IV.E.1. Prohibited Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment
The College strives to comply with all applicable employment laws, including laws outlawing discrimination, harassment, or retaliation based on race, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, ethnic or national origin, genetic information, disability, veteran status, or any other protected status.
The College does not tolerate unlawful employment discrimination. The College prohibits retaliation against individuals who complain about unlawful discrimination or who cooperate in an investigation of alleged unlawful discrimination.
This policy section does not cover sexual harassment and sexual violence. Those topics are covered in the Sexual Misconduct policy.
(a) Complainant means an individual who reports witnessing or receiving prohibited conduct.
(b) Interim Measures means steps taken to protect a complainant and respondent pending an investigation’s result. Interim measures include, but are not limited to, issuing an order prohibiting the parties from contacting each other; paid administrative leave; directing an employee’s lateral transfer; or arranging alternative employment environments.
(c) Respondent means a person reported to have committed prohibited conduct.
(d) Retaliation means making unfavorable decisions or engaging in unfavorable actions in response to an individual’s protected activity.
(e) Unlawful discrimination is defined by federal and state statutes to include unfavorable or unfair treatment of an individual or group of individuals because of protected status. Unlawful discrimination includes varying an employee’s or student’s employment or education terms or conditions because of the employee’s or student’s protected status.
(f) Unlawful harassment means a form of employment discrimination defined as unwelcome conduct based upon a protected status.
IV.E.1.3. College Community Member Responsibilities
Each College community member helps ensure an environment free from prohibited conduct. Prevention is the best tool to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Employees are encouraged to inform harassers directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. Any College community member who experiences or witnesses an incident constituting unlawful employment discrimination, harassment, or retaliation as defined in this policy, or who otherwise becomes aware of such an incident, should immediately notify the chief human resources officer to prevent its escalation. Reports may also be made through the College’s ethics hotline.
Employees are expected to fully cooperate with College investigations regarding reported discrimination, harassment, or retaliation as defined by this policy. Full cooperation with an investigation requires participants to maintain confidentiality to respect the privacy and rights of the individuals involved, maintain a harmonious work environment, minimize any risk of retaliation, and preserve the integrity of the investigative process. The College’s confidentiality requirement during a College investigative process does not prohibit filing a police report or filing a complaint with a government agency.
When the College receives employment discrimination, harassment, or retaliation complaints about conduct identified in this policy, other than sexual harassment or sexual violence which are covered in another policy section, the Office of Human Resources promptly and impartially investigates the complaint. Interim measures may be applied. All actions taken to investigate and resolve complaints through this policy and the Chancellor’s procedures are conducted with as much privacy, discretion, and confidentiality as possible without compromising the investigation’s thoroughness and fairness.
Complaints, in certain circumstances, may be referred to the Office of Governance, Audit, and Compliance (OGAC), the Office of the General Counsel, or an external third-party for investigation. Employees found to have discriminated, harassed, or retaliated against another individual as defined in this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions, which may include but are not limited to reprimand, change in work assignment, loss of privileges, mandatory training, or employment termination.
IV.E.1.5. No Retaliation for Discrimination Complaints
Retaliation against any individual for engaging in protected activity as defined in this policy is not tolerated. Engaging in protected activity, however, does not shield an employee from all discipline or discharge. Any retaliatory acts will be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions, which may include but are not limited to reprimand, change in work assignment, privilege loss, mandatory training, or employment termination.
Incidents of unlawful retaliation should be referred to the Office of Human Resources for investigation and will be investigated in the same manner as employment discrimination claims.
IV.E.1.6. Educational Setting
This policy acknowledges academic freedom. Faculty and students should review the Academic Freedom and Responsibilities discussion in Section V.I.
IV.E.1.7. State and Federal Agencies
Employees who believe they may have been subjected to unlawful employment discrimination, harassment, or retaliation may file a formal complaint with any of the government agencies below.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Mickey Leland Federal Building
1919 Smith Street, 6th Floor
Houston, Texas 77002
Texas Workforce Commission (TWC)
101 E. 15th Street, Guadalupe CRD
Austin, Texas 78778
Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
U.S. Department of Education
1999 Bryan Street, Suite 1620
Dallas, Texas 75201
Using the College’s internal complaint processes does not prohibit an individual from filing a complaint with these agencies. Employees also have the right to file a complaint with local law enforcement. Filing a criminal complaint will not preclude any individual from participating in an internal College complaint process as provided herein.
IV.E.1.8. Compliance and Training
The College expects the Office of the General Counsel, Office of Governance, Audit, and Compliance, and the Office of Human Resources to coordinate efforts to comply with this policy and to conduct any investigation in accordance with applicable laws. The College provides training consistent with Texas and federal law to (1) new and existing employees regarding their protections under federal and state discrimination laws and the College’s related policies and complaint procedures; and (2) all employees, especially supervisory personnel, regarding the College’s non-discrimination obligations.
IV.E.1.9. Ethics Hotline
The College is committed to an environment where open, honest communications are the expectation, not the exception. The College encourages employees to feel comfortable in approaching their supervisors or administration (Human Resources, OGAC, OGC, etc.) when employees believe violations of Board Policy or Chancellor Procedures have occurred. The College makes available, however, an anonymous hotline for employees to report College policy and procedure violations. The hotline, EthicsPoint, is hosted by a third-party hotline provider. Employees are encouraged to submit reports relating to violations, request guidance related to policies and procedures, and provide positive suggestions and stories.
IV.E.2. Family and Medical Leave Act Rights Policy
The College complies with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). FMLA is intended to allow employees to balance their work and family life by taking reasonable leave for medical reasons that include: the birth, adoption, or foster care of a child; the care of a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition; or the employee’s own serious health condition. Accrued paid leave and Workers’ Compensation leave, if applicable, are used concurrently with FMLA leave.
This policy is implemented through Chancellor’s Procedures that comply with the FMLA, implementing regulations, and applicable state law.
IV.E.3. Employee Disability Rights
The College recognizes and supports principles set forth in federal and state laws designed to eliminate employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. The College provides reasonable workplace accommodations for eligible, qualified employees as required by law. The College communicates and makes available the Chancellor’s Procedures for prompt and equitable implementation of reasonable workplace accommodations for qualified individuals.
IV.E.3.2. Employee Responsibility to Request Accommodation
The College does not presume that an employee’s physical or mental impairment will necessarily cause any limitations to an employee’s ability to perform his or her job duties. Employees are responsible for identifying themselves as individuals requesting accommodation based on a qualifying disability. Employees must direct accommodation requests to the College’s chief human resources officer (CHRO) or designee. The Chancellor’s Procedures describe the accommodation request process in detail.
IV.E.3.3. Requests for Accommodation Reconsideration or Revision and Discrimination Complaints
(a) Accommodation Reconsideration or Revision. Employees may request that the CHRO or designee reconsider denied accommodations or College-proposed accommodations. Employees may also request revisions to their current accommodations.
(b) Discrimination Complaints. Employees who believe they are being unlawfully discriminated against because of disability are encouraged to report the incident(s) in the manner described in policy section Prohibited Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment. The same policy protections apply. Employees may also file a complaint, at any time, with the regional Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the Texas Workforce Commission.
IV.E.3.4. Discrimination Retaliation or Coercion Prohibited
No College employee may discriminate against any individual because that individual has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by applicable laws, or because that individual made or submitted a complaint or charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under any applicable law. No College employee shall coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his or her having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his or her having aided or encouraged any other individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by any applicable law.
Employees who believe they are being unlawfully retaliated against or coerced because of disability are encouraged to report the incident(s) in the manner described in policy section Prohibited Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment. The same policy protections apply.
IV.E.3.5. Responsible Employee Designation
The College designates the CHRO as the employee responsible for coordinating the College’s efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under applicable employment disability laws.
IV.E.3.6. Confidentiality and Records
Employee disability records are confidential. The Office of Human Resources is responsible for collecting and maintaining employees’ disability-related documentation. These records are kept in separate, secure files accessible only by the Office of Human Resources. Human Resource Offices located at the colleges must securely forward all disability records to the System Office for confidential storage. Disability-related information is shared only when necessary as deemed by the College. Limited information may be disclosed to appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the employee or other individuals.
IV.E.3.7. Expressing Breastmilk Policy
The College complies with applicable federal and state laws regarding an employee’s right to express breastmilk in the workplace and prohibits discrimination under this policy. The College supports the practice of expressing breastmilk and makes reasonable accommodations for the needs of these employees. Supervisors shall provide a reasonable amount of break time for an employee each time the employee needs to express the milk. Employees shall be provided a place, other than a multiple user bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from other employees and the public. Employees who believe they are being unlawfully discriminated against under this policy are encouraged to report the incident(s) in the manner described in policy section Prohibited Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment. The same policy protections apply.
IV.E.4. Employee Military Service Rights
The College follows the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) and state and federal law applicable to military service. The College does not deny employment, reemployment, employment retention, promotion, or any other employment benefit on the basis of an employee’s uniformed service application, membership, performance, or obligation. The College does not discriminate against or take any adverse employment action against any employee because such person has taken action to enforce protections afforded any person under USERRA, has testified or otherwise made a statement in or in connection with any proceeding under USERRA, has assisted or otherwise participated in an investigation under USERRA, or has exercised a right provided for in USERRA.
Uniformed Service means the Armed Forces, the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard when engaged in active duty for training, inactive duty training, or full-time National Guard duty, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and any other category of persons designated by the President of the United States in time of war or national emergency. Texas Military Forces and Reserves are also included in the Uniformed Service definition for purposes of this policy.
IV.E.4.3. Military Leave – Short Term
All College employees who are Uniformed Service members are granted a leave of absence from their duties without loss of time, vacation time, or salary on all days during which they are engaged in authorized training or duty ordered or authorized by proper authority, not to exceed 15 days in a fiscal year. Such employees are restored, when relieved from duty, to a position with similar rank and pay as that held by them when ordered to duty. If the leave exceeds 15 days in a fiscal year, these employees may use paid leave or may request unpaid leave.
IV.E.4.4. Military Leave – Long Term
Any non-temporary College employee who left their position to enter into active duty with the Uniformed Service and was thereafter discharged, separated, or released from such active duty under honorable conditions within five years from the enlistment date or call to active service will be restored to College employment. The employment shall be in the same position with the same rate of pay as held at the time of entering into active service or to a position of like seniority, status, and pay if the employee is still physically and mentally qualified to perform the duties of such position.
If the veteran is not qualified to perform the duties of his or her previous position because of a disability sustained during military service, but is qualified to perform the duties of another position with the College, then the veteran is restored to employment in another position which he or she is qualified to hold and which provides like seniority, status, and pay, or the nearest approximation.
Employees restored to employment are considered to have been on leave of absence during military service and are entitled to participate in retirement and all other benefits available to other employees in like positions. Such employees may not be dismissed from their positions without cause for one year following employment restoration.
Veterans eligible for employment restoration under the terms of this policy should apply in writing for such restoration to the chief human resources officer within 90 days after discharge or release from active federal or state military service and attach to such application evidence of discharge, separation, or release under honorable conditions.
IV.E.4.5. Discrimination Complaints
Employees who believe they have experienced any discrimination or retaliation based on their military status should file a complaint under the Prohibited Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment policy. The same policy provisions apply. Employees may also file a complaint, at any time, with the Department of Labor or in a court of law.
IV.E.5. Workplace Violence
The College strives to maintain a safe, professional work environment free from violence and violent threats. Employees are expected to treat everyone in the College community professionally—with respect and civility. Employees violating this policy are subject to discipline up to and including termination and may have their conduct referred to law enforcement officials.
Interim Measures means steps taken to protect a complainant and respondent pending an investigation’s result. Interim measures may include, but are not limited to, issuing an order prohibiting the parties from contacting each other; paid administrative leave; directing the lateral transfer of an employee; or arranging alternative employment environments.
Threat means the intent and ability to inflict physical harm. Threats may be written, verbal, or physical. Threats can be direct, veiled, or conditional.
(1) Direct threats are against a specific target, sometimes describing methods for committing violence.
(2) Veiled threats are vague and could be interpreted in different ways.
(3) Conditional threats are contingent upon a certain set of circumstances.
IV.E.5.3. Reporting Workplace Violence
The College prohibits direct or indirect threats, violent acts, or hostility that jeopardizes College community members’ safety or well-being. The College also prohibits behaviors likely to endanger College community members or the College.
College employees must report threats or violent incidents to the College’s Police Department—reporting is mandatory. The College’s Police Department may be contacted by dialing 5911 on any college phone or calling the Emergency Number: (281) 290-5911. The Non-Emergency Number is also available: (832) 813-6800.
The College encourages employees to report concerning behaviors to the chief human resources officer. Reports may also be made through the College’s Ethics Hotline. Employees are required to cooperate with investigations of allegations under this policy.
IV.E.5.4. Investigating Workplace Violence
The Office of Human Resources will investigate reports of threats or violent incidents. In some circumstances, investigations may be referred to the Office of Governance, Audit, and Compliance (OGAC), the Office of the General Counsel, or an external third-party for investigation. Interim measures may be instituted depending on the allegations.
Employees found to have made threats will be subject to discipline up to and including termination and the College’s Police Department may be contacted. Employees found to have committed violent acts may be terminated or recommended for termination and the College’s Police Department will be contacted.
IV.E.6. Employee Grievance and Review Process
This policy establishes a fair and uniform process for resolving employee grievances that exceeds state and federal laws. Employees who use this process may do so without facing discrimination or retaliation. This policy nurtures an employee culture that values and respects all employees by encouraging early collaboration and resolution of employee concerns.
(a) Grievant. Grievant means the employee who initiates the procedures set forth in this policy.
(b) Procedural Irregularity. Procedural Irregularity means not following the processes described in the following Board policies: Employee Grievance and Review Process, Change in Contract Status, or Contractual Termination Notice and Appeal, whichever process is applicable to the employee’s allegation. Procedural Irregularity does not include an allegation that the Chancellor’s Procedures were not followed. Procedural Irregularity also does not include an allegation that these processes were not followed if the alleged violation was cured or if the alleged violation did not have an adverse effect on the Chancellor’s decision.
(c) Working Days. Working days means the College’s business days. In calculating timelines under this policy, the day a document is filed is “day zero.” The following business day is “day one.”
IV.E.6.3. Who May Bring A Grievance
Individual employees may submit grievances on behalf of themselves or multiple affected employees as an associational grievance.
IV.E.6.4. Serial Grievances
A grievant may not submit separate or serial grievances regarding the same issue. This includes grievances brought under another policy or procedure.
The following concerns are not subject to this grievance policy and are addressed in other policies:
(a) Termination of contractual employees. See Policy IV.G.3.4.
(b) Change in contract status. See Policy IV.G.2.
(c) Employee performance evaluations—before exhaustion of the procedure set out in Policy IV.F.3. Applicable time limits set forth in this grievance policy begin to run on the date that Policy IV.F.3. is exhausted.
(d) Allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, except for allegations of retaliation for filing or participating in a non-discrimination or harassment grievance. That procedure is in Section IV.E.1. of this policy manual. An employee disciplined following an investigation may use this policy to challenge the disciplinary action.
(e) Reduction in Force Terminations. See Policy IV.G.1.5.
(f) Challenges to ownership of intellectual property before exhaustion of the procedure set out in Policy IV.H.1. The time limits set forth in IV.H.1. begin on the date the procedure set out in Policy IV.H.1. has been exhausted.
IV.E.6.6. Appeal to the Board for Certain Alleged Policy Violations
An employee may appeal the Chancellor’s decision to the Board of Trustees if the employee alleges a Procedural Irregularity. The policy section applicable to the challenged decision must directly reference this section for the decision to be appealable to the Board. The following policy sections currently directly reference this section: (1) Employee Grievance and Review Process, (2) Change of Contract Status, and (3) Contractual Termination Notice and Appeal. If no Board appeal is available or the Board declines to hear an appeal, the grievant may present the grievance during the Citizen Participation portion of a Board meeting in accordance with Board Policy I.E.1.43.
IV.E.6.7. Right to Representation
At all informal or formal grievance or appeal levels, the grievant and/or the administration may be represented, including by legal counsel, provided that the selected representative does not claim the right to strike. The College will not pay any fees or expenses for the grievant’s representation. The grievance and appeal conferences held at all levels of the grievance process are informal conferences and no cross-examination of any person who attends the conference is allowed. The College’s administrator handling the conference may ask questions to get information to help in reaching a decision. The grievant’s representative may assist the grievant.
IV.E.6.8. Informal Resolution
The Board encourages employees to discuss their concerns, complaints, and grievances through informal conferences with their supervisor or other appropriate administrator. Concerns should be expressed as soon as possible to allow early resolution at the lowest possible administrative level. An employee or group of employees who has a concern or grievance shall participate in an alternative dispute resolution process in an attempt to resolve the concern prior to presenting a formal grievance. Employees will be provided information on the alternative dispute resolution processes available. If the concern is not resolved by participating in such an informal resolution process, the employee can use the formal grievance process described below.
IV.E.6.9. Presentation of Formal Grievance
An employee who has a concern that has not been resolved through participation in the informal resolution process may file a formal grievance. Campus employees must file their grievance with their supervisory campus vice president. System Office employees must file their grievance with their respective associate vice chancellor or chief area officer. For assistance in determining to whom a formal grievance must be presented, a copy of the College’s current organizational chart can be found at http://org.lonestar.edu/orgchart/LSCS-Internal030115.htm.
The initial grievance must be filed with the grievant’s respective supervisor identified in the prior paragraph within 15 working days from the event, occurrence, or conclusion of the informal resolution process, whichever is later. Only in extraordinary circumstances will the respective supervisor consider exceptions to the 15 working day limit. The grievance must be made in writing and must include all supporting documentation the grievant wants considered. The grievant will be allowed to submit additional information in response to any information collected and relied upon by the vice president or associate vice chancellor/chief area officer. The Chancellor will be notified when a formal grievance has been filed.
The vice president or associate vice chancellor/chief area officer must confirm in writing receipt of the grievance within three working days. A grievance conference must be held within ten working days of receipt of the grievance. A decision must be rendered by the vice president or associate vice chancellor/chief area officer within five working days after the grievance conference. The written decision shall set forth the basis of the decision and any additional information or documents obtained after the grievance conference. In reaching a decision, the vice president or associate vice chancellor/chief area officer may consider the information presented at the grievance conference, and any other relevant documents or information he/she believes will help resolve the complaint.
The timelines set out above may be extended by mutual consent of the parties.
IV.E.6.10. First Level Appeal
In the event that the grievance has not been resolved or the timeframe has elapsed without the grievance being addressed or a decision rendered, the grievant may present the grievance to the college president or, for System office grievants, their vice chancellor in the form of a written appeal. A written appeal must be presented within ten (10) working days from receipt of the vice president or associate vice chancellor/chief area officer’s decision. It is the responsibility of the grievant to initiate the appeal and to provide to the president or vice chancellor all documentation, including any correspondence about the grievance with the vice president or associate vice chancellor/chief area officer, and the vice president or associate vice chancellor/chief area officer’s decision. The employee may submit additional information in response to any information collected and relied upon by the vice president or associate vice chancellor/chief area officer.
Within three (3) working days of receiving the appeal, the president/vice chancellor must confirm receipt of the grievance and provide a brief summary of the grievance to the Chancellor who will then immediately forward the summary to each member of the Board’s Grievance Committee. A grievance appeal conference must be held within ten (10) working days of receipt of the grievance. A written decision must be rendered by the president/vice chancellor within five (5) working days after the grievance appeal conference. The written decision shall set forth the basis of the decision and any additional information or documents obtained after the appeal conference.
In reaching a decision, the president/vice chancellor may consider the information presented at the grievance conference, and any other relevant documents or information the president/vice chancellor believes will help resolve the complaint.
The timelines set out above may be extended by mutual written consent of the parties.
IV.E.6.11. Second Level Appeal
In the event that the grievance has not been resolved or the timeframe has elapsed without the grievance being addressed or a decision rendered, the grievant may present the grievance to the Chancellor in the form of a written appeal. A written appeal must be presented within ten (10) working days from receipt of the president/vice chancellor’s decision. It is the responsibility of the grievant to initiate the appeal and to provide all documentation, including any correspondence with the president or vice-chancellor and the president or vice chancellor’s decision to the Chancellor or his/her designee. The grievant may submit additional information in response to any information collected and relied upon by the president or vice chancellor.
The Chancellor, or his/her designee, must confirm receipt of the grievance within three (3) working days and provide a brief summary of the grievance to each member of the Board’s Grievance Committee. A Second Level Appeal conference must be held within ten (10) working days of receipt of the grievance. A decision must be rendered by the Chancellor, or his/her designee, within five (5) working days of the Second Level Appeal conference. The written decision shall set forth the basis of the decision, and any additional information or documentation obtained after the Second Level Appeal conference. In reaching a decision, the Chancellor, or his/her designee, may consider the information presented at the Second Level Appeal conference, and any other relevant documents or information the Chancellor or designee believes will help resolve the grievance. The grievant shall be given three (3) days to respond to any documents or information considered by the Chancellor or his or her designee not previously provided to the grievant. If the Chancellor chooses a designee to consider the grievance, the designee may not be a supervisor of the grievant and may not have been involved in the grievance prior to designation by the Chancellor.
The timelines set out above may be extended by mutual written consent of the parties.
IV.E.6.12. Appeal to the Board
If the grievance is still unresolved and the employee alleges a Procedural Irregularity, as defined above, the grievance may be appealed to the Board of Trustees. An Appeal to the Board must be made in writing and must be received in the Chancellor’s office no later than ten (10) working days of receipt of the Chancellor’s, or his/her designee’s, decision and must be accompanied by applicable references to the policy manual or the portion(s) of the Grievance policy that are alleged to have been violated. It is the responsibility of the grievant to initiate the appeal to the Board and to provide all documentation to the Board, including any correspondence with the prior administrators who heard the grievance at the various levels and those administrators’ decisions.
The Chancellor’s office shall acknowledge receipt of the appeal and shall forward a copy to each Board member, along with all accompanying documentation, within five (5) working days of the appeal being received in the System Office.
The Board may consider the grievance, in accordance with the Open Meetings Act, at a Board meeting scheduled to occur at least 15 working days after the appeal to the Board is received in the System Office. The Board will designate a subcommittee to make recommendations to the full Board regarding whether it should hear a grievance. The Board’s decision regarding whether to consider the grievance is made in open session.
If the Board decides to hear the Appeal, it shall set a reasonable time limit for presenting the Appeal to the Board, based on the information presented to the Board and allocating equal time to the grievant and the College. Appeals to the Board will be heard in closed session, unless the grievant specifically elects to have it heard in open session. Regardless of the grievant’s election to have the appeal heard in open session, if the grievance is against another employee, that other employee may elect to have the appeal heard in closed session.
The Board may make a decision, but is not required to do so. If the Board does not make a decision or if the Board does not hear the Appeal, the decision of the Chancellor, or his/her designee, is upheld. If the Board elects to render a decision, the decision will be announced orally before the meeting adjourns and a written decision will be mailed to the employee and the Chancellor within 30 calendar days.