State law and university policy protect employees who, in good faith, report or threaten to report actual or suspected violations of law, policy, or procedure. The protection against retaliation also extends to witnesses and the respondent (accused), and includes individuals who are closely related to or associated with the reporting party, witnesses, or the respondent.
The university and individual employees cannot retaliate or threaten to retaliate against an employee for engaging in any of the following protected activities:
- Disclosing or threatening to disclose any practice or action an employee reasonably believes is in violation of the law, regulation or university policy;
- Providing information or testifying about any violation of the law or policy; and
- Assisting or participating in a proceeding to enforce the Ethics Act or university policy.
Retaliatory acts include reprimand, discharge, suspension, demotion, denial of promotion or transfer, or change in the terms or conditions of employment of any state employee, or the threat thereof, which is taken in retaliation for that employee's involvement in a protected activity. Retaliatory acts also include materially adverse actions that would dissuade a reasonable person from engaging in a protected activity. It is not a violation if the employer can demonstrate the same personnel action would have been taken regardless of the engagement in a protected activity. Retaliation may occur regardless of whether the conduct is determined to be in actual violation of law, regulation or policy.
Additionally, attempts to influence an individual's participation in a proceeding may also constitute an act of retaliation and could be treated as a separate and independent violation of university policy. This includes, but is not limited to, persuading or pressuring an individual to not participate in a proceeding, to not fully cooperate in a proceeding, or to provide certain information during a proceeding.
For example, it is retaliation if a respondent text messages a co-worker and instructs them to provide inaccurate information during an investigation. Additionally, it is retaliation is the respondent harasses the co-worker because of their honest testimony during an investigation.
If an employee experiences what they believe to be retaliation, they have a right and are encouraged to file a report or complaint using the procedures described in the Ethics and Accountability in the Workplace Policy, and/or contact the ethics officer or the OEIG immediately.