THE EMPLOYEE COMPLAINT IS ABOUT THINGS THAT HAPPENED SIX MONTHS AGO. WHAT TO DO?
1. Dismiss it. Too late, as per local policy.
2. Don’t dismiss it. There is no deadline in local policy.
3. Look into it because we want to prevent sexual harassment but advise the employee that there is little we can do about it, since the complaint is untimely.
4. Call your lawyer and follow his/her advice.
We think the best answer to this question is B. There is no deadline in the policies adopted by most districts. Therefore A is incorrect. C is also incorrect. Telling the complaining party that there complaint is untimely is wrong. Again, this is because there is no deadline. As for answer D, of course we always think that it’s good to call your lawyer, but you should not have to call your lawyer to know that this complaint needs to be looked into.
This issue is important because some administrators mistakenly apply Policy DGBA, our general grievance policy, in this situation. The version of DGBA adopted by most districts says right at the outset that it does not apply to complaints alleging discrimination, harassment or retaliation. Complaints from employees about these issues start out with Policy DIA. One of the notable differences between DGBA and DIA is that the former has a deadline (usually 15 days) and the latter does not.
This makes sense. We know that people are often reluctant to report sexual harassment. We know that districts should encourage people to report. Sexual harassment thrives in a culture of silence. So it makes sense that there is no timeline.
However, the version of DIA that I have seen most often does say this: “Reports of prohibited conduct shall be made as soon as possible after the alleged act or knowledge of the alleged act. A failure to promptly report may impair the District’s ability to investigate and address the prohibited conduct.”
I see that as an encouragement and a warning. It encourages prompt reporting, and warns that sitting on the problem too long may impair the district’s ability to do something about it. But there is nothing there that would justify a refusal to conduct the investigation called for by a proper complaint.
DAWG BONE: DGBA HAS A SHORT TIMELINE. DIA DOES NOT. BIG DIFFERENCE.