Complaint Resolution

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The University of Washington encourages prompt resolution of complaints about the behavior of its employees, as referenced in UW Administrative Policy Statement (APS) 46.3. You may seek resolution assistance regarding behaviors that include but are not restricted to:

  • Harassing, discriminatory or threatening behavior
  • Violation of university policy
  • Mistreatment of members of the public

You have several options for resolving complaints. These options include:

Local resolution

The goal of local resolution is to address and resolve problems as quickly and directly as possible, and to stop any inappropriate behavior that may be taking place. Local resolution generally involves a discussion of the employee’s concerns with the supervisor, administrator, or Human Resources. These are the people who may be closest to the issue and who are able to most quickly take any corrective measures that may be necessary. Local resolution may include a fact-finding investigation, the results of which will be reviewed with the individual raising the concern.

Office of the Ombud

The University’s Ombud is a neutral third party, working within existing University policies and procedures to address and resolve disagreements informally. The goal is to achieve a fair and reasonable resolution of the complaint that is satisfactory to all parties involved. The person raising the complaint is actively involved in the process. The Ombud may facilitate mediation or conciliation between the parties.

The Office of the Ombud is available to all members of the University community for information, education, and a confidential consultation about a broad range of subjects. The Ombudsman will clarify the concerns of the person bringing a complaint and develop an action plan. No action will be taken by the Ombud's office without the explicit consent of the person seeking consultation.

When no resolution occurs, the Ombud will collaborate with the person raising the complaint to identify relevant referrals.

University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO)

UCIRO investigates complaints concerning the conduct of a University employee that is discriminatory or otherwise violates University policy. A UCIRO investigation may be requested by anyone: staff, faculty, student, or member of the public, with a complaint about the conduct of a University employee. An investigation also may be requested by the administrative head of a University unit. UCIRO evaluates each complaint to determine if an investigation is appropriate, and if not, what other action may be taken.

UCIRO conducts full, fair, factual investigations concerning the allegations of the complaint and, where possible, facilitates the resolution within 60 days.

The UCIRO investigation and resolution specialist acts as a neutral and objective fact-finder under the procedures outlined in the APS 46.3. The specialist will interview the person making the complaint, the employee whose conduct is complained about, relevant witnesses, and other appropriate persons in order to determine the pertinent facts. When an investigation is completed, the specialist provides a summary of the allegations investigated and the facts determined by the investigation to the person who made the complaint, the employee whose conduct was the subject of the complaint, and appropriate University administrative personnel. The specialist may also initiate efforts to resolve the complaint prior to completion of the investigation.


If you are concerned about confidentiality, you should discuss this early in your exploration of resolution options to gain a clear understanding of the nature of the confidentiality that is available. Public records law may require the disclosure of certain written documents, and allegations of serious misconduct (such as theft or illegal discrimination, including sexual harassment) must be reported to the appropriate authority.


University policy prohibits retaliation against people who bring a complaint or participate in the complaint process. An employee who is found to engage in retaliatory conduct is subject to appropriate corrective action, including dismissal. All University employees are required to participate, provide information as requested, and otherwise fully cooperate with the complaint process.

Use of work time to resolve a complaint

Under APS 46.3, you are entitled to use some work time to resolve a complaint. In order to be paid for time away from work, you must first obtain approval from your supervisor. In situations where you may not want to notify your supervisor of your concern or complaint, you may be able to arrange a meeting (with an HRC, the Ombud's Office, or UCIRO) using paid leave, or during a time outside your normal work schedule. Questions about using paid release time can be directed to Human Resources.

Reporting requirements

APS 46.3 requires that all faculty and staff members report to their supervisors or the administrative heads of their organizations any complaints of discrimination they receive, and to otherwise fully cooperate with any follow-up that is necessary. In addition, supervisors and administrators must report to the Office of the Ombud for Sexual Harassment any complaints of sexual harassment that they may receive.

Determining how to pursue your complaint

Think about your goals for resolving your complaint:

  • If you are comfortable discussing the complaint or concern with your supervisor, department administrator, and/or Human Resources, report your complaint to one of these individuals and explain what action you would like to see taken.
  • If you are interested in a process which emphasizes mediation or conciliation, explore your concerns with the Ombud. Mediation or conciliation involves meeting with the person whose conduct is in question and attempting to resolve the complaint or concern with assistance from the Ombud.
  • Contact UCIRO if you think you want a complete investigation by a neutral third party.

If your complaint involves misuse of University resources including fraud or other financial irregularities, contact the Department of Internal Audit. See also APS 47.10 on whistle-blowing.