any applicable bargained agreement and statutes. 

If the respondent disagrees with the corrective measure(s), that individual may seek review through any other available grievance procedure.  For example, students may seek review through any rights available under the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities.  Employees may seek review through any rights available under collective bargaining agreements, appointment agreements, or other governing documents.

If the complainant disagrees with a finding of no discrimination or other outcome of the complaint, the complainant has the right to file a written request for reconsideration of the decision with the President, within twenty (20) calendar days of the decision.  The President shall consider the request for reconsideration and issue a written decision on that request within fifteen (15) instructional days of receiving the request.  The President’s decision on reconsideration shall be final with regard to the complainant’s appeal of the process.

U.    Student Respondent and Employee Review by President 

A student respondent, andan employee respondent,in the absence of any applicable procedure under a collective bargaining agreement, may obtain review of a corrective measure by filing, within twenty (20) calendar days of notice of that action, a written request for such review with the College President.

Upon receiving such a request, the President shall determine whether the matter should be heard as a brief adjudicative proceeding.  If so, the President or his/her designee shall be the presiding officer for that proceeding.  The President or designee may affirm, modify, or reverse any corrective measure to the extent of his/her authority.

V.    Final Action

The final determination of the corrective measure(s), after any applicable review has been completed, shall be the final college action in the matter.

W.  Time Frames

Time frames mentioned in these procedures may be extended for good cause, such as holidays or when classes are not in session or when it is necessary to complete an investigation due to difficulties reaching witnesses or parties to the complaint.

X.    Relationship of Complaint Procedure to Outside Agencies Time Limits

The filing of a discrimination or harassment complaint under this policy does not excuse the complainant from meeting the time limits of outside agencies.

IIII.             Complaints filed with outside agencies

A.    These complaint procedures are internal College procedures and serve to resolve complaints within the College’s administrative framework.  An aggrieved party also has the right to direct inquiries to, and/or to file a complaint of discrimination with, any appropriate state or federal agency.  These may include:

 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
909 First Avenue, Suite 400
Seattle, Washington 98104
(800) 669-4000

 U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
915 Second Avenue, Room 3310
Seattle, Washington  98174
(206) 220-7900

 
Washington State Human Rights Commission
711 Capitol Way, Suite 402
PO Box 42490
Olympia, WA 98504-2490
1-800-233-3247

 

 Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Complaint Adjudication Office, NALC
Washington, D.C. 20530   (202) 514-2195


 

Definitions: 

Complainant:  A person who alleges that s/he has suffered an act of unlawful discrimination committed by an employee or student of the College and who has made an informal or formal complaint to that effect under these procedures.

Discrimination:  Conduct directed at a specific individual or a group of identifiable individuals that subjects the individual or group to treatment that adversely affects their employment or education because of their race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, citizenship, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Harassment:  As a form of discrimination, harassment is defined as verbal or physical conduct that is directed at an individual or group because of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, marital status, disability, citizenship, veteran status, gender, sexual orientation, or any other unlawful basis when such conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to have the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s or group’s academic or work performance or of creating a hostile academic or work environment.

Instructional Days:  Days that school is in session.

Investigator:  The person who is responsible for investigating a formal complaint and making a determination regarding its merits.

Respondent:  The person who is alleged in a complaint to have violated this policy by committing an act of unlawful discrimination.

Verbal conduct:  Is defined as oral, written, or symbolic expressions that:

  • Personally describes or is personally directed at a specific individual or group of identifiable individuals; and
  • Is not necessary to intellectual debate of any political, religious, philosophical, ideological, or academic idea.

 Constitutionally protected expression cannot be considered harassment under this policy.

Procedure Code: 
PRHMRS215