On occasion, Human Resources is asked by supervisors or the Chancellor to investigate matters to determine if policy violations occurred by an employee or employees.

This webpage provides information, resources, and details on how employees can generally expect the investigative process to unfold when being led by Human Resources. This includes any investigations which may be required as part of UWL's Policy on Against Harassment, Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct, and Retaliation.   

It is important to note that the investigative process is dictated by the circumstances of the complaint and may not follow the specific or ideal path outlined below.  In addition, the general timeframe for completion of an investigation can vary based on the complaint and the unfolding complexity involved.

All investigations are processed by two trained investigators and an acting administrator who is responsible for overseeing the investigative process and communicating with all parties involved.

Resources for the Parties

Accommodations expanding section

Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the university will provide reasonable accommodation(s) to all qualified employees with known disabilities when their disability affects the performance of their essential job functions, except when doing so would be unduly disruptive or would result in undue hardship to the university.

An employee with a disability is responsible for submitting a request for an accommodation to Human Resources and providing necessary documentation. Human Resources will work with the employee’s
supervisor to identify which essential functions of the position are affected by the employee’s disability and what reasonable accommodations could enable the employee to perform those duties.

Confidential Community Resources expanding section
  • Gundersen Health System Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Program: 608.775.5950 (24 hour line)
  • Mayo Clinic Health System "Safe Path": 608.392.7804 (24 hour line)
  • New Horizons Shelter & Outreach Centers: 608.791.2600 (24 hour line)
  • Great Rivers 2-1-1 Information, referral and crisis line: Dial 211 (24 hour line)
Supportive or Interim Measures expanding section

The university may offer and implement appropriate and reasonable supportive measures to the parties upon notice of investigation.

Supportive measures are non-disciplinary, non-punitive individualized services offered as appropriate, as reasonably available, and without fee or charge to the parties to restore or preserve, as much as possible, a positive work environment for all parties involved.  

This may include measures designed to protect the safety of all parties or the university's working environment, and/or deter harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation.

The Chief Human Resources Officer, in consultation with various other stakeholders promptly makes supportive measures available to the parties upon receiving notice of a complaint. At the time that supportive measures are offered, the Chief Human Resources Officer will inform the Complainant, in writing, that they may file a formal complaint with the university either at that time or in the future if they have not done so already. Chief Human Resources Officer works with the Complainant to ensure that their wishes are taken into account with respect to the supportive measures that are planned and implemented.

The Chief Human Resources Officer will maintain the privacy of the supportive measures, provided that privacy does not impair the university's ability to provide supportive measures.

The university will act to ensure as minimal an impact on the parties as possible. The university will implement measures in a way that does not unreasonably burden the other party.

  • These actions may include, but are not limited to:
  • Referral to campus advocacy, counseling, medical, and/or other healthcare services
  • Referral to Perspectives, the Employee Assistance Program
  • Referral to community-based service providers
  • Education to the community or community subgroup(s)
  • Altering work arrangements for employees or student-employees
  • Safety planning
  • Providing campus safety escorts
  • Providing transportation accommodations
  • Implementing contact limitations (no contact orders) between the parties
  • Timely warnings

What to Expect in a Human Resources Investigation

Definitions expanding section

In this process, the complainant can either refer to:

  • A supervisor alleging policy violations;
  • Another employee alleging misconduct or policy violation by a peer; or
  • A student or community member alleging misconduct, abuse, or violation of applicable university policy.

In this process, the respondent refers to the person(s) who are alleged to have engaged in misconduct or violated applicable university policy. 

A 'resolution' refers to the entire process, inclusive of the investigation component.

The term decision-maker refers to the responsible authority who has been provided the discretion to make a determination or sanction based on the findings in the investigative process.  Human Resources is not the decision-maker; they make recommendations to the decision-makers for final action. 

Appointment of Acting Administrator expanding section

In any investigation led by Human Resources, the investigative model establishes that two, impartial investigators be assigned to review the complaint.  These two investigators are managed by an Acting Administrator.  

The Acting Administrator assists the investigators by ensuring:

  • the investigative process is timely
  • regular communications to the parties
  • reviews the actions and activities of the investigators to ensure it is compliant with university policies and processes
False Allegations expanding section

Deliberately false and/or malicious accusations of harassment, as opposed to allegations which, even if erroneous, are made in good faith, are a serious offense and will be subject to investigation and appropriate disciplinary action as defined by UW System Administrative Policy 1292.

Additionally, witnesses and parties providing knowingly false evidence or deliberately misleading an official conducting an investigation can be subject to discipline under applicable university policies.

Notice of Investigation expanding section

Depending on the type of investigation that Human Resources has been tasked with reviewing, the Notice of Investigation will either come from the Chancellor or the Chief Human Resources Officer. 

The Notice of Investigation will provide written notice of the investigation and allegations to the Respondent upon commencement of the investigation.

This facilitates the Respondent’s ability to prepare for the interview and to identify and choose an Advisor to accompany them. The Notice is also copied to the Complainant, who is to be given advance notice of when the Notice of Investigation will be delivered to the Respondent.

The Notice of Investigation will include:

  • A meaningful summary of all of the allegations,
  • The identity of the involved parties (if known),
  • The precise misconduct being alleged,
  • The date and location of the alleged incident(s) (if known),
  • The specific policies implicated,
  • A description of the applicable procedures,
  • A statement of the potential sanctions/responsive actions that could result,
  • A statement that the university presumes the Respondent is not  responsible for the reported violations unless and until the evidence supports a different determination,
  • A statement that determinations of responsibility are made at the conclusion of the process and that the parties will be given an opportunity to inspect and review all directly related and/or relevant evidence obtained during the review and comment period,
  • A statement about the university's policy on retaliation,
  • Information about the privacy of the process,
    Information on the need for each party to have an Advisor of their choosing and suggestions for ways to identify an Advisor,
  • A statement informing the parties that the university's policy prohibits knowingly making false statements, including knowingly submitting false information during the resolution process,
  • Detail on how the party may request disability accommodations during the interview process,
  • If the investigation is involving a claim of sexual misconduct, a link to relevant policies related to Title IX, VAWA, etc.,
  • The name(s) of the Investigator(s), along with a process to identify, in advance of the interview process, to the Acting Administrator any conflict of interest that the Investigator(s) may have, and
  • An instruction to preserve any evidence that is directly related to the allegations.

Amendments and updates to the Notice may be made as the investigation progresses and more information becomes available regarding the addition or dismissal of various charges.

The Notice will be signed by the Acting Administrator and seek a returned, signed, acknowledgment from the person(s) who are being investigated. 

Promptness expanding section

All allegations are acted upon promptly by the university once it has received a notice of a formal complaint.

Complaints can take 60-90 business days to resolve, typically. There are always exceptions and extenuating circumstances that can cause a resolution to take longer, but the university will avoid all undue delays within its control.

Any time the general timeframes for resolution outlined in university procedures will be delayed, the university will provide written notice to the parties of the delay, the cause of the delay, and an estimate of the anticipated additional time that will be needed as a result of the delay.

Initial Assessment expanding section

Following receipt of notice or a complaint of an alleged violation of policy, the Chief Human Resources Officer, or their designee, engages in an initial assessment, which is typically one to five business days in duration.

The steps in an initial assessment regarding a complaint from another employee can include:

  • If notice is given, Human Resources seeks to determine if the person(s) impacted wishes to make a formal complaint, and will assist them to do so if desired; or,
  • If they do not wish to do so, Human Resources may consult with other campus resources to determine whether to initiate a complaint because a violence risk assessment indicates a compelling threat to health and/or safety.
  • If a formal complaint is received, Human Resources assesses its sufficiency and works with the Complainant to make sure it is correctly completed.
  • Human Resources may reach out to the Complainant to offer supportive measures.
  • Human Resources works with the Complainant to ensure they are aware of the right to have an Advisor.
  • Human Resources works with the Complainant to determine whether the Complainant prefers a supportive and remedial response, an informal resolution option, or a formal investigation.
    • If a supportive and remedial response is preferred, Human Resources works with the Complainant to identify their wishes and then seeks to facilitate implementation. No Formal Investigative Process is initiated, though the
      Complainant(s) can elect to initiate one later if desired.
    • If an informal resolution option is preferred, Human Resources assesses whether the complaint is suitable for informal resolution, [which informal mechanism may serve the situation best or is available] and may seek to determine if the Respondent is also willing to engage in informal resolution.
    • If a formal investigation is preferred, Human Resources determines if the misconduct or policy violation(s) alleged falls within the scope or jurisdiction of the university.

If the request is based on suspected policy violation as observed by a supervisor, Human Resources will work with the chair/supervisor to determine the extent to which the information observed by the supervisor rises to a level requiring investigation. In the case of workplace policy violations, the investigative process may not involve assessments of the impact to others.

In this initial assessment phase, Human Resources may make a determination that the alleged violations are either not in the scope of the university's jurisdiction or the evidence suggests that the actions/activity of the Respondent do not rise to a level of investigation or policy violation. (See 'Dismissal' section)

Dismissal of Allegation expanding section

Human Resources must engage in a review process of formal complaints, prior to the investigation to evaluate if an alleged violation fit within the parameters of the applicable policies.

A written decision outlining the rationale to not proceed in an investigation shall be delivered to the complainant and/or supervisor.  In this written decision, it shall be noted how the complainant and/or supervisor may appeal the decision based on the applicable Wisconsin Chapter outlining the complaint/grievance process.   

In these instances, the respondent may not be informed of the alleged complaint or policy violation.  

In some cases, the allegation may not rise to the level of policy violation, but Human Resources may advise that the respondent be informally notified of the allegation so that they may model their behavior to what is expected either by university policy or their supervisor's expectations. 

In these instances, in the event of a complaint from another employee or person other than the supervisor, the complaining party may remain anonymous.

In cases that a supervisor may have alleged policy violation, a meeting with the employee to informally counsel and address expectations may take place.  This meeting may be documented through a "Letter of Counseling" which can be placed in the employee's p-file.  An employee has the right to respond to such a letter, if desired.  

Counterclaims expanding section

The university is obligated to ensure that the investigative process is not abused for retaliatory purposes. The university permits the filing of counterclaims but uses an initial assessment, described in the 'Dismissal of Allegation', to assess whether the allegations in the counterclaim are made in good faith. Counterclaims by the Respondent may be made in good faith, but are, on occasion, also made for purposes of retaliation. Counterclaims
made with retaliatory intent will not be permitted.

Counterclaims determined to have been reported in good faith will be processed either concurrently with the ongoing investigation or will be investigated as a separate complaint.   As a result, the original investigation may be delayed as a result of the counter-claims.  

Right to an Advisor expanding section

The parties may each have an Advisor of their choice present with them for all meetings and interviews within the investigative process if they so choose.

The parties may select whomever they wish to serve as their Advisor as long as the Advisor is eligible and available.

Choosing an Advisor who is also a witness in the process creates the potential for bias and conflict-of-interest. A party who chooses an Advisor who is also a witness can anticipate that issues of potential bias will be
explored by the hearing Decision-maker(s).

The university may permit parties to have more than one Advisor upon special request to the Chief Human Resources Officer. The decision to grant this request is at the sole discretion of the Chief Human Resources Officer and will be granted equitably to all parties.

Who Can Serve as an Advisor

The Advisor may be a friend, mentor, family member, attorney, or any other individual a party chooses to advise, support, and/or consult with them throughout the resolution process. The parties may choose Advisors from inside or outside of the College community.

The Chief Human Resources Officer will also offer to assign a trained Advisor for any party if the party so chooses. If the parties choose an Advisor from the pool available from the university, the Advisor will be trained by the university and be familiar with the university's resolution process.

If the parties choose an Advisor from outside the pool of those identified by the university, the Advisor may not have been trained by the university and may not be familiar with university policies and procedures.

Parties also have the right to choose not to have an Advisor in the initial stages of the investigative process.

Advisor Subject to University Policy

All Advisors are subject to the same university policies and procedures, whether they are attorneys or not. Advisors are expected to advise their advisees without disrupting proceedings. Advisors should not
address university officials in a meeting or interview unless invited to (e.g., asking procedural questions). The Advisor may not make a presentation or represent their advisee during any meeting or proceeding and may not speak on behalf of the advisee to the Investigator(s).

The parties are expected to ask and respond to questions on their own behalf throughout the investigation phase of the resolution process.

Although the Advisor generally may not speak on behalf of their advisee, the Advisor may consult with their advisee, either privately as needed, or by conferring or passing notes during any resolution process meeting or interview. For longer or more involved discussions, the parties and their Advisors should ask for breaks to allow for a private consultation.

Any Advisor who oversteps their role as defined by this policy will be warned only once. If the Advisor continues to disrupt or otherwise fails to respect the limits of the Advisor role, the meeting will be ended, or other appropriate measures implemented. Subsequently, the Acting Administrator will determine how to address the Advisor’s non-compliance and future role.

Sharing Information with the Advisor

The university expects that the parties may wish to have the university share documentation and evidence related to the allegations with their Advisors. Parties may share this information directly with their Advisor or other individuals if they wish. Doing so may help the parties participate more meaningfully in the resolution process.

The university also provides a consent form that authorizes the university to share such information directly with their Advisor. The parties must either complete and submit this form to the Acting Administrator or provide similar documentation demonstrating consent to a release of information to the Advisor before university is able to share records with an Advisor.

If a party requests that all communication be made solely through their attorney Advisor, the university may not comply with that request. 

Pre-Interview Meetings expanding section

The complainant and/or Advisors may request to meet with the administrative officials conducting interviews/meetings in advance of these interviews or meetings. This pre-meeting allows Advisors to clarify and understand their role and the university's policies and procedures.

Appointment of Investigators expanding section

Once the decision to commence a formal investigation is made, the Acting Administrator appoints two trained members to conduct the investigation (typically using a team of two Investigators), usually within two (2) business days of determining that an investigation should proceed.  The names of the investigators are included in the Notice of Investigation so that the parties may determine if the investigators may have any conflicts of interest. 

Impartiality expanding section

Any individual materially involved in the administration of the resolution process [including the Chief Human Resources Officer, Acting Administrator, Investigator(s), and Decision-maker(s)] may neither have nor demonstrate a conflict of interest or bias for a party generally, or for a specific Complainant or Respondent.

In cases where conflict is determined, another person may be assigned to that role - or a decision may be made to consult with and engage external investigators who will follow the same process and procedures outlined by the university.  

Steps in the Investigative Process expanding section

All investigations are thorough, reliable, impartial, prompt, and fair. Please note that in the case of Title IX or Discrimination complaints, the steps may include additional requirements.  These requirements will be documented and made known to the parties at the Notice of Investigation.  

Investigations involve interviews with all relevant parties and witnesses; obtaining available, relevant evidence; and identifying sources of expert information, as necessary.

All parties have a full and fair opportunity, through the investigation process, to suggest witnesses and questions, to provide evidence and expert witnesses, and to fully review and respond to all evidence on the record.

The Investigator(s) typically take(s) the following steps, if not already completed (not necessarily in this order):

  • Determine the identity and contact information of the Complainant
  • In coordination with campus partners initiate or assist with any necessary supportive measures
  • Identify all policies implicated by the alleged misconduct and notify the Complainant and Respondent of all of the specific policies implicated
  • Assist with conducting a prompt initial assessment to determine if the allegations indicate a potential policy violation
  • Commence a thorough, reliable, and impartial investigation by identifying issues and developing a strategic investigation plan, including a witness list, evidence list, intended investigation timeframe, and order of interviews for all witnesses and the parties
  • Meet with the Complainant to finalize their interview/statement, if necessary
  • Prepare the initial Notice of Investigation 
  • Provide each interviewed party and witness an opportunity to review and verify the Investigator’s summary notes (or transcript) of the relevant evidence/testimony from their respective interviews and meetings
  • Make good faith efforts to notify the parties of any meeting or interview involving the other party, in advance when possible
  • When participation of a party is expected, provide that party with written notice of the date, time, and location of the meeting, as well as the expected participants and purpose
  • Interview all available, relevant witnesses and conduct follow-up interviews as necessary
  • Allow each party the opportunity to suggest witnesses and questions they wish the Investigator(s) to ask if the other party and witnesses, and document in the report which questions were asked, with a rationale for any changes or omissions
  • Complete the investigation promptly and without unreasonable deviation from the intended timeline
  • [For the Acting Administrator] provide regular status updates to the parties throughout the investigation
  • Prior to the conclusion of the investigation, provide the parties and their respective Advisors (if so desired by the parties) with a list of witnesses whose information will be used to render a finding.
  • Write a comprehensive investigation report fully summarizing the investigation, all witness interviews, and addressing all relevant evidence. Appendices including relevant physical or documentary evidence will be included
  • Prior to the conclusion of the investigation, provide the parties and their respective Advisors (if so desired by the parties) a secured electronic or hard copy of the draft investigation report as well as an opportunity to inspect and review all of the evidence obtained as part of the investigation that is directly related to the reported misconduct, including the evidence upon which the university does not intend to rely in reaching a determination, for a ten (10) business day review and comment period so that each party may meaningfully respond to the evidence. The parties may elect to waive the full ten days. Each copy of the materials shared will be watermarked on each page with the role of the person receiving it (e.g., Complainant,
    Respondent, Complainant’s Advisor, Respondent’s Advisor).
  • The Investigator(s) may elect to respond in writing in the investigation report to the parties’ submitted responses and/or to share the responses between the parties for additional responses
  • The Investigator(s) will incorporate relevant elements of the parties’ written responses into the final investigation report, including any additional relevant evidence, make any necessary revisions, and finalize the report. The Investigator(s) should document all rationales for any changes made after the review and comment period
  • The Investigator(s) shares the report with the Acting Administrator and/or legal counsel for their review and feedback
  • The Investigator(s) will incorporate any relevant feedback, and the final report is then shared with all parties and their Advisors through secure electronic transmission or hard copy. 
Role and Participation of Witnesses expanding section

Witnesses (as distinguished from the parties) who are employees of the university are expected to cooperate with and participate in the university's investigation and resolution process. Failure of such witnesses to
cooperate with and/or participate in the investigation or resolution process may constitute a violation of policy and may warrant discipline.

While in-person interviews for parties and all potential witnesses are ideal, circumstances may require individuals to be interviewed remotely. Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, WebEx, or similar technologies may be used for interviews if the Investigator(s) determine that timeliness or efficiency dictates a need for remote interviewing. The university will take appropriate steps to reasonably ensure the security/privacy of remote interviews.

Recording of Interviews expanding section

Interviews will typically be recorded and transcribed. 

The recordings shall be transcribed and then the recordings deleted. All retention of the recordings shall be in accordance with university or state policies.  

Evidentiary Considerations in the Investigation expanding section

The investigation does not consider incidents not directly related to the possible violation - unless they evidence a pattern and that the party to whom is alleged to have displayed said pattern is aware of the previously identified behavior, (i.e. that there is documented evidence to suggest that the person(s) had reasonably been notified that said patter of behavior deviated from university policy or expectations).  

Conclusion of Investigation expanding section

Investigators, under the direction of the Acting Administrator, shall determine when they have reasonably sufficient evidence to make a recommendation of findings to the responsible decision-maker.  

If evidence or information provided by either party is not considered, separate, written rationale shall be provided to said party outlining the reason for the non-inclusion of such information or evidence.

Notice of Outcomes expanding section

At the conclusion of the investigative process, a summary shall be provided to the responsible decision-makers with recommended findings.  A copy of this summary shall be made to the Complainant and Respondent. 

Within the summary, the report shall also outline under what process the decision-maker will be making a determination, (e.g. applicable grievance or Wisconsin Chapter).  

Kept in the investigative file, retained in Human Resources, will be the witness summaries; evidence used to reach the conclusion made by the investigators, and the investigative summary report.  

This process is effective as of August 17, 2020.