User login

Close
 

Equal Employment Opportunity and Nondiscrimination Policies and Procedures

The University's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) has overall responsibility for the management of the University's Equal Opportunity and Nondiscrimination Policies and has been designated to coordinate compliance activities under these policies and the applicable federal, state and local laws. Students, faculty, and staff may contact the EOAA Office to inquire about their rights under the University's policies, request mediation or counseling, or seek information about filing a complaint. Complaints against employees are governed by the Equal Employment Opportunity and Nondiscrimination Policies and Procedures on Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment and Sexual Harassment. Complaints against students are processed in accord with the Equal Educational Opportunity and Student Nondiscrimination Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment. All employees and students are protected from retaliation for filing a complaint or assisting in an investigation under Columbia's Equal Opportunity and Nondiscrimination Policies. All employees, students, and applicants for employment and admissions are protected from coercion, intimidation, interference, or retaliation for filing a complaint or assisting in an investigation under any of the applicable policies and laws.

Columbia University Equal Employment Opportunity and Nondiscrimination Policies Columbia University is committed to providing a working and learning environment free from unlawful discrimination and discrimination and to fostering a nurturing and vibrant community founded upon the fundamental dignity and worth of all of its members. It is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. It does not discriminate against or permit harassment of employees or applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, sex, gender (including gender identity and expression), pregnancy, religion, creed, national origin, age, alienage and citizenship, status as a perceived or actual victim of domestic violence, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, partnership status, genetic predisposition or carrier status, arrest record, or any other legally protected status.

Nothing in these policies shall abridge academic freedom or the University's educational mission. Prohibitions against discrimination and harassment do not extend to statements or written materials that are germane to classroom subject matter.

All members of the University community are expected to adhere to the applicable policies and to cooperate with the procedures for responding to complaints of discrimination and harassment. They are also encouraged to report any conduct they believe to be in violation of these policies. Management and supervisory personnel in particular are responsible for taking reasonable and necessary action to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace and for responding promptly and thoroughly to any such claims. Those individuals include any officer having formal supervisory responsibility over employees. For the purpose of these policies, faculty are supervisors of other faculty when they are acting in a supervisory role as department chair, dean, academic vice president, institute director, center director, or similar position. Faculty and officers of research who are the principal investigators on a grant or contract act in a supervisory capacity over the individuals in the lab they lead.

The University offers several options for those seeking the intervention of offices and individuals who are authorized to respond to their complaints. These include confidential guidance and assistance, informal counseling, mediation, and a formal process for having their complaints reviewed. In the event of a formal investigation conducted according to the appropriate University procedure, individuals found to have engaged in discrimination or harassment will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination. Retaliation against anyone who files a complaint or participates in an investigation is prohibited and may be addressed as a separate violation.

The University provides training programs to educate faculty, researchers, librarians, students, administrators, and staff about conduct that may constitute a violation of its policies and to inform them of the procedures that are available to deal with alleged violations. While any member of the University may attend, management and supervisory personnel are especially encouraged to participate in these programs and are expected to be knowledgeable about the University's policies and procedures. Requests for training as well as any questions about the University's policies and procedures should be addressed to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

Definitions

For purposes of these policies and procedures, discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and sexual harassment are defined as follows:

Discrimination

Discrimination is defined as:

  • treating members of a protected class less favorably because of their membership in that class; or
  • having a policy or practice that has a disproportionately adverse impact on protected class members.

Discriminatory Harassment

Discriminatory Harassment is defined as subjecting an individual to humiliating, abusive, or threatening conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or abusive work environment; alters the conditions of employment; or unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance on the basis of that individual's membership in a protected class. This includes sexual harassment, which is described in further detail below.

Sexual Harassment

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment; or
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting that individual; or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, demeaning, or offensive working environment.

Consensual, romantic relationships between faculty and other employees and students and between individuals who work together are generally not considered sexual harassment and are not prohibited by University policies; however, individuals should be aware that these relationships are susceptible to being characterized as non-consensual, and even coercive, if there is an inherent power differential between the parties, and can lead to complaints of sexual harassment. For further information, employees and students should consult the Romantic Relationship Advisory Statement

Disability Accomodation

Employees seeking an accommodation for a disability should contact the Return to Work Program/Disability Services at (212) 870-3464 or consult Working at Columbia at http://www.columbia.edu/hr/wacguide/workplace/workplace-accommodations/index.html

Columbia University Procedures on Employment Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, and Sexual Harassment.

Any person who believes that he or she has been the subject of discrimination, discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment may initially choose to deal with the alleged offender directly through a face-to-face discussion, a personal telephone conversation, e-mail correspondence, or letters. In some cases this may effectively resolve the situation; however, individuals should not feel pressured to address the individual directly. Such an approach may be ineffective in correcting the problem, or an individual may be uncomfortable in handling the situation alone. The University offers several options for those seeking the intervention of the offices and individuals who are authorized to respond to their complaints. These include informal guidance and assistance, confidential counseling, mediation, and formal processes for having their complaints reviewed and investigated.

Confidential Guidance and Assistance

The University has crafted 'safe havens' for those individuals who want to approach a knowledgeable person for confidential conversations. Individuals who wish to take advantage of this option may contact either the University Ombuds Officer or a member of the University Panel on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment. These officers are not authorized to conduct formal investigations.

University Ombuds Officer

The Ombuds Office is an informal, safe and confidential place to voice concerns. The Ombuds Officer will listen, offer information about Columbia University policies and resources, and help visitors evaluate a range of options for resolving a problem. The visitor selects the course of action, if any. The Ombuds Officer may, with permission, participate in informal conflict resolution, and may mediate if all parties agree. The Ombuds Office provides information about formal grievance procedures in other offices, and is a resource for any kind of issue, including concerns which fall outside the scope of formal complaint channels. In some situations, the Ombuds Officer may help find ways to convey information while maintaining the anonymity of the source. Discussions with the Ombuds Officer are off-the-record and do not constitute notice to the University. For more information, see http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ombuds/.

University Panel on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

The University Panel on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment is composed of trained, experienced, and accessible members of the Columbia community. Members of the Panel provide an informal, impartial, non-adversarial setting in which problems can be addressed through confidential counseling or mediation. Any faculty member, officer, or member of the staff may approach any Panelist to discuss his or her concerns and seek advice. The Panelist may also meet with persons other than the complainant to ascertain facts relevant to appropriate resolution of the complaint or to seek an informal resolution to situations in which there are allegations of discrimination, discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment. Discussions with Panelists are confidential and do not constitute notice to the University. A list of the current Panelists may be found online at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/vpaa/eoaa/docs/shpanel.html.

Complaints Against Members of the Faculty and Staff Filed With the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA).

While the Associate Provost conducts most investigations of allegations of discrimination, discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment, there are circumstances in which individuals have a choice of how they wish to have their complaints reviewed. When more than one entity has potential jurisdiction, complainants are encouraged to file where they are most comfortable and feel that their issues will be understood and fairly heard. Other entities which may be available are the Union Collective Bargaining Unit, the Office of Vice President of Human Resources/Employee and Labor Relations, and the University Senate's Committee on Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom, and Tenure. Descriptions of these offices and their procedures may be found below. Complaints will be governed by the procedures applicable to the entity selected. In no case may a complainant file a request for a formal investigation with more than one entity simultaneously, nor may they file a request for a formal investigation with a second entity after a final disposition has been made by another entity. If at any time a complaint is filed with a governmental agency or court, the University procedures are no longer available and any inquiry or investigation will cease immediately.

The Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action is the designated officer for conducting investigations of complaints according to the procedures described below. The procedures are as follows:

Preliminary Review

Individuals may contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action to discuss issues relating to discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or sexual harassment, with or without filing a grievance. The Associate Provost, or a designee, may conduct a preliminary fact-finding review. At its conclusion, the Associate Provost will inform the complainant of the options available to that person. These may include a mediated solution to the problems the complainant has encountered or a full investigation. Based upon the facts of the case, the Associate Provost may also advise the complainant that his or her case does not raise an issue of discrimination, discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment or is more suitable for adjudication by another entity within the University. Anyone who decides to mediate a claim of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or sexual harassment may reconsider up until a final agreement is reached and ask the Associate Provost to commence an investigation, provided that the intervening period of time does not exceed the deadline for making such requests. Regardless of the recourse chosen, the Associate Provost is not authorized to address matters outside of the scope of the specific allegation of discrimination, discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment, except that she will investigate claims of retaliation arising out of those allegations.

To request any action under the University's Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment and Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedures, an individual must contact the Associate Provost within 180 working days of the date of the incident. Working days are defined as weekdays during the spring, summer and autumn terms and do not include University holidays. The Associate Provost may extend that deadline, and any others specified in these procedures, when she determines that circumstances justify an extension. As the Associate Provost has the authority and responsibility to gather information from all sources that she deems necessary for a fair resolution of the complaint, absolute confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. All parties and witnesses involved in an investigation, however, will be urged to maintain confidentiality.

Individuals may also ask the Associate Provost to take no further action; however, the University reserves the right to proceed with an investigation on its own.

Mediation

Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against, discriminatorily harassed or sexually harassed may choose to resolve their complaints through mediation by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. Mediation is an informal and confidential process where parties can participate in a search for fair and workable solutions. Mediation requires the consent of both parties and suspends the complaint procedures for up to 30 working days, which can be extended, at the discretion of the Associate Provost, upon consent of both parties.

By mutual agreement, the two parties may elect to have their concerns mediated by the Mediation Clinic at Columbia Law School instead of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. Guidelines for mediation with the EOAA Office and the Clinic are available in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action or online at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/vpaa/eoaa/docs/mediation.pdf. The Clinic is staffed by trained students, working under the supervision of certified instructors.

Complaints that are addressed through mediation are not required to be made in writing. The parties may agree upon a variety of resolutions such as modification of work assignment, training for a department, or an apology. Parties may agree to a resolution that is oral or embodied in a written agreement. however, the parties may elect to file a written agreement with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action should enforcement be necessary. Because mediation is a fully voluntary process, formal disciplinary action cannot be imposed against the accused. Once both parties reach a mediated agreement, it is final and cannot be appealed.

The Associate Provost or either party may at any time, prior to the expiration of 30 working days, declare that attempts at mediation have failed. Upon such notice, the Associate Provost may proceed to an investigation.

Formal Investigation

The procedures described below are applicable only to those individuals who have elected to pursue their remedies by investigation through the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

Filing a Complaint

Any individual who is employed by or enrolled at Columbia University may file a complaint with the Associate Provost of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action to request an investigation of an incident of alleged discrimination, discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment by an employee of Columbia University with respect to an allegation arising out of the scope of their employment or education.

Complaints filed by individuals who are not students or employees of the University will be accepted if the accused is an employee. Complaints by a student or employee against a person who is not a student or employee will be accepted, but cannot proceed without the cooperation of the accused. Complaints against a student must be referred to the dean of the school in which the accused student is enrolled. The Associate Provost does not have jurisdiction over complaints against students. A written complaint should be filed as soon as possible following the alleged incident, but not later than 180 working days after the incident or not later than 30 working days following an unsuccessful attempt at informal resolution. The Associate Provost has the discretion to extend these deadlines.

The complaint must be signed by the complainant and include the following information: the identity and status) of the complainant and accused (e.g., employee, student; details concerning the incident(s) or conduct that gave rise to the complaint, date(s) of and location(s) of the incident(s); the identity and status of any witness(es) to the incident(s) with telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and street addresses if known; and the action(s) requested to resolve the complaint.

Assignment of Investigator

Within 15 working days following the filing of the complaint, or following failed attempts at mediation, the Associate Provost will designate herself, a staff person, or a committee to investigate and hear the case (the ?investigator?). The Associate Provost shall designate the investigator or investigative body in light of the facts, nature, and complexity of the case.

In the event of an alleged conflict of interest with the assigned investigator, either the complainant or the accused may make a written request to the Associate Provost within five (5) working days of learning the identity of the investigator to appoint an alternate. The Associate Provost's decision on whether to grant such a request is final. If an alternate investigator is appointed, the timelines associated with these policies and procedures will be suspended pending the appointment.

Withdrawal of Complaint

Individuals may seek to withdraw requests for investigations or, where appropriate, ask to have their case transferred to another forum by writing to the Associate Provost within seven (7) working days of filing their complaints. The University reserves the right, however, to continue with an investigation on its own initiative.

Notifying the Accused and Supervisor

The investigator will provide a copy of the formal complaint to the accused and, at the same time, notify the accused individual's supervisor about the complaint. The supervisor may take temporary actions pending the completion of the investigation (such as reassignment or paid leave of absence for either the complainant or accused) in consultation with the Associate Provost. The goal of such temporary actions is to alleviate conflict pending a final resolution of the claims and all efforts should be made to create an environment where both parties can continue their work or education, if possible. The investigator will not consider any such action as evidence regarding the merits of the complaint.

Responding to the Complaint

The accused is not required to participate in the investigation of the complaint. Non-participation will not be taken as an indication of guilt, but it will also not prevent the investigation from proceeding. The investigator will continue to evaluate the complaint and reach a decision on the basis of the available information. An accused who decides to participate in the investigation should send the investigator a written response to the complaint within seven (7) working days of receiving a copy of the complaint. A copy of the response shall be provided to the complainant.

The Investigative Process

Within ten (10) working days after being designated, the investigator will begin to interview the complainant, the accused, and any other persons with relevant information about the alleged incident. The investigator may also review personnel records and other documents deemed relevant to the complaint. The complainant and the accused may suggest witnesses the investigator should interview and written information the investigator should consider. The investigator, however, has complete discretion as to the witnesses and the documents reviewed. During the investigation process no party is permitted to be represented by legal counsel. Members of collective bargaining units are entitled to union representation.

Hearing

At the sole discretion of the Associate Provost, at any time, a committee of three individuals may be convened to conduct a hearing on the merits of a complaint. When selecting members of the committee, the Associate Provost will take into consideration the particulars of the complainant and the nature of the claims. A hearing may take place over one or more sessions, as needed. During a hearing, both parties have the right to be present during the testimony of the opposing party or other witnesses but not the right to cross-examine them. Either party, however, may suggest questions to the committee and request that the questions be asked of the committee or witnesses, and will be provided with explanations if the questions are not posed. Both parties also have the right to review any documents or other evidence considered by the committee and to rebut any evidence presented. The Associate Provost may assist the committee in the hearing process, but she will not take part in the deliberations.

Investigative or Hearing Findings and Disciplinary Recommendations

The investigator is expected to complete the investigation and submit a decision to the Associate Provost within 45 working days from the filing of the complaint. The Associate Provost may authorize an extension of that deadline. The investigator's determination will be made on the basis of the preponderance of the evidence, taken in its totality, and considering any attendant circumstances.

If the investigator finds that the accused has violated the University's Equal Employment Opportunity and Nondiscrimination Policies, the decision will be accompanied by a recommendation of the discipline that should be imposed. In making such a recommendation, the investigator shall consider properly established records of previous conduct and the seriousness of the violation, the totality of the information available, including the investigative records, and any extenuating or aggravating circumstances the investigator deems relevant.

If the investigator finds that there has been discrimination, discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, or retaliation, the Associate Provost shall forward the determination and disciplinary recommendations to the complainant, the accused, and the supervisor of the accused.

Appeal of Determination and Disciplinary Recommendations

The accused or the complainant may file an appeal of the investigator's determination and/or disciplinary recommendations. The appeal must be in writing, should identify the specific portions of the determination appealed, and must be delivered to the Associate Provost within 15 working days of receiving notice by mail of the investigator's determination and/or disciplinary recommendations. Issues not appealed in this time frame shall be deemed to be conceded.

On receipt of the appeal, the Associate Provost shall designate a senior officer of the University to serve as Appeal Officer in the matter. The Associate Provost will inform both the complainant and accused in writing of the identity of the Appeal Officer and will forward the appeal to the Appeal Officer for review.

The Appeal Officer may conduct such proceedings as he or she deems appropriate, but will not normally hear the testimony of witnesses. The role of the Appeal Officer is to determine if the investigation and/or hearing was conducted in a fair manner, if the determination is consistent with the evidence, and if the disciplinary recommendations are commensurate with the charges.

The Appeal Officer will render a written decision within 30 working days following receipt of the appeal, or as soon thereafter as practicable, and he or she will forward a recommendation to the Provost for approval. Once approved by the Provost, the decision will be sent to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action which will provide notice to the parties of the final disposition of the complaint. Such notification shall be in writing and provided to the parties within 15 working days following receipt of the Appeal Officer's decision.

Once approved by the Provost, the decision of the Appeal Officer is not subject to further review other than the reserved right of the President and the Trustees of the University to review any decision affecting matters of overall University policy.

Disciplinary Action

The supervisor of the accused and the Associate Provost shall be responsible for acting on the disciplinary recommendations of the investigator. Within 30 working days of receiving the investigator's report (or as soon thereafter as is practicable), the supervisor and the Associate Provost shall meet to discuss the recommendations and disciplinary and/or corrective action. Following the deadline for filing an appeal or the determination on an appeal, the disciplinary recommendations will be imposed according to the appropriate University disciplinary procedures. Discipline may range from periodic monitoring of the accused by his/her supervisor to termination, where warranted, and may include required attendance at counseling or training.

Access to Procedures

These policies and procedures are available to all employees, and are posted online at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/vpaa/eoaa/docs/nondispol.html.

Complaints Against Members of the Faculty and Staff Filed With Other Entities

Union Collective Bargaining Unit

Union members should file complaints with their collective bargaining unit unless prohibited by their collective bargaining agreement or unless an inherent conflict of interest would interfere with a fair adjudication in the collective bargaining unit. Such proceedings will be governed by the applicable procedures of their collective bargaining agreement.

Office of the Vice President OF Human Resources/Employee and Labor Relations

Officers of administration and nonunion support staff may file complaints with the Office of the Vice President, Human Resources/Employee and Labor Relations when they believe that discrimination, discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment led to their dismissal or suspension. Such proceedings will be governed by the procedures described in the University's Personnel Policy Manual, a copy of which may be obtained from the Office of the Vice President of Human Resources or online at: http://www.hr.columbia.edu/hr/policies/policymanual/introduction/index.html.

University Senate's Committee on Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom, and Tenure

Faculty complaints of denial of tenure or reappointment in a non-tenured rank as a result of discrimination, discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment must be filed with the University Senate's Committee on Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom, and Tenure. Such proceedings will be governed by the Committee's procedure, a description of which may be obtained from the Office of the University Senate in 406 Low Library.

Complaints Against a Student

Complaints against students are processed in accord with the Equal Educational Opportunity and Student Nondiscrimination Policies and Procedures on Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment and Sexual Harassment An employee who believes that he or she has been discriminated against or harassed by a student and would like to file a formal complaint should do so with the Dean of the school in which the accused student is enrolled.

Independent Investigation

The University, at the discretion of the General Counsel, may conduct an investigation independent of or in addition to the procedures provided herein at any time. The investigation may involve complaints or allegations concerning discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or sexual harassment against the University or any of its employees or students.

Columbia University's Compliance With Federal, State, and Local Laws Promoting Equal Employment Opportunity, Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment, and Authorizing Affirmative Action

In accordance with all applicable laws and pursuant to its own policies and operating procedures, Columbia University provides for equal opportunity, prohibits unlawful discrimination and harassment, and takes affirmative action. The applicable laws include:

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits discrimination against any person on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits employment discrimination against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy status or national origin.
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended, prohibits discrimination on the basis of