Resolving Discrimination Concerns (Procedure 1.0600)

Authority: F.S. 760.01-.11; 1000.05; Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008; Title IX, U.S. Education Amendments Act of 1972; Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Date Adopted: 03/17 (Note: This procedure replaces the Discriminatory Complaint Procedure 2.1800, which was adopted in March 1990 and repealed/replaced 03/17.
Date of Review: 11/16
Date of Revision: -----
Related Policies: 1.060

Purpose

This procedure is intended to provide employees, students, applicants for employment or admission to the College, and visitors an opportunity to notify the College of actions they perceive as discrimination and to seek a resolution of that concern through a procedure devoid of coercion, interference, restraint, or discrimination (including harassment or retaliation).

 This procedure shall apply only to discrimination based on race, color, religion, pregnancy, national origin, ethnicity, age, sex, gender, veterans’ or military status, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, or any other factor protected under applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations.

Definitions

Alleged Discriminating Official (the respondent): The individual responsible for the discriminatory act, as identified by the complainant.

Anonymous information: The College reserves the right to review and close reports, inquiries, and complaints received anonymously. This includes information from a named individual who cannot or will not provide supporting details upon request.

Complainant: An individual who makes a statement to the College that describes an adverse action taken by the College within the past 180 days on any of the bases prohibited by College Policy 1.060.

Discriminate: To act with partiality or prejudice either for or against an individual or group based on race, color, religion, pregnancy, national origin, ethnicity, age, sex, gender, veterans’ or military status, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, or any other factor protected under applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations.

Discrimination Concerns: Categories of Resolutions

  1. Report: Communication of information to the College regarding a situation or incident an individual believes to be prohibited discrimination, with no further interaction. Note: the College encourages reporting parties to provide contact information and further communication regarding details.
  2. Inquiry: A process used by an individual in an endeavor to resolve a situation or incident an individual believes to be prohibited discrimination. In most cases, the individual participates in fact-finding and states the desired remedy for the concern. The College may provide an individual remedy following a finding of a violation.
  3. Complaint of Discrimination: A statement by an individual that describes an adverse action taken by the College within the past 180 days an individual believes to be prohibited by College Policy 1.060. The Complainant provides a written statement that includes facts supporting specific allegations, identifies the type of discrimination alleged, specifies the desired remedy, and authorizes the College to investigate. 

Documentation: As applied in this procedure, any information, documents, statements, observations, and other indicators relating to the circumstances described in the complaint. Documentation is considered before making a finding that applies the statutory standard, “preponderance of evidence.”

Duty Day: A day of College operations as defined by the College District Board of Trustees' approved calendar.

Equity Officer: An employee or agent of the College primarily responsible for assisting employees and students to avoid discriminatory practices and to resolve situations where discrimination is alleged. An alternate Equity Officer may be appointed by the College President when it is in the best interest of the College.

File Date: The date the appropriate contact is received by the Equity Officer to initiate the discrimination complaint process.

Interim Protective Measures: Short-term actions taken by the College to ensure continued access to the College’s programs and activities. The process of completing a report, inquiry, or complaint may continue while interim protective measures are implemented. 

Preponderance of evidence: The standard used to find that the alleged conduct violated College Policy 1.060, Non-Discrimination, or a federal or state statutory obligation of the College relating to discrimination.

Protected activity: Reporting discrimination in any manner, serving as a witness in a discrimination proceeding, or involvement in a proceeding to resolve discrimination.

Respondent: An individual named in a statement to the College as representing the College while taking an adverse action, on the bases prohibited by College Policy 1.060, within the past 180 days.

Retaliation: Anadverse actiontaken against acovered individualbecause he or she engaged in aprotected activity, when it has the purpose or effect of discouraging any individual from engaging in similar protected activity.

Procedure

The College encourages actions to prevent or correct discrimination. To demonstrate this commitment, the College will implement certain adjustments for the support and safety of complainants or witnesses, maintain confidentiality to the extent possible, and complete a thorough investigation in a timely manner.

  1. Special Circumstances
    Any employee of the College who learns of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect must report the situation immediately. For emergencies, call 911. When there is no immediate danger, employees must call the Florida Department of Children and Families’ statewide hotline number 1.800.962.2873. Further information is contained in Procedure 8.0500 Protection of Children and Vulnerable Persons: Reporting Known or Suspected Abuse, Abandonment or Neglect of Children https://www.seminolestate.edu/policies-procedures/procedures/security/8.0500
  2. Confidentiality
    1. Individuals should be aware of the College’s responsibilities regarding confidentiality. This applies to those who identify themselves when they report concerns of discrimination, inquire about College actions and request a remedy for discrimination, or file a complaint of discrimination.
    2. The College is responsible for correcting and remedying situations or patterns of discrimination when identified. That is best achieved with open discussion of facts. The participation of involved individuals plays a vital role in effective resolution.
    3. The College may keep confidential such actions as the initial contact with a College official to explore options and discuss this Procedure. Note: once an official is aware that discrimination may be involved, that official must take an action on behalf of the College. The College will take all reasonable steps to protect the identities of involved parties during an exploration of options and in investigation, upon request.
    4. The College must balance the safety and privacy of the individual with the responsibility to maintain an environment free from discrimination. In situations involving other statutory obligations, the College may have to disclose situations or identities, although every effort will be made to maintain confidentiality.
  3. College Steps Common to Reports of Discrimination, Inquiries Related to Discrimination, and Discrimination Complaints to the College
    1. The College normally will take the following actions when receiving a report, inquiry, or complaint.
      1. Receive the facts through an appropriate College official.
      2. Receive contact information. The College addresses anonymous reports with no individual remedy for the unknown reporting party, although there may be changes in the environment on behalf of applicants, students, employees, or visitors.
      3. Assess immediate safety and productivity elements.
      4. Report relevant activity involving minors.
      5. Notify the Equity Officer immediately of any reports, inquiries, or complaints of discrimination to ensure College compliance with federal and state statutes as well as College policies. The Equity Officer will work with the official to determine the next steps.
      6. Consider the need for a Clery Act timely warning notice as described in Procedure 8.030  Timely Warnings and Emergency Notifications   https://www.seminolestate.edu/policies-procedures/procedures/security/8.0300 )
      7. Assess the need for interim protective measures.
      8. Notify Student Affairs regarding the allegations if a student is involved; notify Human Resources if an employee is involved.
      9. Take appropriate actions to maintain integrity of investigation. If a student is involved, document any changes in enrollment status related to the complaint. If an employee is involved, document any relevant personnel actions such as interim transfers, reassignments, administrative leaves, or similar.
      10. Determine if the allegation meets the definition of discrimination.
      11. Seek input on the desired remedy.
      12. Discuss the College’s commitment to prevent retaliation and procedures for reporting any such incident.
  4. Reports Alleging Discrimination
    1. The College encourages individuals to make reports when they observe or receive information regarding a situation or incident that might be based on discrimination. They should describe the alleged discrimination to a supervisor, Human Resources, or the Equity Officer. If presented to someone other than those representatives, that individual should refer the matter to the Equity Officer in a timely manner.
    2. The reporting party should provide contact information in case the College representative who reviews the situation or incident needs additional information. The College provides no individual remedy to those who report discrimination, although the reporting party may see a change in circumstances surrounding the topic of the report.
    3. An individual presenting a report may choose at any time to make an inquiry, file a complaint of discrimination with the College, or seek resolution with external civil rights agencies.
    4. The College encourages reports when the situation is experienced or observed, but reports received within 180 days are most effectively resolved. The College will review reports alleging discrimination in a timely manner, but there is no deadline for completion of that review. 
  5. Inquiries Alleging Discrimination
    1. An individual may review a situation or incident with the alleged discriminating official; that individual’s supervisor or higher level supervision; Student Affairs (for student issues); Human Resources (for employment issues), or the Equity Officer (for any issue, including concerns by visitors) without initiating an inquiry under this procedure. An inquiry is not a complaint.
    2. An inquiry requires the concerned individual to provide a written statement of the situation or incident that describes the type of discrimination perceived, as well as requested actions that address the situation or incident. The College representative receiving a written statement supporting the inquiry has a responsibility to review it in good faith and decide on appropriate action.
    3. Depending on circumstances, the College representative may explore the inquiry or refer it for resolution by higher-level supervision, Human Resources, or the Equity Officer. If the issue relates to any type of prohibited discrimination as listed above, the College representative must ensure that the Equity Officer is notified of the inquiry, regardless of who works to resolve it. The Equity Officer will collaborate with Student Affairs, Human Resources, supervision, or other relevant parties to foster a resolution at the inquiry level.
    4. Resolution of an inquiry does not represent a finding of discrimination. If the response to the inquiry resolves the matter, the College representative who resolved it should document the situation and the resolution.
    5. Inquiries must be resolved with a final decision within 20 duty days. The College may extend the timeline for good cause, with written notification to the inquiring party that includes the new date for completion.  
    6. An individual who is not satisfied with the result at the inquiry level may file a complaint of discrimination with the College or seek resolution with external civil rights agencies at any time.
    7. The College encourages communication when the situation is experienced or observed, but accepts inquiries received within 180 days of the occurrence.
  6. Complaints Alleging Discrimination
    1. Students, employees, applicants for enrollment, applicants for employment, and visitors who identify issues they believe resulted from discrimination on prohibited bases may file a Discrimination Complaint with the College. The Equity Officer shall manage the process of discrimination complaint investigation. College personnel receiving complaints of discrimination shall refer them in a timely manner to the Equity Officer. Contact information:

      Associate Vice President
      Equity and Diversity/Title IX Coordinator
      100 Weldon Boulevard
      Sanford, FL 32773
      (407) 708-2963

    2. The Equity Officer will investigate the complaint using the following steps, as appropriate to the subject of the complaint:
      1. Determine jurisdiction. Identify the complainant’s relationship with Seminole State College, the basis for the alleged action, the last date of the action (occurring no more than 180 days prior) and other factors related to the College’s jurisdiction over the subject of the complaint. If the College cannot reasonably determine jurisdiction, the Equity Officer will close the complaint.
      2. Assess safety and productivity elements at the moment. Should the instructor/student relationship or an employment-related relationship present a concern for safety or productivity, Student Affairs and/or Human Resources (as appropriate) may specify a temporary reassignment of specified duration for either individual.
      3. Explore alternative complaint options with the complainant, if jurisdiction is confirmed. Federal, state, and other College resolution processes may exist. Some foreclose others. As an example, the College may close a complaint of discrimination when the complainant has engaged in another campus process for resolution.
      4. Secure information from the complainant, to include:
        1)    a complete statement of the complaint and supporting facts
        2)    an indication of what type of discrimination the complainant is alleging;
        3)    an identification of the individual(s) responsible for the alleged discrimination;
        4)    the remedy or corrective action(s) requested.
      5. Confirm the name and contact information for the Equity Officer who will lead the investigation. While Policy 1.070 designates the primary Equity Officer, the College President may reassign the responsibility in the best interests of the College.
      6. Confirm the date on which the College opened an investigation following completion of required elements: determination of jurisdiction, confirmation of choice of forum, and signed discrimination complaint with required information. This date marks Day 1 of the investigation period.
      7. Collect evidence. This may include interviews, document collection, statistical modeling, site visits, independent research, or other methods as permitted by statute. These actions normally take place during scheduled working hours, unless alternative schedules are in the best interest of the College.
      8. Summarize evidence, findings, and corrective actions intended to resolve any discriminatory actions in which the College engaged. Maintain a neutral role that facilitates identification of prohibited behavior and represents the College’s commitment to non-discrimination.
      9. Prepare a report (which may be preserved electronically) to the College President containing:
        1)      basis of the complaint
        2)      names of the persons involved
        3)      undisputed facts
        4)      disputed facts
        5)      final disposition of the inquiry (based on a preponderance of evidence)
        6)      corrective actions planned, including, but not limited to, referrals to action offices or changes in College operations.
      10. Implement the recommended corrective actions. Observe the established timeline: no more than 40 duty days from the date of opening the investigation period until the date of transmittal to the parties involved. The College may extend the timeline for good cause, with written notification to the complainant and respondent that includes the new date for completion. Good cause for extensions may include the complexity of the investigation, availability of witnesses, unexpected College non-duty days, and other factors.   
      11. Notify the complainant, respondent, and other relevant parties within five duty days of the investigation’s conclusion. Notification may take place electronically or by other reliable means. “Relevant parties” include offices named in the recommendations as responsible for considering remedies or corrective actions. It also includes referral to Student Affairs when the issue involves a student and Human Resources when the issue involves an employee.
      12. Coordinate the College’s response to corrective actions or recommendations. Document all follow-up.
      13. Maintain the official file of all records associated with the complaint.
  7. Appeals
    1. The College closes complaints of discrimination by communicating a decision to the complainant, the respondent, the Associate Vice President for Equity and Diversity/Title IX, and relevant parties responsible for considering remedies or corrective actions. The decision takes the form of a finding whether the alleged actions violated College policy or relevant federal or state civil rights statutes.
    2. The Equity Officer's decision is final. It may be appealed only under the following conditions:
      1. The Equity Officer did not comply with an element of the procedure, which significantly affected the outcome, or
      2. The non-prevailing party presents clear evidence of facts unavailable through the exercise of due diligence during the investigation. Those facts must be credible for review and demonstrate a strong possibility that they could have changed the investigation finding related to a violation.
    3. An appeal consists of a written statement containing the facts supporting the appeal. The statement shall be communicated to the Equity Officer within five duty days of the date on which the party received the communication of the investigation’s conclusion.
    4. The Equity Officer will certify the appeal or decline to certify the appeal within five duty days of receipt. The criteria to certify or deny the appeal appear in Section G.2.a-b above.
    5. Once an appeal is certified, Day One of the review period begins the duty day after it is certified. The Equity Officer will consider the facts of the certified appeal and recommend an appeal finding. The Equity Officer will communicate that recommended appeal finding to the President or designee for approval. Appeal reviews shall conclude within 15 duty days of certification. The conclusion shall be represented by communication of a decision to the original complainant, original respondent, the Associate Vice President for Equity and Diversity/Title IX, and those individuals who received a copy of the original investigation report.
    6. The decisions on the appeal certification and the appeal finding are final. Discrimination complainants who wish to pursue further options may contact federal or state civil rights agencies for information.1
  8. Guidelines relating to the complaint process
    1. The Equity Officer is the custodian of all documents and other evidence connected with a complaint of discrimination. The Equity Officer in a designated complaint file shall maintain all pertinent communications, documents, and records in any form. Such communications, documents, and records may be released at the conclusion of the investigation, as required by statute.
    2. The complainant normally will bear the costs of preparing and presenting the statements and evidence for all phases of the complaint. These actions shall take place outside of worktime and without incurring the expense of College support resources such as copiers or printers. The Equity Officer may authorize specific time commitments and resource usage in the best interest of the College.
    3. The College normally will bear the costs of preparing and presenting the respondent’s case if the complaint alleges a discriminatory act by an individual acting in an official capacity for the College. If a complaint alleges a discriminatory act by a respondent acting beyond the role and scope of the respondent’s position, the respondent normally will bear the costs of preparing and presenting the case.
    4. Complainant may elect legal counsel, but it is not required at any stage. If counsel is involved in any stage of the investigation, appropriate adjustments to time frames may be required. The College's General Counsel normally will be involved whenever counsel for a complainant, respondent, or witness is involved.
    5. Any party may be accompanied to an interview or other interaction related to the complaint by an individual serving in the role of advisor, including legal counsel. The advisor maintains a silent and non-participating presence, observing and providing support.
    6. State or federal civil rights agencies may be contacted by a complainant as appropriate. The complainant is required to notify the Equity Officer when selecting an alternate form of resolution.
    7. An investigation finding that a respondent’s actions constitute a violation shall form the basis for disciplinary action. Human Resources is responsible for considering and implementing such actions involving employees; Student Conduct is responsible for considering and implementing such actions involving students.
    8. In the event that the President is a named respondent, the Board shall designate an individual to perform the President's duties as defined in this complaint procedure.
  9. Prohibition of Retaliation
    1. All individuals associated with the report, inquiry, or complaint shall be protected from any form of retaliation from any individual(s) within the control of the College. Individuals associated with the report, inquiry, or complaint may include the reporting party, the inquiring party, the complainant, the respondent, individuals who were named as witnesses, and individuals known or thought to be allied with any such parties.
    2. The College encourages students and employees to intercede in discriminatory behavior, when it is safe, and report the situation when appropriate. Reporting may include statements to Campus Safety and Security, the Associate Vice President for Equity and Diversity/Title IX Coordinator, Human Resources, other campus authorities, or law enforcement.
    3. The College will investigate allegations of retaliation as vigorously as any other type of discrimination and will apply appropriate disciplinary sanctions as warranted.
  10. Obligation for Truthful Information
    The College reviews all discrimination concerns with a sincere commitment to implementing statutes, guidelines, and College policy in various areas. Allegations leading to findings that a College policy or civil rights law has been violated can carry serious sanctions. When review or investigation determines that an individual has provided false information intentionally or maliciously, that individual may be subject to disciplinary action. Information provided in good faith, even if the facts are not substantiated in the review or investigation, is excluded from this definition. Criminal or civil penalties also might apply to intentional or malicious provision of false information.

NOTE

Any other College rule(s) which reference(s) the rule noticed herein shall be interpreted and enforced consistent with the new / revised rule upon its final adoption (unless otherwise indicated in the referencing rule(s)).

 

Recommended by Executive Team Date 03/24/2017
Signed by President E. Ann McGee Date 03/30/2017

 

1Those include the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Florida Commission on Human Relations for employees or the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights for students.

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