Formal Investigation of Discrimination or Discriminatory Harassment
Below is a general summary of the procedures used to respond to allegations of discrimination or discriminatory harassment. The specific process used for any individual investigation will depend on the affiliation of the respondent with the university.
The OC can investigate conduct of students, employee conduct that arises out of their employment status, and the conduct of all guests, visitors, vendors, contractors, subcontractors and others who do business with the university.
For purposes of this summary, the “complainant” is the person who is alleged to have been subjected to the misconduct and the “respondent” is the person alleged to have engaged in the misconduct.
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Who can request an investigation?
The following individuals may file a complaint with the Office of Compliance:
- Employees and former employees
- Applicants for employment
- Students and former students
- Applicants for admission
- Recipients of university services, while participating in university programs and activities, including visitors to campus
How to request an investigation
To initiate an investigation, the complainant should submit the following information in writing to OC_CaseManager@wisc.edu:
- Contact information (i.e., name, telephone number, and email address.)
- The basis of discrimination. It must be one of the protected bases listed, depending on whether the allegations involve employment, access to educational programs, or access to a university activity open to the public.
- The name and title of the person(s) who allegedly discriminated.
- A short summary of the actions or incidents believed to be discriminatory or harassing, including dates, times and locations when possible.
- The effect that the treatment or actions have had on the complainant’s work, instructional, or study environment, or the complainant’s ability to take part in university programs or activities (i.e., the adverse action or outcome).
- A statement of an outcome or resolution the complainant believes would be an appropriate remedy for the complaint may be included but is not required.
After the written complaint has been received, the complainant will be invited to participate in an interview with a neutral investigator. The complainant will also be asked to provide any documentary evidence (emails, text messages, social media posts, other records, etc.) they would like to be considered during the investigation and to identify any witnesses who might provide information to support the complainant’s statement.
If the allegations would constitute a violation of the relevant policy and an investigation is warranted, the OC will begin the investigation by issuing a Notice of Investigation.
Deadline to request
The written complaint must be filed with the Office of Compliance within 300 days of the alleged act of discrimination. The 300 days is counted from the date of the alleged discrimination to the date the complaint is received.
This time frame may be extended in specific circumstances, primarily when personal or family illness prevented an individual from filing in a timely manner or when the complainant could not reasonably be expected to know that they were being discriminated against within the 300 days.
Notice of Investigation and Respondent Participation
Once sufficient information is obtained from the complainant and a prima facie case has been established (meaning that the alleged conduct “on its face” would violate policy), the investigator will send a Notice of Investigation to the respondent that describes the alleged discriminatory conduct, includes relevant policy charges, and provides process information to both parties. The respondent’s supervisor will also receive a copy of the Notice of Investigation.
The parties will both be asked to provide any documentary evidence (emails, text messages, social media posts, other records, etc.) they want to have considered during the investigation and to identify any witnesses who might provide information to support their statement. The investigator will also independently collect additional information that is available and relevant to the allegations.
Written Reports and Determination of Responsibility
Once this investigation is complete, the investigator will prepare a report outlining the information gathered during the investigation. Both the complainant and the respondent are afforded an opportunity to review the Initial Investigative Report for accuracy and provide feedback.
Once both parties have an opportunity to review and respond to the Initial Investigative Report, the investigator will draft the Final Investigative Report, which will include factual findings, the investigator’s determination as to whether any violation of the campus policy occurred and, when appropriate, any recommended discipline or sanctions.
Note: The standard of proof required is the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Under this standard, it must be more likely true than not true that the alleged discriminatory conduct occurred for the respondent to be held responsible and potentially face disciplinary action.
Once complete, the Final Investigative Report will be distributed to both parties. The investigator’s findings will be considered the final decision unless either party appeals (See Appeals section).
It is the goal of the Office of Compliance to complete investigations involving allegations of discrimination as soon as possible. The length of an investigation may be impacted by many factors including the complexity of the allegations, the availability of the complainant, the respondent, and witnesses, and timeliness in providing materials needed to resolve the investigation. The Office of Compliance will provide regular updates to the parties regarding the investigation’s progress.
Once the Final Investigative Report has been issued to the parties, the parties – depending on their affiliation with the university – may have a right to appeal the responsibility determination.
Who can file an appeal?
A current employee may submit a written appeal (along with any supporting documentation) of the OC’s finding to the Office of the Provost.
A current student may submit a written appeal (along with any supporting documentation) of the OC’s finding to the Office of the Chancellor. If the student is dissatisfied with the decision from the Office of the Chancellor, the student, at their discretion, may appeal the Office of the Chancellor’s finding to the Board of Regents.
What are the bases for filing an appeal?
To appeal an OC discrimination complaint decision, the appealing party must address in writing one or more of the following bases for appeal:
- Identify the facts in the record which do not support the decision and explain why those facts warrant a different outcome;
- Identify new facts that were not known and could not have been discovered during the investigation and state how these “new facts” would change the analysis and decision.
- Identify how the decision was based on factors proscribed by state or federal law.
Failure to provide sufficient information to detail any basis for an appeal may result in denial of the appealing party’s request for review of the OC’s case decision.
All appeals must be timely filed. In order to be timely, all appeals must be submitted in writing (along with any supporting documentation) to the designated entity (as stated above) within 20 calendar days of the date of the Final Investigative Report. The Office of the Provost or the Office of the Chancellor, dependent upon which entity the appeal is submitted to, may exercise their discretion and grant an extension of time in which to file an appeal for unique circumstances. All requests for an extension of time in which to file an appeal must be submitted in writing to the appropriate reviewing entity (i.e., either the Office of the Provost or the Office of the Chancellor) and prior to the deadline for appeal.