Navigating the Discrimination Grievance Process

If you have experienced discrimination, the Office of Equity provides information about supportive measures, reporting options, and the investigation process. If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Equity at 435-797-1266.

The Office of Equity grievance process for discrimination reports is an administrative process. It includes alternative resolutions, formal investigations, and university-driven formal investigations.

More information about the grievance process is available in interim USU Policy 305, as well as interim USU Procedures 305 and 339A.

People in the Discrimination Grievance Process

Executive Director

The executive director of the Office of Equity is Matt Pinner.

The executive director oversees the Office of Equity processes and operations. The executive director oversees the Office of Equity grievance process generally and also determines whether there is good cause to extend timeframes for the investigation process.

Parties

Claimant: A person who is alleged to have experienced conduct that could constitute discrimination.

Respondent: An individual who is alleged to have committed discrimination.

Supportive Measures Specialists

The supportive measures specialists are Katie Freeman and Anna Voorhees.

The supportive measures specialist conducts initial meetings with the parties and provides supportive measures to both parties involved in the Office of Equity grievance process.

Investigators

The investigators in the Office of Equity are JP Amado, Kristen Beck, Dan Biddulph, Jennifer Damelio, and Steve Rammell.

During a formal investigation, investigators interview the parties and witness(es). They gather evidence, share the evidence with the parties, and issue the preliminary and final investigation reports. The investigator assigned to the case also attends the hearing.

Process Advisors/Support Person

Parties may have a process advisor and/or support person to assist them through the Office of Equity grievance process for discrimination reports.

A process advisor is a single individual that is chosen by the party to attend meetings and be included on communications from the Office of Equity. Both parties (claimant and respondent) have the right to a process advisor throughout the entire Office of Equity process. The process advisor can be a friend, parent, family member, attorney, or any other person the party chooses.

Parties must have a process advisor at a hearing. A process advisor will be appointed prior to a hearing for a party that does not select their own advisor.

A support person is a single individual that is chosen by the party to attend meetings and be included on communications from the Office of Equity. Both parties (claimant and respondent) have the right to a support person throughout the entire Office of Equity process. The support person can be a friend, parent, family member, attorney, or any other person the party chooses.

Hearing Officer/Hearing Panel

The hearing officer is the decision-maker at the hearing. The hearing officer may be an individual external to the University.

Either party can request the appointment of two additional decision-makers. The additional decision-makers are USU employees, selected by the University, who have been trained in the Office of Equity grievance process and information related to bias, conflicts of interest, impartiality, and trauma-informed principles.

The hearing officer and the two employees are collectively referred to as the hearing panel.

Options For a Person Who Has Experienced Discrimination

If you have experienced discrimination, the Office of Equity would like to talk with you about the following options:

Supportive Measures

Supportive measures are short-term, non-disciplinary, non-punitive individualized services designed to address safety concerns and help an individual continue in their educational or employment opportunities. They can include academic accommodations, mutual no contact orders, employment modifications, or financial aid appeals.

You are not required to sign a formal complaint or participate in the formal investigation process to receive supportive measures. You must complete an intake with the Office of Equity to access supportive measures.

Respondent Education

Respondent education is facilitated by the Office of Equity's prevention team. It is an opportunity for the person who is alleged to have committed discrimination to be reminded about university policy and build relevant skills.

Respondent education can be provided as part of an alternative resolution or at the end of a formal investigation or university-driven formal investigation if the respondent is found to have violated university policy. It can also occur outside of the grievance process.

  • Typical formats: discussion about media or research article, movie or documentary, podcast episode, TV show episode, or video clip; multi-part one-on-one training series (limited to alternative resolutions and formal investigations); and single session one-on-one training
  • Potential skill-building topics: addressing biases, behavior accountability, boundary setting, conflict management, gender norms/socialization, healthy communication, identity, implicit bias, intent vs. impact, microaggressions, power dynamics, respectful communication, and values

You are not required to sign a formal complaint or participate in the grievance process to request respondent education. You must interact with an Office of Equity investigator or Supportive Measures Specialist to make the request.

Alternative Resolution

An alternative resolution is a voluntary process in which parties agree to resolve a formal complaint without completing an investigation, or at any time prior to the conclusion of the investigation and hearing process. An alternative resolution agreement may be facilitated through arbitration, mediation, restorative justice, or another appropriate method that is agreed upon by the parties and the Executive Director.

Participation is voluntary and you must sign a formal complaint. Both parties may access supportive measures throughout this process.

Formal Investigation

A formal investigation is the evidence-gathering process that begins with the filing of the formal complaint by a claimant or the Executive Director and ends when the appeal process is complete. This process includes interviewing parties and witnesses, and gathering other relevant evidence, exculpatory and inculpatory. If the respondent is found to have violated university policy, appropriate sanctions are instituted.

You must sign a formal complaint. Both parties may access supportive measures throughout this process.

University-Driven Formal Investigation

A university-driven formal investigation is a formal investigation of allegations of discrimination undertaken by the University when there is no participating claimant. When possible, the Office of Equity will inform the claimant that they are proceeding with a university-driven formal investigation.

The Executive Director will sign the formal complaint to initiate the university-driven formal investigation. The university serves as a claimant in such circumstances.

Potential Outcomes for Discrimination Grievance Process

These outcomes are based on USU's interim policy 305, which is subject to change at any time. These outcomes are not guaranteed. The potential outcomes are included under each category as a list of possibilities that may be considered as a part of each particular process.

Alternative Resolution

  • An apology by respondent, in-person or in writing
  • Training and education for respondent
  • Agreed upon adjustments to work or school schedules to separate claimant and respondent: either party may agree to make adjustments as part of the resolution process
  • Admission by respondent they violated policy 305 with an agreed upon sanction
  • Voluntary disciplinary measures for respondent (e.g., a written warning for an employee up to termination, probation for a student up to expulsion)
  • Voluntary removal of respondent from their education or employment

Formal Investigation and University-Driven Formal Investigation

A finding of a 305 policy violation is possible at the completion of an Office of Equity investigation, hearing, and/or appeal. 

Sanctions are determined by the sanctioning authority, the university employee or office that has the authority to determine appropriate sanctions. For student respondents, the sanctioning authority is the Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards. For faculty respondents, the sanctioning authority is the provost, in consultation with the dean of the faculty member's college and Human Resources. For staff respondents, the sanctioning authority is the respondent’s supervisor in consultation with Human Resources.

Sanctions (applies to respondent):

  • Formal disciplinary action
  • Student sanctions may include a warning up to and including expulsion, including a permanent notation on the transcript
  • Employee sanctions may include a warning up to and including termination
  • Educational training
  • Referrals to counseling
  • On-going no contact order

Remedies (applies to claimant):

  • Academic accommodations
  • Assistance with preserving eligibility for federal financial aid and university programs
  • Assistance with employment