Frequently Asked Questions
Taken from the Swedish word “ombudsman,” which roughly translates to “representative,” the ombuds provides fair and equitable services and guidance to faculty and staff. An ombuds is often known as an “ear to the people.”
The work of the ombuds helps further promote a supportive, respectful and inclusive campus community.
The Office of the Employee Ombuds differs from other offices, such as the Office of Human Resources, the Division of Inclusion and Equity, the Office of University Counsel, or Risk Management. Those offices can investigate situations and enforce and set policies. Our office does not have authority to change disciplinary action. The ombuds also has no authority to take formal action in response to complaints, but will help identify formal options to help move toward resolution. The Office of the Employee Ombuds does not take the place of other formal offices but is a supplemental alternative to formal processes.
No, the employee ombuds is independent and neutral and does not take sides on behalf or any individuals or cause. It only advocates for fair process. Accordingly, the ombuds is not a substitute for a lawyer, representative or counselor. Working with the ombuds may help you address your problems or concerns effectively, but contacting the office does not constitute giving notice to the university of any claims you might have.
The confidentiality belongs to the ombuds. By using our services, office visitors agree not to record conversations.
The Office of the Employee Ombuds cannot keep a formal record of a problem or complaint, because of confidentiality and informality requirements. In addition, the Office of the Employee Ombuds is not an office "of record," and speaking to an ombuds does not constitute legal notice to the university that a problem exists. The ombuds does not keep files on visitors and does not perform formal investigations or participate in formal procedures. If a matter becomes the subject of a formal grievance or legal action, an ombuds will not testify or participate in any way. However, the ombuds can help you identify offices that will keep a formal record of a situation.
The Employee Ombuds Office is independent of ordinary line and staff structures and exercises autonomy regarding its responsibilities as indicated in its charter. The employee ombuds reports to the university president for administrative matters and trends affecting the university climate. Information reported is de-identified to protect confidentiality.
The employee ombuds is independent of all other offices on campus when serving in their role as an ombuds. While the Office of the Employee Ombuds is a university department that reports to the president, the office’s charter allows the ombuds to remain free from university interference when working to resolve your concern. They do not report information gained from individual visitors to the president, though they do discuss trends they observe on campus (while being careful to protect confidentiality). Ombuds are neutral and do not represent your interests or the university's interest; they help everyone involved find a fair resolution.
Sometimes the most effective way to resolve a conflict is to bring the parties together. Mediation is a process using a neutral third party, trained in conflict resolution, to facilitate an effective and productive dialogue, help clarify issues and assist in generating options for resolution. Mediators help parties reach their own agreement, but do not make a decision regarding the outcome of a dispute or enforce/monitor agreements. For mediation to be effective, parties need to be active participants in the process. Mediation through the ombuds office is informal and any agreements reached by the parties are voluntary and non-binding.
This option can be discussed at the time of the visitor’s initial contact with the office.