Guidance for Review and Resolution of Whistleblower and Retaliation Complaints Brought under W&L's Whistleblower Policy
Every whistleblower and retaliation case that is reported to a supervisor, Dean, Provost, Vice President or to the Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees will be reviewed to determine whether it most appropriately falls under the Policy, and if so, will be investigated and resolved on a case-by-case basis depending upon the nature and scope of the complaint. It is important to remember that whistleblower complaints are for allegations of "improper activities", meaning fraud, theft, or illegal conduct, which the University strongly encourages employees to report if they become aware of these activities. Employment-related concerns should be directed to the Office of Human Resources. If a complaint falls under the purview of the Policy, the Dean, Vice President, Provost or the Audit Committee have the discretion to address such complaints in a manner that they believe appropriate, fair, and equitable, with the goal of resolving all such complaints in a timely fashion with utmost objectivity and professionalism. With the understanding that formal procedures may be intimidating, the University will endeavor to assist a complainant and respondent in understanding the process to be undertaken in a given case.
Confidentiality of each case is paramount and information about each complaint will be shared only on a need-to-know basis.
Some complaints may be dealt with more formally than others. A sample of a formal process for a complaint brought to the Audit Committee is noted below. The Committee may delegate to two or more members the responsibility of investigating each complaint, but the Committee would be fully constituted for purposes of interim and final review and resolution of the matter. A similar formal process may be utilized by a Dean, Vice President, or Provost, depending upon the scope and nature of the complaint.
After a written complaint is received by the chair of the Audit Committee, a written acknowledgement notice may be sent to the complainant that may include a timeline for review, investigation, and resolution. The Committee may initially meet with the complainant to determine the exact nature of the complaint and remedy sought in order to determine whether it falls under the jurisdiction of the Policy or whether it should most appropriately be dealt with administratively. The meeting would also allow the Committee to ascertain the scope and manner of investigation appropriate to the complaint if it goes forward.
- If the Committee determines the case falls most appropriately under its jurisdiction, notice of the complaint may also be sent to the respondent, along with the same timeline provided to the complainant, unless it is determined by the Committee that the investigation may be compromised by such notice. If appropriate, the Committee may afford the respondent an opportunity to provide a written statement for the record. The Committee may also request additional information relevant to the complaint in writing from either or both parties and/or may interview the parties. The respondent may provide to the Committee any other information that the respondent believes will assist the Committee in its review. The Committee's investigation may include a review of any pertinent documents, including relevant university policies, as well as interviews of any witnesses believed to have reliable and relevant information.
- If it is determined that the activities brought to the University's attention involved fraud, or illegal/egregious conduct, the Committee may conduct a review in a more formal manner. Also, in such cases, the Committee should work closely with the Office of General Counsel to determine whether and when law enforcement agencies should be notified of a possible crime.
- Once the investigation is complete and the Audit Committee has reached a decision on resolution of the complaint, the parties should be notified of the Committee's final decision. The Committee may choose to deliver that information orally and/or in writing.
- It is anticipated that a formal review should not take more than two or three months to resolve, and likely shorter, depending upon the nature of the case. Less formal review and handling of a complaint may be resolved in a shorter time period.