Office Of Social Equity

West Chester University

13/15 University Avenue
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610-436-2433
Fax: 610-436-3164


Discrimination Complaint Procedures

DISCRIMINATION INTAKE FORM (PDF)

The procedures described herein are established pursuant to West Chester University's Affirmative Action - Equal Opportunity Policy Statement and represent the University's method for responding to complaints of discrimination whether those complaints are formal or informal. For purposes of these procedures, discrimination is defined an adverse employment or academic action or decision that is based on or motivated by an individual's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status or other protected class status. Harassment, whether verbal, physical, or visual, that is based on any of these protected characteristics is discriminatory. This includes harassing conduct affecting tangible job benefits, interfering unreasonably with an individual's work performance, or creating what a reasonable person would sense is an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Harassment is defined as any type of behavior based on race, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status or other protected class status that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it substantially interferes with an individual's work, educational performance, participation in extra-curricular activities, or equal access to the University's resources and opportunities. Retaliatory actions against persons filing a complaint of discrimination are also prohibited. Acts of retaliation shall constitute misconduct subject to disciplinary action.

The WCU Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Policy may be found athttp://www.wcupa.edu/_admin/social.equity/eeo.asp. Hard copies of both the WCU Affirmative Action/Equal Opportnity Policy and Discrimination Complaint Procedures may be obtained at the Office of Social Equity, 13/15 University Ave., Room 100.

The procedure for informal complaints calls for prompt review and mediation if desired, followed by action intended to prevent any discrimination. The procedure for formal complaints also calls for prompt review which may result in disciplinary action against someone who has discriminated against another. To the extent possible, the University expects to complete the investigation within 50 business days of receiving a written complaint, unless there are extenuating circumstances which may prevent the University from complying with this timeframe.

The complainant has the right, consistent with this policy's timeframe, to file a formal complaint at any time during the informal process or if satisfactory results are not achieved through the informal process. The complainant also has the option of pursuing formal complaints through the following public agencies responsible for enforcing the laws against discrimination within the time frames listed.

 

P.A. Human Relations Commission (215) 560-2496 180 days
U.S. Dept. of Education, Office for Civil Rights (215) 656-8541 180 days
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (215) 440-2600 300 days

Complaints against a student brought by a staff member, faculty member, or another student should be brought to the attention of the Director of Judicial Affairs and Student Assistance. The procedures for handling such matters involving students or student organizations are detailed in the Student Code of Conduct found in the Ram's Eye View Student Handbook and will be processed through the student judicial system.

If a complaint alleges discrimination or harassment by an employee of the Office of Social Equity or the Office of the President, the complaint will be investigated by a party external to the University.

Employees accused of discrimination have the right to be assisted by their collective bargaining unit representative at any meeting held to discuss the complaint with the accused. If an employee elects to be represented by his or her union, the union will receive copies of all written notification sent to the accused. Employees equally have the right not to be represented by their union. The decision regarding union representation rests solely with the accused employee. When a formal investigation is to be conducted against a faculty member, Article 43 of the APSCUF collective bargaining agreement will also govern.

The complainant also has the right to be assisted in all aspects of the Complaint Procedure by an advocate should they desire to do so. Trained faculty and staff are available to serve to:
  • Clarify procedural issues,
  • Assist with the preparation of the complaint, and
  • Make inquiries as to the status of the complaint
  • Provide other support-related functions

The Social Equity Director will provide a list of available advocates from which one will be selected by the complainant, if he or she so desires. The role of the Collective Bargaining Unit representatives and complainant advocates is limited to the advice and counsel of their principals only.

Discrimination is a serious matter which can have far-reaching effects; therefore, false or malicious accusations may result in disciplinary action. The Office of Social Equity, in collaboration with the Office of Human Resources, will coordinate and conduct annual, "Preventing Harassment and Discrimination Training," for all new faculty, staff, and administrators within 60 days of the commencing their employment with the University through employee orientation programs. Harassment and discrimination training will be conducted for University employees biannually. All university students will be informed and have access to harassment and discrimination training on annual basis.

Crisis counseling and support services are available to students through the WCU Counseling Center located in 241 Lawrence Hall, 610-436-2301. Crisis counseling and support services are available to all employees through SEAP which may be contacted at 1-800-692-7459 or on the web at www.liveandworkwell.com, Access code: Pennsylvania.

In order to process either a formal or informal complaint of discrimination, the individual, accompanied by an advocate if she or he wishes, must process the complaint through the University's Social Equity Director. The complainant will provide a written statement to the Social Equity Director with sufficient factual information to permit the director to make an initial determination if the University policy on Affirmative Action - Equal Opportunity may have been violated.

The University has a legal obligation to investigate informal or anonymous reports of discrimination to the extent feasible. It is not usually possible to conduct a formal investigation of anonymous reports of discrimination, however, the University has a responsibility to take action to stop and prevent the alleged discrimination. In the event of anonymous reports of discrimination, the Office of Social Equity will meet with the person alleged to have engaged in discriminatory conduct to provide notification of the allegations and the possible repercussions if a formal complaint is brought forward. The Social Equity Office may recommend voluntary training about discrimination and equal opportunity for an individual or a work unit.

In order to conduct a formal investigation which may result in discipline of a University employee, there must be first hand information by the victim or a witness who is available and willing to be identified and interviewed by the investigator(s). It may be possible to take a third-party complaint if the victim of the alleged discrimination is willing to be identified and interviewed. In determining whether a third-party complaint should be formally investigated, the following factors need to be evaluated: (1) is the person filing the complaint trustworthy so that the facts as presented are reliable; (2) does the complaint contain the name and contact information for the victim of the alleged harassment; (3) is there sufficient detail in the complaint to determine whether the allegations fall within the realm of discrimination; (4) has the complaint been brought forward in a timely manner.

Complaints should be filed up to 180 days after the alleged act or behavior. However, it is in the best interest of all to conduct a timely review of the circumstances of the alleged discrimination behavior; accordingly, complainants are urged to file complaints as soon as possible.

In recognition of the dignity and reputations of all parties, it is the intent of the University's employees officially involved in the proceedings or investigation to preserve the confidentiality of the complaints and all proceedings. Disclosure of the complaint will be limited to individuals who, in the interest of fairness and problem resolution, have a need to know. The complainant and the accused are encouraged to maintain confidentiality consistent with the intent of the University.

At the conclusion of the process, written outcomes and resolutions will be disclosed to the complainant and the accused.

The Complaint Process

In the event that a member of the West Chester University Community feels that he or she has been the subject of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability or veteran status which is a violation of the University's Affirmative Action - Equal Opportunity Policy Statement, the matter should be brought to the attention of the Office of Social Equity.

The Social Equity Director will be responsible for making an initial determination as to whether the allegations may represent a violation of the University's Affirmative Action - Equal Opportunity Policy. If the Social Equity Director determines that the allegations do not constitute discrimination, the complainant will be so advised and he/she will be advised of any other recourse that might be appropriate. The Social Equity Director has the right to refer the case to other appropriate officials if it appears there may be violations of University policies other than the Affirmative Action - Equal Opportunity Policy. If the Social Equity Director determines that allegations may constitute discrimination, the complainant may choose to follow either the formal or informal process outlined below.

The Informal Process

The informal process, which will not result in disciplinary proceedings, includes efforts to mediate a resolution upon which both the complainant and the individual accused can agree.

The complainant initiates the informal procedure by filing a written complaint with the Social Equity Office. After reviewing the complaint and making an initial determination that the allegations may represent a violation of the University's Affirmative Action - Equal Opportunity Policy, the Social Equity Director will contact the accused to arrange a meeting to inform the individual of the complaint and to inform him or her of the process. If the complainant is a student enrolled at the time in the class of the accused, he or she may request that notification and mediation be delayed until after the completion of the semester.

Upon receipt of the complaint and notification to the accused of the allegations and the complainant's desire for mediation, and the accused's concurrence to the informal process, the Social Equity Director may facilitate a resolution or appoint a mediator(s) and notify the parties of the mediator(s) identity. Mediation occurs by mutual consent, therefore, at any stage of the mediation process either party has the opportunity to withdraw from the process.

The mediator(s) will serve as the facilitator(s) to seek resolution. Information regarding the circumstances and perceptions of the complainant will be shared by the mediator with the accused and the accused will have an opportunity to respond. Depending upon the circumstances of the complaint and/or the willingness of the complainant to meet with the accused, the mediation may be conducted by separate discussions with the accused and the complainant or by meetings in which both parties are present. At the conclusion of the mediation, the mediator(s) will provide a written statement of the resolution agreed to by both parties to the Social Equity Director. The Social Equity Director will send a written summary of the outcome to the parties.

If either party chooses to withdraw from the mediation process at any time, or if the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the informal process, the complainant may choose to go forward with the University's formal complaint procedures or may pursue the matter through external agencies.

If the Social Equity Director makes a determination that there is a need for a formal investigation, the formal process may be initiated on behalf of the University. All written summaries of the informal complaint process will be maintained by the Social Equity Office for a period of 5 years. No written record will be forwarded to the official personnel file.

The Formal Process

Formal procedures, which may result in a disciplinary proceeding, include an investigation and review process. The investigatory procedure is not intended to interfere with any legal rights an employee or student has under the statutes and other laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or the government of the United States of America, or an employee's collective bargaining agreement.

The complainant initiates the formal process by filing a formal written complaint with the Social Equity Director. The Social Equity Director, after reviewing the complaint and making an initial determination that the allegations may represent a violation of the University's Affirmative Action - Equal Opportunity Policy, will inform the accused of the allegations and provide the accused with a copy of the written complaint. The Social Equity Director will meet with the accused to review the complaint and to advise the accused of the formal procedures and his or her rights to union representation.

The Social Equity Director will provide an opportunity to meet with the accused in a timely manner to review the formal complaint and the University's non-discrimination policy. The employee may choose to be accompanied by a union representative at this meeting.

After accepting a written formal complaint, the Social Equity Director will appoint a fact finder. When appropriate, as determined by the Social Equity Director, two fact finders may be assigned to a case. The Social Equity Director will notify the parties of the fact finders' identities. In addition, the appropriate manager, supervisor and/or chairperson will be advised. Fact finders are specially trained and impartial faculty or staff member. The fact finders' role is to investigate the complaint and to make findings of fact pertaining to the complaint. The investigation may include, but is not limited to accessing records and interviewing the complainant, accused and others who may have relevant information. The fact finders have sole discretion to determine the scope and format of the investigation.

The fact finders will submit a report of their findings to the Social Equity Director. The Social Equity Director will then convene the Review Panel. This Panel, consisting of three individuals selected by the Social Equity Director from the pool of specifically trained and impartial faculty or staff members, will serve as consultants to the Social Equity Director in formulating an opinion as to whether reasonable cause exists to believe that a violation of the University's Affirmative Action - Equal Opportunity Policy has occurred. In consultation with the Review Panel, the Social Equity Director will formulate an opinion as to whether there has been a violation of the University's Affirmative Action - Equal Opportunity Policy which prohibits discrimination.

If it is the opinion of the Social Equity Director that there is not enough evidence to warrant a finding of discriminatory conduct, the complainant and the accused will be so notified by the Social Equity Director and the case will be closed. The Social Equity Director, however, maintains the right to refer the case to other appropriate University officials if it appears that there may be violations of University's Misconduct Policy or other University policies that do not constitute discrimination.

If it is the opinion of the Social Equity Director that there is reasonable cause to believe that the University's Affirmative Action-Equal Opportunity Policy has been violated, the Social Equity Director will forward the fact-finders' report, the Review Panel's recommendations and the Social Equity Director's opinion to the appropriate manager. Copies of these documents will also be provided to the accused.

The manager will utilize the existing University pre-disciplinary conference procedures ensuring that the accused employee has the opportunity to be represented, if so desired, by his or her union representative during the pre-disciplinary conference. At the pre-disciplinary the accused will have an opportunity to rebut the findings of the fact finders' report, the recommendations of the review panel, and the opinion of the Social Equity Director. After completing the pre-disciplinary conference, the manager in consultation with the Associate Vice President for Human Resource Services and other University officials, as needed, will determine if discipline is appropriate and what level of discipline should be imposed. Possible disciplinary actions for violation of the University's Affirmative Action - EEO Policy include oral or written reprimand, suspension, or termination of employment. The manager is not bound by the opinion of the Social Equity Director and reserves the right to make his or her own final determination.

Disciplined employees will have the right to appeal and/or grieve management's decision to the extent provided in the appropriate policy and/or collective bargaining agreement.

The complainant will receive written notification of the final disposition of the complaint. If the complainant finds the resolution or disciplinary action unsatisfactory he or she may pursue the complaint with the appropriate external agencies.