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Prohibited Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Procedures

These complaint procedures (the Procedures) are intended to investigate and resolve reports and complaints of alleged Prohibited Misconduct as defined by the University’s Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence’s (the “Policy”) and applicable sections of the University’s Code of Student Conduct (the “Code”) against prospective employees, employees, prospective students, and students at the Amherst campus. These Procedures are comprised of two parts: the Adaptive Resolution - Restorative Process and the Procedures for the Processing of Formal Complaints.

The Procedures are to be used by the Equal Opportunity and Access Office (EOA) to enable all University complainants to resolve reports and complaints without fear of retaliation. These Procedures are intended to ensure that EOA will administer appropriate informal resolution processes and investigate formal complaints of Policy and Code defined misconduct.

The Associate Vice Chancellor for Equal Opportunity and Access (AVC) oversees the Policy and these Procedures and is responsible for periodic review and update of these Procedures.

I. Definitions

A. Adaptive Resolution - Restorative Process:

The Resolution of potential reports, and/or complaints via an appropriate alternative dispute resolution method that may include, but is not limited to, mediation, restorative justice, facilitated agreements, or other forms of non-punitive resolutions.

B. Complainant: An individual who is alleged to have experienced conduct prohibited by the Policy or Code irrespective of whether a formal complaint has been filed or an individual who files a formal complaint under these procedures.

C. Formal Complaint: A physical signed form or an electronically filed submission that is signed by the person alleging that they and/or others have been harmed. This submission must contain sufficient information that identifies the alleged conduct that forms the basis for the allegations of Code or Policy-defined prohibited misconduct, the name of the person or persons alleged to have engaged in the misconduct, and the date(s) and location(s) of where the alleged conduct took place, and a statement that this is their formal complaint they are filing per these Procedures or Code. A Formal Complaint may also consist of a complaint initiated by the AVC EAO as further provided for in these Procedures.

D. Governing Authority: Provost, Vice Chancellor, Executive, or another individual who has the authority to institute appropriate measures on behalf of the University consistent with the outcome of a formal complaint filed under these Procedures.

E. Investigator: A trained and unbiased individual who has the authority, under the AVC or their designee, to conduct a thorough and fair investigation by whatever means the investigator deems appropriate in their independent judgment, including interviewing the parties, interviewing relevant witnesses, and requesting and reviewing data, documents, or other relevant information.

F. Prohibited Misconduct: The Policy defines the following as prohibited misconduct: Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct in accordance with M.G.L. c. 6 §§ 168D and 168E, Sexual Misconduct, Gender-Based Harassment, Sexual Assault, Sexual Exploitation, Intimate Partner Violence, Stalking, Complicity, and Retaliation. The Code incorporates Policy violations as a Code violation.

G. Referral: Information that forms the basis for the alleged violation of the Code including, but not limited to, policy reports, incident reports, statements, and/or other documents.

H. Respondent: A person who has been alleged to have engaged in misconduct OR is the subject of a formal complaint under these Procedures.

I. Witness: Any person requested to participate in a meeting or hearing because they may have information relevant to the allegations brought forward through a complaint or report.

II. Adaptive Resolution - Restorative Process

To encourage prompt resolution of potential grievances, any of the parties involved may request that EOA resolve the matter via alternative process as defined above. Either party may request an Adaptive Resolution (AR)/Restorative Process (RP) at any time before or after the filing of a formal complaint.  Should a party request an AR/RP, the AVC or their designee will decide whether adaptive resolution/restorative process is appropriate to resolve the potential complaint or a formal complaint that has been filed.

The AVC or their designee may recommend AR/RP in the absence of a request by the allegedly aggrieved party on the basis of their review of the report or referral submitted to EOA.

A. Adaptive Resolution/Restorative Process: Procedures

Upon approval by the AVC or their designee, and with the agreement of both parties to participate, their matter will be assigned to a trained adaptive resolution/restorative process facilitator for purposes of conducting the appropriate AR/RP. Adaptive/Restorative attempts at resolution that are acceptable to the parties will not extend beyond thirty (30) working days without the written agreement of all parties, or the facilitator requests additional time to work to resolve the matter.

Once the parties have agreed to participate in an AR/RP, the complainant cannot file a formal complaint unless the thirty (30) day period has passed and the parties have not reached an agreement to resolve the issue, subject to any extensions agreed to by the complainant. If a formal complaint has been filed, the investigation will be paused while the parties are engaged in an AR/RP, provided a final report of investigation has not been submitted to the Governing Authority.

Once all involved parties (complainant, respondent, and facilitator) have agreed that the process has come to a satisfactory conclusion, both complainant and respondent will be required to submit a written agreement that the matter is officially concluded. Should the process reach a satisfactory conclusion, the complainant cannot file a complaint against the respondent for the same allegations raised in their initial report and/or formal complaint.

B. Adaptive Resolution/Restorative Process - Records and Notice

Following the completion of an adaptive resolution/restorative process, any agreement reached between the parties to memorialize the resolution will remain on file with the EOA office. To the extent necessary, EOA will provide the Governing Authority with sufficient notice of any directives or supports to be placed or remain in place, i.e. a no-contact directive, work or shift relocation, etc. AR/RP outcomes will be kept on record with SCCS and/or EOA. Any materials (e.g. reflection letters, or any other potentially incriminating documents) produced during the adaptive resolution/restorative process will not be kept on record. Such materials will be created in collaboration with the aforementioned trained facilitator and be destroyed upon completion of the process.

III. Formal Complaint Process

An individual or group of individuals may initiate the Formal Complaint Process (FCP). As defined above, the Formal Complaint must detail allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination, complicity, or retaliation as defined by the Policy and the Code.

A. Determination of Reports, Referrals and Statements Received by EOA

Reports, referrals, or statements received by EOA that allege misconduct are not considered formal complaints under these Procedures.  Upon receiving reports, statements, or referrals, EOA will promptly acknowledge receipt of the report, statement, or referral, review the submission, and will contact the reporting or referring party for purposes of scheduling an intake meeting to discuss the Policy, these Procedures, the availability of the IRP and FCP processes, supports, accommodations, and other related information.

If a party participates in an intake meeting, EOA will provide the reporting party with an email summarizing their meeting, next steps, confirmation of supportive measures requested or agreed to, copies of these Procedures, and other relevant information. Thereafter, a party may or may not file a formal complaint per these Procedures.

Following submission of a report, statement, or referral, should the reporting party not respond to outreach after two (2) attempts, EOA will notify that party that the report is closed, and provide further instructions to contact EOA should they seek to resume this process. 

Formal reports submitted to SCCS where the conduct alleged implicates the Policy will be referred to EOA for follow up consistent with these procedures.

The AVC or their designee may initiate a formal complaint and investigation when a complainant’s identity is unknown; reports indicate the presence of a serial sexual predator; there are multiple reports against the same respondent, but no complainant wishes to file a complaint; or federal and state law or regulation require that having received reports of alleged misconduct and reviewed the same, the university  should investigate a report.  In addition, the AVC or their designee may initiate an investigation into any apparent sexual misconduct, discrimination, complicity and/or retaliation issue identified out of the investigation of a complaint filed with EOA.

If the Complainant is initially unable to provide the required information to fulfill the requirements of a Formal Complaint, EOA will provide the Complainant with an opportunity to provide more information.  Should a Complainant be unable to provide the required information, their complaint may be dismissed and/or referred to another university office for follow-up consistent with the information available.

B. Investigation

Following receipt of a formal complaint, EOA will undertake the following steps:

EOA will assign an Investigator to investigate the allegations stated in the formal complaint. 

EOA or the assigned Investigator will provide both parties with a detailed Notice of Complaint and Investigation (NOCI) containing a summary of the allegations and additional information regarding their rights and obligations during the EOA investigative process. 

The Respondent will have ten (10) working days to provide the assigned Investigator with any written response or rebuttal to the NOCI. Upon submitting a response, rebuttal, or the passage of this time period, the assigned Investigator will schedule the Respondent for an interview.

The investigator shall: interview the parties and relevant witnesses; request and review data, documents, and other forms of pertinent information; and shall prepare a final summary of their investigation (the Report). 

EOA shall endeavor to complete the investigation into a claim of discrimination or harassment within ninety (90) days of the Respondent being notified of the NOCI. EOA may extend the duration of an investigation for good cause. The complainant and respondent will be notified in writing of any extension period. 

C. Conclusion of Investigation

The Investigator will notify the parties when the investigation is complete.

For Code and Policy complaints involving student respondents, the investigator will offer the parties individual meetings to review the information obtained during the investigation and allow them to offer any feedback should they choose. Following this meeting, the investigation is referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (SCCS) for review and determination of the appropriate next steps, if any, provided for in the Code.

For Policy complaints involving non-student respondents, the Investigator will draft an investigative report detailing their investigation, evidence obtained, an analysis of whether Policy defined misconduct occurred, and a conclusion as to whether a Policy violation has been found. In addition, the Investigator may also summarize factual findings that indicate the presence of other possible university policy violations within this report.  The investigator will submit the Investigative Report to the AVC or their designee for their review. The AVC or their designee will review the Investigative Report and will transmit the Investigative Report to the appropriate Governing Authority who shall take appropriate action consistent with the findings.

The Governing Authority’s decision is final and not subject to an internal appeal. Any rebuttal, response, or objection to the investigation, finding, the AVC’s recommendation, and final decision and action may be subject of a collective bargaining right or provision of the non-unit employee handbook.

IV. Scope of Resolution of Complaints

Acceptable resolutions of sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination, complicity or retaliation complaints whether filed with EOA or SCCS, must be made in accordance with federal, state, and University of Massachusetts Amherst Affirmative Action policies, and federal and state statutes and regulations.

V. State and Federal Remedies

In addition to these Procedures, parties may bring complaints of discrimination and harassment with one or more of the government agencies set forth below.

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)

Under Chapter 151B, Massachusetts General Laws Annotated, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person(s) on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin or ancestry, handicapping condition, veteran status, or sexual orientation. The MCAD, a state agency, monitors discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, loans, and educational opportunities. Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an alleged unlawful practice may file a complaint with this agency. The offices to contact are:

Springfield Office:
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination 436 Dwight Street, Room 220
Springfield, MA 01103
(413) 739-2145

Boston Office:
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination One Ashburton Place, Suite 601 Boston, MA 02108
(617) 994-6000
TTY (617) 994-6196

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)/ Department of Labor

On October 5, 1978, President Carter signed Executive Order 12086. This order is the most recent amendment to Executive Order 11246. It gives OFCCP the compliance responsibility for equal opportunity programs previously assigned to eleven other federal agencies. This agency monitors discrimination in employment and in educational institutions (including hiring, upgrading, salaries, fringe benefits, training, and other conditions of employment) on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The local office to contact is:

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
U.S. Department of Labor
John F. Kennedy Federal Building Room E-235
Boston, MA 02203
(617) 624-6780

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The EEOC monitors discrimination in employment under Title VII which prohibits discrimination in employment (including hiring, upgrading, salaries, fringe benefits, training, and other conditions of employment) on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex. The EEOC places great emphasis on employment practices which classify jobs as "male" or "female" or which maintain separate line of progression based on sex where this would adversely affect any employee. The local office to contact is:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission John F. Kennedy Federal Building
475 Government Center
Boston, MA 02203
(800) 669-4000
TTY (800) 669-6820

Office for Civil Rights (OCR)/U.S. Department of Education

The OCR monitors: 1) Title IX, which specifies prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs; 2) the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination based on handicap in areas related to employment, program accessibility, and student programs. Anyone who has a complaint relating to sex discrimination or discrimination based on personal impairment may contact:

U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor Boston, MA 02109-3921
Telephone: (617) 289-0111
TTY: (800) 877-8339

VI. Procedures Related to Complaints Filed Outside the University System

Notification of external complaints are usually sent by the outside agencies directly to the Chancellor's Office to the attention of the EOA Office. A copy of the complaint is then sent to the appropriate vice chancellor or executive officer and the University Legal Counsel for their information.

Responses to compliance agencies' queries are submitted to the EOA Office by the appropriate parties closest to the alleged problem. The Chancellor, in consultation with the EO Office, University Legal Counsel, and the appropriate administrators, will determine the University's position vis-a-vis the complaint. The EO Office will typically investigate and coordinate, with the assistance of the University Legal Counsel, the responses to the outside agency and advise the University administrators who present the University's position to the agency.

Any determination or resolution of these complaints is made by the appropriate vice chancellor or executive officer in whose area the complaint has been filed, usually after consultation with the EOA Office and the University Legal Counsel.

All legal matters are handled by the University Legal Counsel in consultation with the vice chancellor or executive officer in whose area the complaint has been placed, and the AVC – EOA.

Effective Date: March 12, 2024.