Chapter 11 – Anti-Retaliation

(Amended 3/97; 10/11; 7/1/17; 9/21/18; 1/20)

Note: Good-faith reports of violations of university of Iowa Operations Manual policies, including Community policiesHuman Resources policies, or Division of Student Life policies, are protected from retaliatory action by this policy.

11.1 Principle and Rationale

(Amended 9/21/18)

The University of Iowa encourages its faculty, staff, and students to make good-faith reports of university-related misconduct. The commitment to improve the quality of the university through such reports is vital to the well-being of the entire campus community. Retaliation as a response to a good-faith report, whether determined to be founded or unfounded, will not be tolerated. Retaliation, whether actual or threatened, destroys a sense of community and trust that is central to a quality environment. The university, therefore, wishes to make clear that it considers acts or threats of retaliation in response to good-faith reports to constitute a serious violation of university policy.

11.2 Definitions

(Amended 9/21/18; 1/20)
  1. "Good-faith report" means disclosure of university-related misconduct made with a belief in the truth of the report which a reasonable person in the reporter's position could hold based upon the facts. (Such report is sometimes called "whistleblowing.") A report may be initiated in good faith regardless of whether the complaint is ultimately founded or unfounded. A report is not in good faith if made with reckless disregard for or willful ignorance of facts that would disprove the report.
  2. "University-related misconduct" includes any activity by a university department or by an employee that is undertaken in the performance of the employee's official duties, whether or not such action is within the scope of the individual's employment, and that is in violation of any state or federal law or regulation or university regulation or policy, including but not limited to corruption, bribery, theft of university property, fraudulent claims, fraud, coercion, conversion, discrimination, sexual harassment, civil rights violations, misuse of university property and facilities, or willful failure to perform duty.
  3. "Impacted party" means any student, staff, or faculty who in good faith reports real or perceived university-related misconduct and who experiences retaliation as a result of this action, consistent with the definition of retaliation within this policy.
  4. "Third-party reporter" means any student, staff, faculty member, or other covered individual who in good faith makes a complaint of retaliation upon an impacted party under this policy. 
  5. "Other covered individuals" means any person who has participated in complaint investigations or related proceedings or who has a close association with someone who has reported university-related misconduct or filed a complaint of retaliation.
  6. "Retaliation" means any materially adverse action or credible threat of a materially adverse action by the university, or member thereof, taken against any faculty member, staff member, or student for having made a good-faith report of university-related misconduct, or taken to deter such a report in the future, or taken against another covered individual because of a close association with someone who has made or may make such a report.
  7. "Materially adverse action" means any action that causes or threatens to cause significant injury or harm to an impacted party, a third-party reporter, or other covered person such that it would likely dissuade a reasonable member of the faculty, staff, or student body from making or supporting a good-faith report of university-related misconduct. Adverse action does not include an action, including employment or academic action, that would have been taken regardless of the good-faith report of misconduct.
    1. Faculty and staff. Adverse actions may include, but are not limited to, employment actions such as discharge, demotion, suspension, denial of tenure or promotion, detrimental changes in work assignments, threats, harassment, purposeful exclusion from job interactions, and otherwise being substantially disadvantaged with respect to compensation or the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Adverse actions may also include actions or threats not directly related to employment if the actions would dissuade a reasonable faculty or staff member from making or supporting a complaint of university-related misconduct.
    2. Students. Adverse actions may include, but are not limited to, expulsion, suspension, disenrollment, grade reductions, denial of employment or training opportunities, exclusion from academic or extracurricular activities or opportunities, threats, harassment, or otherwise being substantially disadvantaged with respect to the academic, residential or extracurricular life.
    3. Other covered individuals. Adverse actions may include those mentioned above as well as those that may prevent the individual from pursuing and/or obtaining employment.

11.3 Scope of Policy

(Amended 1/20)

No members of the university community shall engage in retaliation in response to the filing of a report of university-related misconduct.

The university will make every reasonable effort to stop retaliation immediately, to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of alleged acts of retaliation in a timely manner, and to sanction the perpetrators of retaliation as appropriate. For impacted parties of substantiated retaliation, the university will provide redress by returning the impacted party to the working or academic conditions they would have been in absent retaliation, where appropriate and reasonable.

The act of a good-faith report of university-related misconduct shall not be used to make a decision to the detriment of the impacted party, any third-party reporter, or other covered individual, or to subject any of these individuals to harassment such that it creates a hostile work or educational environment.

Agreement to a university or departmental confidentiality statement does not prohibit the sharing of such information in order to report university-related misconduct under this policy except to the extent prohibited by law. For example, disclosures governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or professional licensing requirements would prohibit the sharing of information. Confidentiality statements signed as a requirement for the use of a University of Iowa electronic application available through the self-service website would not prohibit the sharing of information. If an impacted party or potential third-party reporter is unclear about whether they are prohibited from making a report due to a confidentiality agreement, they may contact the Office of the Ombudsperson for assistance in making that determination.

To encourage and protect impacted parties and third-party reporters, it is university policy that no reference to the good-faith report of university-related misconduct shall be made in personnel files, letters of recommendation, performance appraisals, or any other permanent evaluative documents without the consent of the impacted party or third-party reporter. To the extent that it is possible to do so, the identity of the impacted party and any third-party reporter will remain confidential.

No faculty or staff member or student will be exempt from the consequences of misconduct or inadequate performance by reporting their own misconduct or inadequate performance. Reports of alleged university-related misconduct that are not made in good faith are not protected under this policy. Those who make reports not in good faith will be disciplined as appropriate through regular university procedures. 

11.4 Students Who Retaliate

In order to maintain a hostility-free educational environment, university policies seek to protect students from the harassing behaviors of other community members. Students and other covered individuals who make good-faith reports are protected from retaliation by faculty or staff members, as explained above. Retaliatory behavior also is prohibited under the Code of Student Life and under other university rules affecting students. Although students are not agents of the university, an individual enrolled in a university academic course may be subject to disciplinary sanctions if they threaten, assault, or harass a student or faculty or staff member in retaliation for making a report. Sanctions also may be imposed in cases where no report has been filed but a student threatens to retaliate against one who does make a report.

11.5 Sanctions

Anyone who violates the anti-retaliation policy is subject to disciplinary action. Following an appropriate investigation and subject to the procedures which are part of the policies governing the relevant type of appointment at the university, the faculty, student, or staff member may be subject to sanctions, including reprimand, probation, suspension, demotion, reassignment, termination, expulsion, no-contact directive, or building prohibition directive.

Temporary sanctions invoked upon receipt of a complaint under this policy, such as a no-contact directive or building prohibition directive, may also be imposed as a permanent sanction. It is the responsibility of the administrator imposing sanctions to monitor compliance. Failure to comply with an ordered sanction may result in further disciplinary measures up to and including termination and expulsion. In addition to disciplinary action by the university, violations of the policy which fall under Iowa CodePDF icon 70A.28 may also be referred to the state for civil prosecution.

11.6 Procedures

(Amended 7/1/17; 9/21/18; 1/20)

Individuals who believe that they have experienced retaliation are encouraged to report it, even if they are not certain whether a violation of this policy has occurred. The impacted party and/or third-party reporter may then utilize procedures for informal or formal resolution.

  1. Informal resolution. The university encourages the informal resolution of complaints. The procedures used to resolve complaints informally may vary from department to department depending upon whether the responding party is a faculty member, staff member, or student. However, individuals who are handling informal complaints should follow the following guidelines:
    1. Inform the impacted party or third-party reporter of formal procedure options and that the identity of the complainant and the nature of the charge will be disclosed to the responding party if a formal investigation commences.
    2. Inform the impacted party that any time they not satisfied with the informal process, they may initiate a formal complaint.
    3. Prior to hearing details of a complaint, inform the impacted party or third-party reporter that in some cases the university has a legal obligation as a mandatory reporter to inform outside agencies of university-related misconduct, e.g., informing federal agencies of federal-grant-supported activities that resulted in scientific misconduct.
    4. To the extent possible, work with the parties in a confidential manner to achieve an informal resolution.
    5. Investigation of informal complaints should be concluded within 30 calendar days of their inception. When this is not reasonably possible, the person processing the complaint should notify the impacted party and any third-party reporter in writing that conclusion of the complaint will be delayed and indicate the reasons for delay.
    6. When the impacted party is advised to proceed with formal action due to the apparent serious nature of the violation of university policy, additionally inform the impacted party in writing of this recommendation.
    7. Contact the respective supervisor, Human Resources Unit Representative, Senior Human Resources Leadership Representative, or the Office of General Counsel when unclear about responsibilities in handling an informal complaint.
  2. Formal resolution.
    1. Filing Procedures. A person may choose among a number of offices when filing a formal complaint. If, however, the complaint involves alleged retaliation in connection with research misconduct, the person may only file their complaint with the University of Iowa Research Integrity Officer. In these cases, the University of Iowa Anti-Retaliation Policy for Reporting Misconduct in Research is in effect and supersedes this policy (see II-27.8).

      An impacted party and/or third-party reporter who wishes to receive the protections described by this policy shall file their formal retaliation complaint with an appropriate university official as described below within 180 days from the date the impacted party and/or third-party reporter became aware or should have become aware of the alleged retaliation. After that time, any request must reflect extenuating circumstances, but in any event, the complaint must be filed no later than 12 months from the date when the impacted party and/or third-party reporter became aware or should have become aware of the alleged retaliation. Any person may file a formal complaint against a student, staff member, or faculty member (including teaching assistants) for violating the Anti-Retaliation Policy. Depending upon the status of the responding party, a complaint may be filed with one of the following offices:
      1. Faculty or instructor. If the responding party is a faculty member, teaching assistant, or other instructor, impacted parties and/or third-party reporters may contact the dean of the college, or in such cases when the responding party is a dean, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost;
      2. Staff member. If the responding party is a staff member (professional and scientific or merit staff), impacted parties and/or third-party reporters may contact the responding party's Senior Human Resources Leadership Representative or department head, or in such cases when the responding party is a department head, the dean or vice president responsible for the unit employing the responding party; or
      3. Student. If the responding party is a student, impacted parties and/or third-party reporters may contact the Dean of Students or the Dean of the Graduate College.
    2. ​In lieu of the offices listed above, retaliation complaints may be made to the office that handled the original report of university-related misconduct. In the case of issues dealing with financial matters, complaints may be filed at the Office of the Internal Audit by contacting them directly or via the confidential online reporting resource, EthicsPoint. Complaints of retaliation that stem from sexual harassment, sexual misconduct involving students, discrimination, and civil rights violations may be filed at the Office of Civil Rights Compliance. A person may also seek assistance from the Office of the Ombudsperson to discuss concerns about retaliation and to get help in filing a complaint of retaliation.
    3. Time period for investigating formal complaints. Investigations of formal complaints should be concluded within 60 calendar days of their inception. When it is not reasonably possible to conclude the investigation within that amount of time, the responsible university official will notify the impacted party, any third-party reporter, and the responding party in writing that conclusion of the investigation will be delayed and indicate the reasons for the delay.
    4. Resolving a complaint. Ordinarily the person who is assigned to resolve a complaint will interview the responding party and, as needed, others in order to determine if there is a reasonable basis to believe that a violation of policy has occurred. During the investigation process, the complaint may be resolved informally by mutual agreement of the responding party and the impacted party. If the complaint is not resolved informally by mutual agreement and the impacted party wants to proceed, then the matter shall be referred to the appropriate administrator as described below. In the event that the appropriate administrative official as described below concludes that there is a reasonable basis for believing that the Anti-Retaliation Policy was violated, and if an informal resolution of the complaint still has not been achieved, formal action will be taken.
    5. Persons responsible for taking formal action and governing provisions. The decision to take formal action will be made by one of the following persons or their respective designees:
      1. Faculty. In cases involving faculty members, formal action decisions are made by the chief academic officer of the university. Governing procedures for tenure track, clinical track, and research track faculty are the general Faculty Dispute Procedures (III-29) and that portion of those procedures dealing with faculty ethics (III-29.7); governing procedures for instructional track faculty are III-10.11 Instructional Faculty Policy and the grievance procedures therein; 
      2. Graduate assistants, including teaching assistants. In cases involving graduate assistants, formal action decisions are made by the chief academic officer of the university or their designee;
      3. Professional and scientific staff. In cases involving professional and scientific staff members, formal action decisions are made by the vice president (or Executive Vice President and Provost) responsible for the unit employing the responding party. Governing grievance procedures are described in III-28 Conflict Management Resources for University Staff;
      4. Merit staff. In cases involving merit staff members, formal action decisions are made by the vice president (or Executive Vice President and Provost) responsible for the unit employing the responding party. Governing grievance procedures are those available under  III-28 Conflict Management Resources for University Staff; or
      5. Students. In cases involving students, formal actions are taken by the Dean of Students. The governing procedures are the Code of Student Life and Student Misconduct Procedure.
  3. At any time before the complaint is fully resolved, the impacted party may submit a request to the responsible official to take interim actions to protect the impacted party against any adverse action.

(See II-27.8 Anti-Retaliation for Reporting Misconduct in Research.)