1. Introduction

1.1. This policy establishes guidelines for UW-La Crosse employees to identify, avoid, and document actual and potential conflicts of interest that arise when employees’ official roles and duties overlap with their personal and family relationships. The appropriate handling of situations where nepotism may occur is a legal and ethical responsibility of the University and its employees, and requires appropriate documentation and communication to avoid any perception of bias or favoritism for or against any individual.

1.2. This policy furthers the goals of state laws and University of Wisconsin System policies related to ethics, nepotism and conflicts of interest. In the spirit of UWS 8.01, every employee “makes a personal commitment to professional honesty and integrity, to seek knowledge and to share that knowledge freely with others. Such a commitment is essential for the University to perform its proper function in our society and to ensure continued confidence of the people of this state in the University of Wisconsin system and its personnel.”

1.3. The language and content of this policy are intended to be gender-inclusive and to apply to all individuals regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The singular “they” and its derivative forms (“them”, “their”, etc.) are used at times in this policy for this reason.

2. Definitions

2.1.  Related Person. For the purposes of this policy only, with respect to a University employee, a “related person” is a person who meets any one or more of the following criteria:

2.1.1. The employee’s current or former spouse/partner in a marriage, partnership, or civil union regardless of sex or gender, and/or in a partnership that meets all of the criteria set forth in the Domestic Partner Affidavit, UWS-50; or
An individual who is related to the employee in any of the following ways, including via adoption: parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, father-in-law, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, step-parent, step-child, step-sibling, or half-sibling; or

2.1.2. An individual who lives in the same residence as the employee; or

2.1.3. An individual who receives, directly or indirectly, more than one half of their support from the employee or from whom the employee receives, directly or indirectly, more than one half of their support.

2.2. Conflict of Interest. For the purposes of this policy, a conflict of interest arises when a person makes or participates in making a recommendation or decision specifically affecting the terms or conditions of employment (including appointment, retention, tenure, contract status, work assignments, evaluations, promotion, demotion or salary) of a related person, or attempts to influence a person in making such recommendations or decisions concerning that related person.

2.3. Potential Conflict of Interest. For the purposes of this policy, a potential conflict of interest arises when an employee, by means of their position, official authority, delegated authority, membership in a committee or council, or by any other means, has the ability to perform an act that would constitute a conflict of interest as defined above. 

2.4. Organizational Unit. For the purposes of this policy, means a department, office or other designated unit of the University.

3. General.

3.1. Employment of related persons at the University is allowed (a) where neither person supervises the other, directly or through intermediaries, and where the functions of their positions do not create any other potential conflict of interest, or (b) if there is a potential conflict of interest, the needs and interests of the university justify the employment of the related persons and the potential conflict of interest is adequately resolved using the procedures below. 

3.1. All employees shall recuse themselves from discussions or decisions that relate to personnel matters involving related persons.

4. Disclosure Obligations. 

4.1. If a person is offered employment by the University in a position that may create a potential conflict of interest, that person shall notify the hiring authority or Human Resources. If the hiring authority is aware of the relationship, they should make a good faith effort to inform the prospective hire of this disclosure obligation.

4.2. If a person already employed by the University is in the process of being promoted, appointed (temporarily or permanently), or elected to a position that creates a potential conflict of interest, or if any other personnel action is being considered that would create a potential conflict of interest, that person shall disclose the potential conflict of interest to their immediate supervisor.

4.3. The person receiving the initial disclosure under 4.1 or 4.2 shall notify their Dean and/or Division Head. If either of the related individuals in question has the position of Dean, Director, or higher, the Chancellor shall be notified. 

5. Procedure for approval.

5.1. Upon disclosure as described above, if the related individuals and their supervisor(s) wish to proceed with the hiring, promotion, appointment, or other personnel action, they shall collectively prepare a written Plan of Action to remedy the potential conflict of interest. 

5.2. The Plan of Action shall identify the two individuals and their current and/or prospective roles, the rationale or justification for the proposed hire or other personnel action, the remedial measures by which any potential conflict of interest will be resolved (for example, recusal from decisions affecting a related person, alternate reporting line, etc.), and the impact of these measures on the operations of the organizational unit. The related persons shall sign the Plan of Action indicating their agreement to its terms. 

5.3. If the potential conflict of interest involves an individual who would be indirectly supervising a related person through intermediate supervisees, those intermediate supervisees should be identified and consulted regarding the Plan of Action. Affirmative Action and other appropriate offices should also be consulted. All parties shall make an effort to ensure that feedback is gathered in a climate free of undue pressure and/or perceived risk of retaliation.

5.4. The Plan of Action shall be submitted to the appropriate Vice Chancellor (or to the Chancellor, if one of the related persons is a Vice Chancellor or in any other position reporting to the Chancellor), who may (a) approve it; (b) reject it; or (c) propose modifications to be considered by the related persons and their supervisors, after which a modified Plan of Action shall be resubmitted for approval. 

5.5. If the Plan of Action is approved, it will be placed in the personnel files of both related individuals and shared with appropriate University personnel in order to facilitate its implementation.

5.6. If the Plan of Action is rejected, the hiring or other personnel action in question will be cancelled. 

6. Violations and Penalties

6.1. In the event that a person fails to make a disclosure required by section 4, and/or fails to comply with the remedial measures described in section 5, that person may be subjected to one or more of the following actions: transfer, reassignment, and/or disciplinary action including dismissal.

6.2. In the event that a person performs an act that constitutes a conflict of interest as defined in section 1.2, that person may be subjected to disciplinary action including dismissal.

6.3. Any employee who has a concern about potential non-compliance with this policy may contact their supervisor, their supervisor’s supervisor, Human Resources, or Affirmative Action to discuss the matter. Retaliation against an employee for reporting such a concern in good faith is prohibited.

7. Related persons currently employed by the University 

7.1. Following the enactment of this policy, employees who currently supervise, directly or indirectly, a related person, should take reasonable steps to document the remedial measures that are being taken and/or will be taken to resolve the potential conflict of interest. After approval by both individuals’ supervisors, such documentation will be placed in the personnel files of both individuals.

8. Other conflicts of interest

8.1. Actual or potential conflicts of interest that arise for reasons other than the personal and family relationships described in 2.1 above are not covered by this policy. However, any other applicable legal obligations and ethical principles will continue to apply to University employees’ handling of such conflicts of interest.