Handbook of Operating Procedures

Discrimination, Harassment and Equal Opportunity

Policy Number: 183

Subject:

Discrimination, harassment (other than sexual harassment), and equal educational and employment opportunity

Scope:

Members of the university community, including employees, contractors, students, residents and other trainees, visitors, volunteers (including faculty appointed without salary), vendors, consultants, observers as well as applicants for employment or admission.

This policy does not cover sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, which is covered in HOOP 59 Sexual Misconduct.

Date Reviewed:
February 2016
Responsible Office:
Human Resources
Responsible Executive:
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (“university”) is committed to providing a working and learning environment free from discrimination and harassment.  The university prohibits discrimination and/or harassment by any member of the university community on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, gender identity or expression, veteran status or any other basis prohibited by law. No person shall be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity sponsored or conducted by the university or any of its component entities on any basis prohibited by applicable law or university policy.

To help achieve an environment free from prohibited discrimination and harassment, the university provides any individual who believes he or she has been subjected to discrimination or harassment a complaint process to address his or her concerns.

Individuals who engage in conduct that violates this policy are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination and/or dismissal.

II. DEFINITIONS

A. Discrimination

Discrimination, including harassment, is defined as conduct directed at a specific individual or a group of individuals that subjects the individual or group to treatment that materially and adversely affects their employment or education or their participation in or receipt of the benefits of any university program or activity because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status or any other basis prohibited by law or university policy.

B. Harassment

Harassment, as a form of discrimination, is defined as unwelcome conduct based upon race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis prohibited by law or university policy when such conduct is: 1) severe, pervasive, or persistent enough to create an educational or work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive, and 2) materially interferes with an individual’s or group’s academic or work performance or their ability to participate or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges of any university program or activity. Constitutionally protected expression is not considered harassment under this policy.  Examples of harassment include but are not limited to:

  • Verbal conduct such as epithets, derogatory comments, or slurs.
  • Visual conduct such as derogatory writings, posters, photography, cartoons, drawing or gestures.

Sexual harassment is defined and addressed in HOOP 59 Sexual Misconduct.

C. Other Trainees

Postdoctoral research fellows, clinical fellows, and visiting students participating in a university educational or training activity.

D. Veteran Categories

  • A disabled veteran is a veteran of the U.S. military, ground, naval, or air service who is entitled to compensation (or who but for the receipt of military retired pay would be entitled to compensation) under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, or one who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability.
  • An Armed Forces service medal veteran is a veteran who, while serving on active duty in the U.S. military ground, naval, or air service, participated in a United States military operation for which an Armed Forces service medal was awarded pursuant to Executive Order 12985 (61 FR 1209).
  • A recently separated veteran is any veteran during the three-year period beginning on the date of such veteran's discharge or release from active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service..
  • Active duty wartime or campaign badge veteran is a veteran who served on active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, under the laws administered by the Department of Defense.

III. PROCEDURE

A. Equal Employment Opportunity

The university’s equal employment opportunity policy applies to all employment decisions, including those affecting hiring; promotion, demotion or transfer; recruitment; advertisement of vacancies; layoff and termination; compensation and benefits; performance appraisals; and selection for training. Moreover, it extends to the maintenance of affirmative action programs for minorities, women, disabled persons, and veterans, as required by law. A full description of the university's affirmative action programs is available to any employee or applicant for employment for inspection upon request and may be obtained from Human Resources - Equal Opportunity (“HR-EO”).

All advertising copy generated by the university for recruitment purposes should include the following statement: “UTHealth is an EEO/AA employer.  UTHealth does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, gender identity or expression, veteran status, or any other basis prohibited by law or university policy.  EOE/M/F/Disabled/Vet.”

If the above statement cannot be included in its entirety, for instance, due to space constraints, the following minimum language must be included in all advertising copy generated by the university for recruitment purposes: “EOE/M/F/Disabled/Vet.”

B. Veteran's Employment Preference

An individual who qualifies for a veteran’s employment preference under Texas law will be accorded a preference for employment over other applicants for the same position who do not have greater qualifications.

Individuals entitled to a veteran’s employment preference under Texas law who choose to grieve a decision of the university related to hiring or to retention of the individual in a workforce reduction must file the grievance with the President through HR-EO. The President will respond to the grievance within 15 business days of receipt.

C. Reporting Discrimination and/or Harassment

Anyone who believes that he or she has been subject to discrimination or harassment may file a complaint. Any member of the university community who gains knowledge of an act of discrimination and/or harassment must report the incident immediately to HR-EO.  Reports received by other offices of the university must be forwarded to HR-EO for handling.  Even if no formal complaint is received, HR-EO will contact the parties involved for additional information and will investigate to the extent possible.  For complaints involving sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, refer to HOOP 59, Sexual Misconduct.  

D . Informal Resolution

Prior to the initiation of a formal investigation, HR-EO may determine that the nature of the allegations is such that the matter can be resolved by agreement on an informal basis.  In such cases, HR-EO may recommend informal resolution, subject to the consent of the complainant.   

HR-EO may consult with other university offices to implement an informal resolution. Methods of informal resolution may include, but are not limited to:  coaching the person on how to address a situation which is causing a problem; aiding in the modification of a situation in which the offensive conduct occurred; assisting a department or division with the resolution of a real or perceived problem; or counseling and training the involved individuals regarding the requirements of this policy.   HR-EO shall retain documentation of any informal resolution. 

E. Formal Resolution

To initiate formal resolution, the complainant must submit his or her complaint in writing to HR-EO as soon as possible after the alleged incident(s) occurred.

Within 14 calendar days of receipt of a formal complaint, HR-EO will either dismiss the complaint or will begin an investigation of the complaint. If the facts alleged in the complaint, even if taken as true, do not constitute discrimination or harassment; the complaint fails to allege any facts that suggest discrimination or harassment occurred; the appropriate resolution or remedy has already been achieved, or has been offered and rejected; or the complaint cannot be investigated because relevant parties and witnesses are no longer at the university or otherwise available, HR-EO will dismiss the complaint.

If a complaint is dismissed, HR-EO will notify the complainant in writing identifying the reason and informing the complainant that within 14 calendar days of the notification, he or she may appeal the decision to dismiss the complaint to the Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Operating and Financial Officer (“COO/CFO”) or designee. The written appeal must explain why the decision to dismiss the complaint was in error. The COO/CFO will respond within 14 calendar days of receipt of the appeal, and the COO/CFO’s decision is final. If the decision to dismiss is overturned, the complaint will be returned to HR-EO for investigation.

F. Investigating the Complaint

If it is determined that an investigation is warranted, the complainant and respondent may present to HR-EO any documentation or information believed to be relevant to the complaint.  The respondent shall be provided notice of the complaint and a summary of the allegations.  The respondent will be provided an opportunity to respond in writing to the allegations presented by the complainant and additional allegations, if any, that come forward during the course of the investigation.  The respondent will have 14 calendar days from the date the allegations are sent to the respondent to submit a written response.

Any person believed to have information relevant to the complaint may be interviewed. Such interviews will be appropriately documented. University community members have an affirmative duty to participate in such investigations.

The investigation will be concluded in as timely a manner as possible. In investigations exceeding 60 calendar days, a justification for the delay will be presented to and reviewed by the Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer (“"VPCHRO”"). The complainant, respondent and appropriate supervisor will be provided an update on the progress of the investigation after the review by the VPCHRO.

Upon completion of the investigation, HR-EO will issue a written report to the appropriate administrative authority.   If the respondent is a faculty member, academic administrative & professional employee, or student, the report will be issued to the Executive Vice President for Academic and Research Affairs.  Otherwise, the report will be issued to the COO/CFO.  The report shall include a summary of the investigation and the facts discovered during the investigation. Within 14 calendar days of receipt of the report, the appropriate administrative authority will (1) request further investigation into the complaint; (2) issue a determination that the results of the completed investigation are inconclusive or that there is not a preponderance of the evidence to support the allegations; or (3) issue a determination that this policy was violated.  The appropriate administrative authority shall inform the complainant and respondent in writing of his or her decision.

If the appropriate administrative authority determines this policy was violated, he or she will notify the Dean or administrative equivalent of the organizational unit where the respondent is located, who will initiate appropriate action within 14 calendar days of such notification. Disciplinary action against university community members will be implemented in accordance with applicable policies and procedures.

As a result of the investigation, issues and/or conduct may be discovered that do not rise to the level of a policy violation but nevertheless require remedial action by the appropriate administrative authority.  Any remedial measures taken in this context will be documented by the appropriate administrative authority and forwarded to HR-EO for retention.

G. Retaliation

University employees and students who retaliate in any way against an individual who has brought a request for an informal resolution or a complaint pursuant to this policy or against an individual who has participated in an investigation of a complaint (whether informal or formal) are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination or dismissal. Refer to HOOP Policy 108 Protection from Retaliation.

H. Required Employee Training

Each employee shall receive training regarding the university's discrimination and retaliation policies within 30 calendar days of his or her hire date and shall receive supplemental training at least every two years thereafter. All employees who complete training are required to verify their completion of the training.

I. Time Limits and Exceptions

Time limits may be extended for good cause by the VPCHRO.

For purposes of this policy, “day one” will be the next calendar day. Calculation of calendar days for purposes of all sections of this policy does not include holidays or “skeleton crew” days indicated on the published university calendar.

J. False Statements

Any person who recklessly or knowingly and intentionally files a false complaint under this policy or makes false statements in the course of the investigation is subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination or dismissal.

K. Dissemination of Policy

This policy will be made available to all members of the university community. Periodic notices sent to students, residents, fellows and other trainees, and employees about this policy will include information about the complaint procedure and will refer individuals to the designated offices for additional information.

IV. CONTACTS

ContactTelephoneEmail/Web Address
Human Resources 713-500-3130 https://www.uth.edu/hr/department/equal-opportunity/index.htm