B. Affirmative Action

(Note: OLPM sections on this page may be cited following the format of, for example, "PSU.V.B.4.1.1". These policies may be amended at any time, do not constitute an employment contract, and are provided here only for ease of reference and without any warranty of accuracy. See OLPM Main Menu for details.)


4.   Nondiscrimination and/or Harassment Policy Statement. Plymouth State University (PSU) is committed to providing all faculty, staff and students with an academic environment that is free of discrimination and/or harassment. The University expects all faculty, staff and students to engage in behavior and conduct that is appropriate, respectful, and responsible for a collegial, discrimination and harassment-free environment built upon trust, integrity and fairness. PSU, in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations, will not tolerate discrimination and/or harassment against any person based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, marital status, disabled veteran status, or Vietnam veteran status by faculty, staff or students because such behavior is unlawful, disrespectful and undermines the spirit of PSU's mission. Additionally, faculty or staff discrimination and/or harassment of non-employees during work hours and/or the performance of university business or while using university equipment is prohibited. As such, the University will take appropriate disciplinary measures, up to and including termination, against faculty or staff who violate this policy.

4.1   Definition: Discrimination and/or harassment occur when a person or group is harassed or is denied rights, privileges or opportunities because of their protected status. Protected statuses include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, marital status, disabled veteran status, or Vietnam veteran status. Discriminatory harassment is any conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or education performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for work or learning. Federal and state laws have been enacted to prevent discrimination and harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal entity that investigates claims of discrimination and harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights is the state body that investigates allegations of discrimination and harassment under Section 354-A:7 Unlawful Discriminatory Practices. The Office for Civil Rights is the federal entity that investigates student complaints of discrimination and harassment in the academic environment. These federal and state entities are responsible for protecting employees and students from unlawful discrimination and harassment in the work and academic environment.

4.1.1   Discrimination can include, but is not limited to, harassment. Harassment may occur when faculty, staff or students engage in inappropriate, unwelcome behavior or conduct, including the use of e-mail or any other form of electronic media to engage in inappropriate, unwelcome behavior or conduct against another person. Additionally, harassment may occur when a faculty, staff or student engages in inappropriate, unwelcome behavior or conduct against a non-employee during work hours and/or the performance of university business and/or while using university equipment.

4.1.1.1   On the basis of that person’s protected status (i.e., race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, pregnancy, or status as a disabled or Vietnam era veteran) and

4.1.1.2   The behavior or conduct is sufficiently severe and pervasive enough that it would interfere with a reasonable person’s work or academic performance, or a reasonable person would believe the work or learning environment is intimidating, hostile or offensive.

4.1.2   Examples of unlawful harassment are listed below. The list of examples provided below is not intended to be all-inclusive. If a situation should arise, where there is uncertainty about whether the conduct or behavior constitutes unlawful harassment, contact the Human Resources Department for guidance and clarification.

4.1.2.1   Ethnic slurs

4.1.2.2   Non-verbal behavior such as gestures, graphic and written statements

4.1.2.3   Derogatory verbal conduct such as name-calling

4.1.2.4   Racial "jokes"

4.1.2.5   Physical conduct that is threatening, harmful or intimidating.

4.1.3   Sexual harassment includes a wide range of behaviors. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct directed at an individual based on his or her sex when:

4.1.3.1   Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic work, OR

4.1.3.2   Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting that individual, OR

4.1.3.3   Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or academic environment.

4.1.4   Examples of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment are listed below. The list of examples provided is not all inclusive. If a situation should arise where there is uncertainty about whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment, contact the Human Resources Department for guidance and clarification.

4.1.4.1   Unwelcome sexual propositions

4.1.4.2   Graphic comments about a person's body

4.1.4.3   Sexually suggestive objects or pictures in the workplace or academic environment

4.1.4.4   Sexually degrading words to describe a person

4.1.4.5   Derogatory or sexually explicit statements about an actual or supposed sexual relationship

4.1.4.6   Unwelcome touching, patting, pinching or leering

4.1.4.7   Derogatory gender-based humor

4.2   A single incident that causes a distracting or uncomfortable atmosphere on a given day may not rise to the legal threshold that is required to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or learning environment; however, a single incident that is severe may constitute discrimination and/or harassment. Additionally, it is also possible for behavior or conduct to be pervasive and have a cumulative effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or learning environment.

4.3   Discriminating or harassing conduct or behavior, whether intended or not, is unlawful under federal and state law. All complaints of discrimination and/or harassment will be taken seriously. Plymouth State University will not permit violations of this policy. Any faculty or staff who violates this policy will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Plymouth State University reserves the right to take reasonable action even though the behavior at issue may not meet the legal threshold of discrimination and/or harassment, but is nonetheless inappropriate or otherwise violates policy.

4.4   As an institution of higher education, Plymouth State University has a fiduciary duty to create an academic environment that allows our students to pursue an education in an environment that is free from discrimination and/or harassment. Therefore, as agents of the University, faculty and staff members must act in good faith and with due regard for our students' interests and report to appropriate authorities any allegations of discrimination and/or harassment despite requests for confidentiality or refusal by the victimized student to come forward personally. Failure to comply with this duty to report may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination from employment.

4.5   Plymouth State University’s Administration will diligently examine and investigate incidents relating to discrimination and/or harassment that are brought to the attention of Appropriate Intake Officers (see list below in PSU V.B.4.8), even when an incident is not reported in formal, written complaint. Plymouth State University will evaluate evidence and information gathered to ascertain if discrimination and/or harassment has occurred under the circumstance or situation presented.

4.6   All Plymouth State University faculty and staff, as part of their job requirements, will be responsible for preventing, reporting and eliminating discrimination and/or harassment in their respective departments or work areas. All faculty and staff must act upon any information received that relates to potential discrimination and/or harassment in accordance with the procedure outlined in PSU V.B.4.7.1.2.

4.7   Plymouth State University Discrimination and/or Harassment Complaint Resolution Procedure. The Plymouth State University Discrimination and/or Harassment Complaint Resolution Procedure is provided for internal resolution of such complaints and is not a legal forum. Additionally, the Plymouth State University Discrimination and/or Harassment Complaint Resolution Procedure will be followed to resolve complaints of discrimination and/or harassment brought forth by a non-employee against a PSU faculty or staff member provided the alleged discrimination and/or harassment occurred during work hours and/or during the performance of university business and/or while using university equipment. A non-employee bringing forth a complaint shall also be considered a "complainant." During the steps of this procedure, the complainant and the accused may be accompanied by a third party who must be a status employee or student within the University System of New Hampshire; however, such a person may not be an attorney. Complaints that a conflict of interest exists for any of the participants in the process may be made to the Director of Human Resources.

4.7.1   Initial Contact. Any student, employee or non-employee who believes that he/she has been the subject of discrimination and/or harassment that involves other Plymouth State University employees or students should take steps to resolve the matter. If possible, this should begin with direct, voluntary communication with the person engaging in the behavior in question in an attempt to resolve the issue. With the exception of allegations involving student discrimination and/or harassment of faculty, staff or other students, all complaints are to be addressed with the following procedures. The process for investigating and adjudicating student complaints of discrimination and/or harassment by students are detailed in the student code of conduct and judicial process as set forth in the Student Rights, Rules and Responsibilities publication. In the event of a situation involving student harassment of faculty or staff, the initial review of the allegations will be conducted pursuant to the Preliminary Complaint Resolution Procedure described in PSU V.B.4.11, below; if the initial review indicates that discrimination and/or harassment may have occurred, the incident will be referred for adjudication by the Dean of Students - Judicial Affairs Office.

4.7.1.1   The complainant has the right to consult with an appropriate intake officer (AIO) (see list below in PSU V.B.4.8) to gain knowledge and understanding of Plymouth State University’s Non-Discrimination Policy and Plymouth State University’s Discrimination and/or Harassment Complaint Resolution Procedure. The complainant may file a complaint, if so desired. The AIO must inform the PSU Director of Human Resources of all such complaints.

4.7.1.2   If an employee other than an AIO is contacted by an individual, or receives an anonymous complaint, the receiver of the information must redirect the complainant and/or the complaint to an AIO. The AIO must inform the PSU Director of Human Resources of all such complaints.

4.7.1.3   The AIO shall inform the complainant at the outset that confidentiality shall be maintained where legally and reasonably appropriate, and disclosure will be limited to those who have a need to know in order to investigate the complaint thoroughly. However, confidentiality cannot be unconditionally guaranteed under any circumstances.

4.7.1.4    The complainant has the option of pursuing or not pursuing the complaint. Even if the complainant declines to pursue the complaint, however, Plymouth State University reserves the right and has discretionary authority over the decision of whether to investigate potential nondiscrimination policy violations.  Appropriate action will be taken against faculty and staff who have violated this nondiscrimination policy.

4.7.1.5   In all cases, the AIO will complete an intake form within five (5) working days of the complaint and, if necessary, forward the information to the appropriate campus administrator(s), even if the complainant chooses not to proceed with the complaint.

4.8   Appropriate Intake Officers (AIOs):

4.8.1   Director of Human Resources (Affirmative Action Officer)

4.8.2   Assistant Director of Human Resources

4.8.3   Coordinator of the Women's Service and Gender Resource Center

4.8.4   Dean of Students

4.8.5   Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies

4.8.6   Associate Vice President for the College of Graduate Studies

4.9   The PSU Director of Human Resources will ensure that all AIOs receive nondiscrimination policy training on a regular basis.

4.10   Deadlines

4.10.1   Complainants are encouraged to file complaints as quickly as possible in order to ensure a more effective review of the situation. Faculty and staff have up to sixty (60) calendar days following an incident to file a complaint with an AIO. Student complaints must be submitted within twelve (12) months of the incident. In special circumstances, time limits may be waived with the agreement of the PSU Director of Human Resources. All matters will be handled as expeditiously as possible. Once a complaint has been filed, the PSU Director of Human Resources has discretionary authority at any time during the complaint investigation process to extend any deadline in the complaint investigation process to ensure a thorough investigation.

4.11   Preliminary Complaint Resolution Procedure

4.11.1   Complainants are encouraged to utilize the preliminary complaint resolution procedure. At the time of the initial contact by complainant, the AIO will complete an intake form (within five (5) working days) in order to facilitate the recording of the complaint. Once the information is completely gathered and pursuant to PSU V.B.4.7.1.4, the complaint will be investigated by the AIO, who may talk with the accused, individuals who were directly involved in the incident(s) at issue, or individuals who provide corroborating sources of information. The accused will be provided with an opportunity to respond to the complaint. The AIO, in conjunction with the PSU Director of Human Resources, will make a preliminary determination about whether or not discrimination and/or harassment has occurred.

4.11.2   If, based on the preliminary determination, the opinion is that discrimination and/or harassment has not occurred and that the complaint will not be pursued further, the complainant and accused will be so advised by the Director of Human Resources or his/her designee.

4.11.3   If, based on the preliminary determination, the opinion is that discrimination and/or harassment has occurred, the PSU Director of Human Resources or his/her designee in conjunction with the Appropriate Principal Administrator will determine the reasonable action to be taken. In accordance with PSU V.B.4.3, Plymouth State University reserves the right to take reasonable action even when the preliminary determination finds that the behavior or conduct at issue did not meet the legal threshold of discrimination and/or harassment, but was nonetheless inappropriate or otherwise a violation of policy.

4.11.4   The original documents that arise from the preliminary complaint resolution procedure shall be kept in the Human Resources Office, but in a file separate from personnel files.

4.11.5   If the terms of the resolution include a sanction of an accused, the letter of sanction may be placed in the official personnel file of the accused or in a file separate from the personnel file in the Human Resources Office.

4.11.6   Where a preliminary resolution has not been reached, the Director of Human Resources or his/her designee shall communicate to both parties advising of this fact and referencing the formal complaint resolution procedure.

4.11.7   Retaliation against the complainant and/or any individual who participates in good faith in the complaint process is prohibited.

4.12   Complaint Resolution Procedure

4.12.1   If the preliminary complaint resolution procedure described in PSU V.B.4.11 does not resolve the discrimination and/or harassment complaint, or if the complainant does not utilize the preliminary resolution procedure, then the complainant may submit a formal, written complaint. A written and signed complaint of discrimination and/or harassment must be submitted to the PSU Director of Human Resources or his/her designee by the complainant within ten (10) working days after the conclusion of the preliminary complaint procedure (if utilized). The complaint shall state, clearly and concisely, the facts that are the grounds for the complaint and the remedy sought.

4.12.2   Should the complaint be against the President of the University, a written and signed complaint of discrimination and/or harassment must be submitted by the complainant to the PSU Director of Human Resources who will inform the Chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire.

4.12.3   Within five (5) working days of the receipt of the complaint, the PSU Director of Human Resources or his/her designee will ensure that a copy of the complaint is provided to the accused. The accused will have ten (10) working days to respond to the complaint in writing. The written response shall fully, directly, and specifically address each charge detailed in the complaint. This response will be submitted to the PSU Director of Human Resources or his/her designee.

4.12.4   Only in special circumstances will a delayed response to a written complaint be allowed. In such cases, the PSU Director of Human Resources or his/her designee shall inform the complainant in writing that the response will be required on a date specific.

4.12.5   In a situation where an impossible working or academic environment exists, a temporary physical transfer and/or reassignment of duties of the parties will be considered.

4.13   Investigation Procedures

4.13.1   The President of the University shall appoint two trained investigators and shall notify the complainant and the accused of the appointments. The complainant and/or the accused may object to the appointment of the investigators if either believes there is demonstrable or perceived bias on the part of either investigator. Any such objections must be raised within five working days of the notice of appointment. In the event the President of the University is the accused, investigator appointments will be made by the Chancellor of USNH.

4.13.2   The investigation will be conducted as promptly as possible without compromising thoroughness. All employees shall cooperate with the investigation as a condition of employment.

4.13.3   The Human Resources Office will develop, publish and maintain guidelines for the investigation of discrimination and/or harassment complaints. These guidelines are suggestions and may be altered as necessary.

4.13.4   If, in the course of the investigation, other allegations surface against the accused, which may by themselves constitute discrimination and/or harassment, the investigators shall inform the accused of these additional allegations in writing, and the accused shall be given an opportunity to respond to these allegations before the investigators complete their report and statement of proposed findings. If, during the investigation, other USNH policy violations are discovered, the investigators shall report these violations to the Review Board (see PSU V.B.4.13.8).

4.13.5   Information will be made available to those with a legitimate or official need to know.

4.13.6   Principals and witnesses may elect to have one advocate present during interviews; however, the advocate must be a status employee or student within the USNH and cannot be an attorney.

4.13.7   At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigators shall submit the investigative report with findings to the Review Board.

4.13.8   The President will appoint two members of the Cabinet and one "other designee" to serve with the Appropriate Principal Administrator (APA) as a Review Board. The "other designee," selected by the president, will be a representative from the accused's faculty, staff or student constituency group. The two Cabinet members and the "other designee" are to act as consultants to the APA in determining whether the nondiscrimination policy has been violated and in making a recommendation for corrective action to the APA. The written investigative report shall ordinarily be submitted to the Review Board within thirty (30) working days of the filing of a formal complaint. In complicated cases, the Review Board may extend this deadline. Both the complainant and accused shall receive written notification of deadline extension(s) from the Review Board.

4.13.9   The APA, in consultation with the other members of the Review Board, is responsible for making a determination and recommendation within ten (10) working days of the submission of the investigative report. The APA shall send a copy of the report, determinations and recommendations to the PSU Director of Human Resources and USNH General Counsel within ten (10) working days. In complicated cases, the Review Board may extend this deadline. Both the complainant and accused shall receive written notification of deadline extension(s) from the Review Board. All investigative files shall be forwarded to the PSU Director of Human Resources.

4.13.10   If there is no determination of discrimination and/or harassment by the APA, the accused will receive a final decision letter from the APA within five (5) working days. In such an instance, no materials pertaining to the complaint shall be placed in the official or temporary personnel files of the accused.

4.13.11   If the Review Board finds the investigation and/or the report to be incomplete, the matter shall be returned to the appointed investigators for completion.

4.13.12   If there is a determination of discrimination and/or harassment by the APA, the accused will receive a final decision letter from the APA within ten (10) working days of the receipt of the determination, which letter shall include details of any disciplinary and/or corrective action(s) as determined by the APA. Unless the APA determines as otherwise appropriate, the final decision letter shall become a permanent part of the official Human Resources file of the accused.

4.13.13   The complainant(s) shall receive a final decision letter(s) related to their complaint.

4.13.14   If the accused or complainant believes that the decision, process, or sanction regarding a non-discrimination policy violation violates Board of Trustees or USNH policy, or the accused wishes to appeal the findings, process and/or sanction he/she may grieve the action through the grievance rights applicable to such person. If the person who is appealing is an employee, then the Plymouth State University Employee Complaint and Grievance Resolution Procedure shall be used. If the person who is appealing is a student, then the student grievance procedure, as stated in the Plymouth State University Student Handbook, shall be used.

4.14   Education. In developing an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect, Plymouth State University shall provide ongoing educational programs that work toward the awareness and prevention of discrimination and/or harassment. In these programs, the University shall:

4.14.1   Distribute copies of the current Plymouth State University’s Nondiscrimination policy and Discrimination and/or Harassment Complaint Resolution Procedure to all employees, and notify employees about the availability of the procedure on the Plymouth State University and USNH web home pages.

4.14.2   Post the Plymouth State University Non-Discrimination policy on all official campus bulletin boards.

4.14.3   Provide incoming students and employees with information to heighten awareness of discrimination and harassment issues and of the Plymouth State University policy.

4.14.4   Train the AIOs (PSU V.B.4.8) who serve as initial contacts for those who believe the nondiscrimination policy has been violated.

4.14.5   Train a group of investigators on conducting formal investigations into discrimination and/or harassment complaints. Members of this group will be appointed by the President of the University as noted in PSU V.B.4.13.1.

 

This page last updated Friday, March 15, 2013. For information on the adoption and effective dates of policies please see explanation on the OLPM Main Menu.