Williams College Employee Handbook
Informal Grievance Procedure
A person who is considering filing a complaint regarding discriminatory behavior should meet as soon as possible with the appropriate administrator (i.e., either the pertinent executive officer or affiliated staff).1 The administrator will, if so requested, help the person decide whether the allegation falls within the scope of these grievance procedures, answer any questions regarding the procedures themselves, or provide any information that might help the person decide whether to file a complaint and thereby initiate an investigation.
1 For the Dean of the College the other administrators include the Associate and Assistant Deans; for the Dean of the Faculty they include the Provost and the Vice President of Institutional Diversity and Equity; for the Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer they include the Director of Human Resources and the Vice President of Institutional Diversity and Equity. If it is an executive officer whose behavior may be at issue, the person should discuss the alleged discriminatory behavior with the President, who will appoint a formal grievance committee, which will proceed as stipulated below, except that the committee will in this case make its report and recommendation to the President.
If the person then chooses to file a complaint, he or she will send to his or her executive officer a written statement of allegations. The complainant's executive officer will provide the complainant with a written set of guidelines^2^ indicating the kinds of information that the statement should contain. The respondent's executive officer will be responsible for giving the respondent a copy of the statement of allegations and for answering any questions regarding the procedures themselves. The complainant's executive officer and the executive officer of the person charged with the offense will oversee the entire informal stage.3 In doing so they may need to confer with and delegate responsibilities to members of their staffs. They will also inform the Affirmative Action Officer that a complaint has been filed. In conducting the investigation, the respondent's executive officer should consult his or her file of complaints of discrimination to determine whether it contains any information about the respondent that is relevant to a judgment concerning the present case or to the terms of its resolution.4
2 See Appendix B for the guidelines.
3 When both the complainant and the respondent belong to the same category (i.e., students, faculty, or staff) their executive officer and an affiliated staff member will oversee the proceedings.
4 Only the respondent's executive officer has access to the file, which contains information pertaining both to dismissed and to settled cases. See Appendix C for regulations governing the use of the file.
After the investigation has been concluded the executive officers will reach a finding and report it to both the complainant and the respondent. If the finding indicates that the respondent did not violate the College's policy, or that the evidence is inconclusive, the complainant may, if dissatisfied with the finding, instruct his or her executive officer to begin formal grievance proceedings. If the complainant chooses not to request formal proceedings, the case is dismissed. If, on the other hand, it is the judgment of the executive officers that the respondent committed the act(s) alleged by the complainant and thereby violated College policy, they will seek an informal resolution of the complaint. They will also, if the respondent is a faculty or staff member, confer with his or her department supervisor. The complainant's executive officer will keep the complainant informed of any progress made in resolving the grievance, reporting to the complainant within one month of the filing of one the complaint. This period may be extended beyond one month if the complainant and his or her executive officer agree that an extension is needed.
To be successful, the terms of the resolution proposed by the executive officers must be acceptable to both the complainant and the respondent. The executive officers will put those terms in writing, giving a copy to the complainant and another to the respondent. Each party will have one week to indicate his or her acceptance of the terms as constituting a satisfactory resolution of the grievance by returning a signed copy to the executive officers. Upon receipt of both signed copies, the respondent's executive officer will place them in his or her file of complaints of discrimination and take such actions as are called for in the resolution.
The executive officers' attempt at an informal resolution will have failed if either the complainant or the respondent chooses not to accept the terms proposed. If the complainant does not accept them, he or she may, again within a week of receiving the proposed terms in writing, instruct the complainant's executive officer to begin formal grievance proceedings, and the grievance committee will hear the case following the regulations stipulated (see Formal Grievance Procedure). In cases where the respondent is a faculty member and the finding is extremely serious, the complainant may waive his or her right to have the case heard before a formal grievance committee to enable the executive officers, if they so recommend, to initiate proceedings for the imposition of a major sanction (dismissal or suspension), see Termination for Cause and Sanctions Other than Dismissal). Should the complainant choose to withdraw the complaint, the executive officers may, depending on their findings, decide nevertheless to impose sanctions on the respondent. If the executive officers so decide, and the respondent believes that their findings are unwarranted or their proposed sanctions unjust, he or she may appeal the executive officers' decision as specified in the Appeal Procedure.