Staff council would like thank Bo McConnaughy, Elizabeth Wright, Beverly Burke and David Javersak for their partnerships.
NOTICE: In 2016 we implemented an Ombuds Program as a potential means of communication. Each year the Ombuds Program is re-evaluated by a committee comprised of a staff representative, a faculty member and HR with the President having final approval. Our intention was to implement the program again for Fiscal YEAR 2020; however, due to budget tightening, the Ombuds Program is being suspended. We may consider it again at a future date. While the program was an ‘extra’ avenue of communication, only a few employees used it over the past 3 years. Employees primarily communicate directly with their supervisors, managers, chairs, leaders, human resources, and as you know, the President’s door is always open. A special thank you to those individuals who served on the committee and to those who served as Ombuds. – Diana L. Harto, Chief Human Resources Officer, 7/12/2019.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is an Ombudsperson?
In brief, an appointed individual whose purpose is to listen and provide objective third-party advice to individuals who seek his/her opinion in various work-related situations.
Does the Ombudsperson have any actual authority to make a decision?
No. There is no official administrative hierarchical rank. The Ombudsperson is not an employee but acts in an informal capacity to objectively help guide and/or address concerns.
Do employees have to follow the guidance given by the Ombudsperson?
No. The Ombudsperson has no official authority and cannot administer disciplinary action.
So what is the purpose of having an Ombudsman program at WLU?
The reason is twofold; one it is a cost-saving initiative and two it provides another communication avenue for employees. When comparing grievance costs around the state we noticed that one institution had ZERO dollars spent in grievance costs. The institution attributed this to its Ombudsperson program which helped employees resolve matters prior to engaging HR and/or the grievance process.
Is the Ombudsperson a paid position?
The individual is paid a small annual stipend to be on call for services.
How is the Ombudsperson selected?
A committee comprised of a classified staff representative, a faculty member and the Chief HR Officer propose one or two names of potential candidates to the President and to their respective groups. The President has final approval authority. (An example of a preferred candidate is one that is familiar with WLU, highly respected such as a retiree in good standing with all employees.)
How is the process initiated?
An employee simply contacts the Ombudsperson via telephone, email or an in-person conversation. Options would be agreed upon by WLU and the Ombudsperson.
The Ombudsperson/mediation process presumably occurs prior to a grievance, in attempt to resolve the matter before going through the grievance process. However, a grievance must be filed within 15 days. Does the Ombudsperson process “stop the clock” on the grievance filing timeline?
When an employee engages with the Ombudsperson that does not “stop the clock” on the grievance time line. An employee could pursue both paths at the same time – file a grievance in order to meet the required time frame but also seek a solution through the Ombudsperson with the plan of withdrawing the grievance if a satisfactory resolution is reached with the help of the Ombudsperson.
If an employee is having a conflict with another employee, can that employee invite the other to join in a meeting with the Ombudsperson? If so, is the employee required to attend or is it entirely voluntary to enter into the discussion?
Since the Ombudsperson has no supervisory authority at the University he/she cannot compel someone else to join in a meeting nor is an employee required to comply. However the Ombudsperson may try to persuade the other party that it would be in his or her best interest to meet.
What is HR’s involvement with the Ombudsperson?
Most of the time HR doesn’t get involved with cases heard by the Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson contacts the CHRO when a more formal authority is needed in the situation including but not limited to corrective action, discrimination, harassment or unlawful/unethical activities.
Is the conversation with the Ombudsperson confidential?
The purpose of the Ombudsperson is to provide an additional avenue of communication. The intent is for the communication between the Ombudsperson and the individual to be a private conversation unless the topic of conversation is such that it requires the Ombudsperson to report it to Human Resources. Matters that include harassment, discrimination, threat of violence, unlawful conduct and/or matters that pose risk to our employees or liability to the university must be reported to Human Resources and/or the Title IX Coordinator where applicable.