It highlights compliance and provides recommendations for improvement
Thursday, April 19, 2018

The law firm conducting a review of the University of Iowa’s employment policies and practices has submitted its first report. It includes an analysis of both university-wide and specific Department of Intercollegiate Athletics policies and provides recommendations for improvement. University leaders anticipate the next step of the review will be to evaluate university practices to determine if there are discrepancies between the written policies and application of those policies across campus.

The 39-page report by Fredrikson & Byron P.A. concludes the current university-wide human rights, sexual harassment, anti-retaliation, and violence policies, as well as the related athletics department policies, are compliant with state and federal workplace laws but with clarification could be even more effective.

“The University of Iowa strives to be a leading employer not only in Iowa but nationally, so we are pleased to learn our policies support the equitable treatment of employees,” says Cheryl Reardon, UI chief human resources officer and associate vice president. “We now want to know if we are doing a good job implementing those policies consistently and if we need to shift our attention to practices and enhanced training.”

The report does raise a concern about the university-wide anti-harassment policy, noting the definition of harassment as it relates to speech is narrower than what may be considered harassment under the designated laws. The report recommends revisions for making this policy legally compliant, as well as clear and effective.

The report commends the university for providing employees with access to confidential resources and the option to report violations confidentially, for including information about retaliation and employee protection in each policy, and for encouraging people to report behavior even if they are unsure if a policy violation occurred.

The report suggests that policies could be reorganized within the university’s Operations Manual or related policies could be more clearly cross-referenced to make it easier for employees to find these resources online. Other recommendations relate to reporting suspected policy violations and/or suggest revised language to clarify the university’s expectations for complying with policy.

Further recommendations include making it easier to suspend an employee for egregious sexual harassment, clarifying the conduct that is protected under the UI’s anti-retaliation policy, and requiring additional training to educate employees about protected-class harassment.

“We will consider each recommendation carefully with the goal of improving both the clarity and effectiveness of our policies,” says Reardon.   

The first step of the employment practices review also included an assessment of policies specific to the UI’s athletics department. According to the report, the policies are easy to find, clearly written, and set a higher standard for diversity recruitment in hiring than the university. The recommendations include adding contact information to the list of offices and resources for reporting concerns regarding inequitable treatment of employees, assigning accountability for specific tasks to specific employees to reach the department’s diversity goals, and building a system for measuring progress on an annual basis.

You can read the full report online.