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Ch 11: Procedure for Resolving Non Sex/Gender-Based Complaints Against Staff Members

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Swarthmore College is committed to establishing and maintaining a community rich in equality and free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and misconduct. The College seeks to create an environment in which the greatest academic potential of students and professional potential of employees may be realized. In order to create and maintain such an environment, the College recognizes that all who work and learn at the College are responsible for ensuring that the community is free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, assault, and other forms of employee misconduct. These behaviors threaten our learning, living, and work environments and will not be tolerated.

The College provides methods for regular full-time and part-time staff members to seek prompt, impartial, and balanced assessment of their workplace concerns. These procedures apply to complaints against staff and may be brought by any members of the College community, including students, employees, or any individuals regularly employed, studying, living, or having any official capacity at the College. This includes regular full-time, part-time faculty and other instructional staff members of the College, whether or not appointed to regular faculty rank. Limited term employees, temporary employees, volunteers, independent contractors, visitors and employees in their orientation period do not have access to these procedures except in cases involving complaints of discrimination. The Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement, and other staff in Human Resources are available for private initial consultations at any time.

These procedures are used to resolve concerns and complaints regarding:

  • supervisory actions related to job performance, including performance evaluations, disciplinary warnings, suspensions, and/or terminations of employment for unsatisfactory performance or misconduct.
  • discrimination in violation of the College’s Notice of Non-Discrimination against any staff member. Complaints of discrimination will be resolved by these procedures when the person bringing the complaint has reason to believe the discrimination was based on race, color, age, religion, national or ethnic origin, pregnancy, marital status, medical condition, veteran status, disability in any decision regarding the complainant’s admission to, employment, or involvement in a College program or activity. Complaints of discrimination based on sex or gender, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, are resolved according to the College’s Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy.
  • other forms of misconduct against any staff member

The College’s Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy’s Procedures for Resolution of Complaints against staff and instructional staff, including faculty, is a separate College process and will be followed to resolve all complaints related to sexual misconduct of all forms, including:

  • Sexual Harassment
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Intimate-Partner Violence, including Dating Violence and Domestic Violence
  • Retaliation
  • Stalking
  • Other misconduct that is sex- or gender-based or in the context of an intimate partner relationship, including bullying and intimidation, physical assault, and discrimination.

These policies are consistent with relevant governmental statutes and regulations, including those pursuant to Title IX of the Federal Education Amendments of 1972 and Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


Non-Retaliation Policy

Employees may use these procedures without fear of retaliation from supervisors or others against whom a complaint may be lodged. Retaliation against any member of the community for good faith participation in these procedures is a violation of College policy. Retaliation will not be tolerated and will be subject to College disciplinary procedures up to and including dismissal. Any violation of this policy should be reported immediately to Human Resources, the Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement or another appropriate College resource person (e.g., Vice President of Human Resources).


Good Faith Participation

The resolution process is dependent upon the willingness of all those involved to participate in good faith, whether as a complainant, respondent, witness, or support person. Accordingly, it is expected that community members will participate in an open, civil, and respectful manner aimed at productive resolution. Should a community member be found to have knowingly and intentionally brought forward a false charge, provided false witness, or in any other way knowingly and intentionally acted to thwart the resolution process, that person is subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.


Support Person

At any stage of this resolution process, the complainant and respondent may each have a campus support person of their choice—subject to the person’s availability—to attend meetings in order to help the complainant/respondent present their case effectively and to provide moral support. Please note that, since this is an internal campus processes, support persons must be Swarthmore College community members.

The support person is expected to be a silent and non-participating observer except to ask for a short break if the complainant/respondent requires some time for composure or to collect thoughts. The support person may communicate with the complainant/respondent during meetings in a non-disruptive manner. The support person may not delay, disrupt, or otherwise take action to interfere with the integrity of any meeting. The support person, if disruptive, may be required to leave a meeting.



It is important to recognize that understanding the nature of the complaint and facilitating resolution typically requires speaking with others. The Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement will take this step only when necessary to resolve the complaint and only with those persons relevant to the resolution of the complaint.

Supervisors, managers, and facilitators of the resolution process are required to maintain the confidentiality of the proceedings, and all other participants in a complaint (i.e., complainant, respondent, interviewees, witnesses, support persons) are encouraged to maintain the confidentiality of the proceedings to ensure an unencumbered resolution.


Complaint Resolution

The timeframes referred to in these procedures are guidelines and should be followed under normal circumstances. Any change in these timeframes must be authorized by the Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement in consultation with all involved parties. These timeframes, unless otherwise specified, do not include days when the College is not open for normal operations or days when either the complainant or the respondent is unavailable due to illness or previously scheduled time away.

Step 1. Discussion with the Staff Member or Manager

It is the goal of the College to resolve concerns promptly and equitably. If problems arise, when appropriate, the people closest to the situation should have the first opportunity to try to work through issues or disagreements. In many cases, concerns can be resolved through effective dialogue with the community members. The College strives for a positive workplace in which good communication helps avoid problems and promptly resolves concerns when they arise. If you are comfortable doing so, discuss your concerns with the staff member directly within 5 business days of the action giving rise to your concern.

If you believe your supervisor has inappropriately issued a performance counseling action, disciplinary warning, suspension, or termination for misconduct or unsatisfactory performance, and if you are comfortable doing so, discuss the concern with your supervisor within five business days of the action.

If you are uncomfortable approaching a staff member or your supervisor directly, or if you believe you have been subjected to discrimination in violation of College policy, you may bring your concern directly to the Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement within five business days of the action, absent extraordinary circumstances. The Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement will be able to help answer questions about resources, support, and your complaint resolution options.

The Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement will take appropriate steps to assess and, in cases claiming discrimination or a College policy violation, will determine if an investigation is appropriate. Typically, an investigation is considered appropriate when the resolution may result in disciplinary action, such as in cases alleging a violation of the College’s Notice of Non-Discrimination or violation of another College policy. When an investigation is appropriate, the Director will arrange a prompt, impartial, and thorough investigation of the concern. Depending on the nature of the concern and, if conducted, the outcome of the investigation, the Director may also take other appropriate steps to promptly and equitably assess the complaint, offer interim remedies, and recommend and facilitate a resolution of the concern. In cases where discrimination is found, the College will stop the discrimination, prevent its reoccurrence, and provide appropriate remedies in light of the circumstances. The Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement will give the complainant and respondent written notice after initial attempts to resolve the concern have concluded and will share available next steps for resolution. If the matter has been resolved, this notice will include a summary of the outcome.

There could be occasions when Step 1 of the procedure may not be appropriate. In such a case, the complainant may choose to begin the complaint resolution procedures at Step 2.

Step 2. Review by Manager or Next Level Manager

If Step 1 of the complaint resolution procedure does not resolve the concern, either party should complete a Request for Formal Review form within five days of the written notice concluding Step 1. If the resolution process begins at Step 2 because Step 1 was not appropriate, then the complainant should complete a Request for Formal Review form within five business days of the action giving rise to the concern. The form is available from the Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement. The form asks for a description of the action(s) in question and why it or they are not appropriate. The form also asks what resolution is being sought. The respondent’s department head and the next level manager will receive a copy of the form as notification that a request for review has been filed.

Within five business days of receiving the Request for Formal Review, the Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement will share the Request for Formal Review with the relevant supervisor and the president’s staff member. The supervisor may decide to arrange meetings with the parties to discuss the concern. In cases where the concern is against a complainant’s supervisor, the meetings will be arranged with the next level manager. The Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement may attend each meeting to facilitate the discussion.

Within five business days following the meetings, the manager will provide the parties with a written response to the concern that describes whether any further actions or remedies are warranted to resolve the concern. If the response from the manager does not resolve the concern, either party should notify the Director, Equal Opportunity and Engagement in writing within five business days of the manager’s written response to request further review under Step 3 of these resolution procedures.

Step 3. Review and Final Decision by Vice President or Designee

Review by the vice president or designee will be allowed only on the grounds of significant procedural error or inadequate consideration, as assessed by the vice president or designee. If the vice president or designee deems the appeal appropriate, he or she will determine the method and depth of the review. The vice president or designee will issue a written decision in a timely manner. Decisions of the vice president or designee are final.