HR / Labor Relations
Legal and Compliance
Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedure
October 09, 2018
This procedure item applies to:
The State University of New York (“State University” or “SUNY”), is committed to maintaining campuses and a workplace free from sexual harassment and from unlawful discrimination. SUNY, in its continuing effort to seek equity in education and employment, and in support of federal and state anti-discrimination legislation, has adopted a complaint procedure for the prompt and equitable investigation and resolution of allegations of unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, familial status, pregnancy, predisposing genetic characteristics, military status, domestic violence victim status, or criminal conviction. Harassment is one form of unlawful discrimination on the basis of the above protected categories. SUNY will take steps to prevent discrimination and harassment, to prevent the recurrence of discrimination and harassment, and to remedy its discriminatory effects on the victim(s) and others, if appropriate. Conduct that may constitute harassment is described in the Definitions section. Sex discrimination includes sexual harassment and sexual violence. Retaliation against a person who files a complaint, serves as a witness, or assists or participates in any manner in this procedure is strictly prohibited and may result in disciplinary action.
This procedure may be used by any student or employee of a state-operated campus of the State University, applicants for employment, interns, whether paid or unpaid, contractors and persons conducting business with the State University, as well as third-parties who are participating in a University sponsored program or affiliated activity. Employee grievance procedures established through negotiated contracts, academic grievance review committees, student disciplinary grievance boards, and any other procedures defined by contract will continue to operate as before. Furthermore, this procedure does not in any way deprive a complainant of the right to file with outside enforcement agencies, such as the New York State Division of Human Rights, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance of the United States Department of Labor. However, after filing with one of these outside enforcement agencies, or upon the initiation of litigation, the complaint will be referred to the campus Affirmative Action Officer, or in the case of sex discrimination, the Title IX Coordinator (hereinafter “AAO” will refer to both the Affirmative Action Officer and Title IX Coordinator), for investigation with the Office of General Counsel. Contact information for these agencies is listed in the Other Related Information section below. More detailed information may be obtained from the campus or SUNY-wide AAO.
All campuses must use this procedure unless the campus has made an application for an exception. Requests for an exception, along with a copy of the requesting campus’s discrimination complaint procedure, must be filed with the Office of General Counsel. The request for an exception will be acted upon by the Office of General Counsel after a review of the campus’s complaint procedure. The AAO on each University campus and the AAO for the SUNY System Office, who receives any complaint of alleged discrimination, shall inform the complainant about the complaint process and other options to resolve the issue, assist the complainant in the use of the complaint form and understanding the nature of the incident, and provide the complainant with information about various internal and external mechanisms through which the complaint may be filed, including applicable time limits for filing with each agency.
Upon receipt of a sex discrimination complaint or report, each State-operated campus and the SUNY System Office will provide to the complainant a written notice describing the available options, including pursuing a criminal complaint with a law enforcement agency, pursuing SUNY’s investigation and disciplinary process, or pursuing both options at the same time; and the potential consequences of pursuing both options (i.e., possible temporary delay of the fact-finding aspect of SUNY’s investigation while the law enforcement agency is in the process of gathering evidence). Additionally, the Title IX Coordinator will ensure that complainants in sex discrimination cases are made aware of their Title IX rights, available remedies and resources on and off-campus (such as counseling, local rape crisis center), and interim measures of protection. For more information, see the Victim/Survivor Bill of Rights. Assistance will be available whether or not a formal complaint is contemplated, or even possible.
All distributed and published versions of this procedure must contain the name or title, office address, email address, and telephone number of the individual with whom to file a complaint for each campus location, and for System Administration.
The following Discrimination Complaint Procedure applies to both the informal and formal processes. This procedure provides a mechanism through which the State University may identify, respond to, and prevent incidents of illegal discrimination. The State University recognizes and accepts its responsibility in this regard, and believes that the establishment of this internal grievance process will benefit students, faculty, staff, and administration, permitting investigation and resolution of problems.
SUNY, through the [relevant office per State-operated campus or System], reserves the right to promptly investigate all incidents of sex discrimination of which the campus and/or SUNY system office has notice. Based on information received, the Title IX Coordinator and AAO will make reasonable efforts to investigate and address instances of sex discrimination when it knows or should have known about such instances, regardless of complainant cooperation and involvement, consistent with the SUNY Policies on Sexual Violence Prevention and Response, including the Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence.
SUNY will comply with law enforcement requests for cooperation, and such cooperation may require the campus to temporarily delay the fact-finding aspect of an investigation while the law enforcement agency is in the process of gathering evidence. The campus will resume its investigation as soon as it is notified by the law enforcement agency that it has completed the evidence gathering process. SUNY will implement appropriate interim steps during the law enforcement agency's investigation period to provide for the safety of the victim(s) and the campus community, as described below.
The complainant is not required to pursue SUNY’s internal procedures before filing a complaint with a state or federal agency. In addition, if the complainant chooses to pursue SUNY’s internal procedure, the complainant is free to file a complaint with the appropriate state or federal agency at any point during the process.
During any portion of the procedures detailed hereafter, the parties shall not employ audio or video taping devices. Complaints and investigations will be kept confidential to the extent possible.
Retaliation against a person who files a complaint, serves as a witness, or assists or participates in any manner in this procedure, is unlawful, is strictly prohibited and may result in disciplinary action. Retaliation is an adverse action taken against an individual as a result of complaining about or providing information regarding unlawful discrimination or harassment, exercising a legal right, and/or participating in a complaint investigation as a third-party witness. Adverse action includes being discharged, disciplined, discriminated against, or otherwise subject to adverse employment action because the employee reports an incident of sexual harassment, provides information, or otherwise assists in any investigation of a sexual harassment complaint. Participants who experience retaliation should contact the campus AAO, and may file a complaint pursuant to these procedures.
Complaint Consultation and Review
Any student or employee, or any third party may consult with the AAO regarding potential discrimination or harassment. This initial contact may occur by telephone, email, or in person--the latter being preferred.
It is the responsibility of the AAO to respond to all such inquiries, reports, and requests as promptly as possible, and in a manner appropriate to the particular circumstances. This response may include interim measures to protect the parties during the investigation process. Interim measures will not disproportionately impact the complainant. Interim measures for students may include, but are not limited to, information about how to obtain counseling and academic assistance in the event of sexual assault, and steps to take if the accused individual lives on campus and/or attends class with the complainant. Interim measures involving employees in collective bargaining units should be determined in consultation with campus employee relations departments.
Complaints or concerns that are reported to an administrator, manager or supervisor, concerning an act of discrimination or harassment, or acts of discrimination or harassment that administrators, managers, or supervisors observe or become aware of, shall be immediately referred to the AAO. Employees with Title IX compliance responsibilities and/or employees who have the authority to take action to redress the harassment, must report any complaints to the Title IX Coordinator. Employees who observe or become aware of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, should report this information to the campus Title IX Coordinator. Complaints may also be made directly to the AAO by anyone who experiences, observes, or becomes aware of discrimination or harassment.
Filing Complaints and Time Limits
Although in limited circumstances, verbal complaints may be acted upon, the procedures set forth here rest upon the submission of a written complaint that will enable there to be a full and fair investigation of the facts. The State University prefers written complaints. It is the complainant’s responsibility to be certain that any complaint is filed within the applicable time limit.
If the complainant brings a complaint beyond the period in which the complaint may be addressed under these procedures, the AAO may terminate any further processing of the complaint, refer the complaint to the Office of General Counsel, or direct the complainant to an alternative forum (Appendix A). Complaints of sex discrimination brought forth beyond the 180 day period will be tracked and investigated to the extent possible, consistent with the campus Title IX obligations, including the Title IX Coordinator’s duties to spot patterns and address systemic issues.
All complaints must be submitted on the forms provided by the State University (see Forms below). The Charge of Discrimination form will be used for both the initiation of complaints under the informal procedure, and the conversion of the complaint to the formal procedure. The AAO is available to assist in preparing the complaint.
As soon as reasonably possible, after the date of filing of the complaint, the AAO will mail a notice of the complaint to the filer, and a copy of the complaint to the Respondent(s).
Employees: Employees must file a written complaint with the AAO within 180 calendar days following the alleged discriminatory act, or the date on which the complainant first knew or reasonably should have known of such act.
Students: Students must file a complaint within 180 calendar days following the alleged discriminatory act, or 90 calendar days after a final grade is received, for the semester during which the discriminatory acts occurred, if that date is later.
The complaint shall contain:
If a complainant elects to have the matter dealt with in an informal manner, the AAO will attempt to reasonably resolve the problem to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.
In seeking an informal resolution, the AAO shall attempt to review all relevant information, interview pertinent witnesses, and bring together the complainant and the respondent, if desirable. Complaints of sexual violence will not be resolved by using mediation, but instead must be referred immediately to the campus Title IX Coordinator. The complainant will not be required to resolve the problem directly with the respondent in cases of sex discrimination.
If a resolution satisfactory to both the complainant and the respondent is reached within 24 calendar days from the filing of the complaint, through the efforts of the AAO, the officer shall close the case, sending a written notice to that effect to the complainant and respondent. The written notice, a copy of which shall be attached to the original complaint form in the officer’s file, shall contain the terms of any agreement reached by complainant and respondent, and shall be signed and dated by the complainant, the respondent and the AAO. (See Forms for the Memorandum: Status - Resolved form)
If the AAO is unable to resolve the complaint to the mutual satisfaction of the complainant and respondent within 24 calendar days from the filing of the complaint, the AAO shall so notify the complainant. The AAO shall again advise the complainant of his or her right to proceed to the next step internally, and/or the right to separately file with appropriate external enforcement agencies.
The time limitations set forth above may be extended by mutual agreement of the complainant and respondent with the approval of the AAO. Such extension shall be confirmed in writing by the complainant and respondent. The AAO will also have the discretion to reasonably extend the deadlines if an investigation is deemed complex.
The complainant may elect to end the informal resolution process, and proceed to the formal resolution procedure, at any time after the Charge of Discrimination form is filed.
The formal complaint proceeding is commenced by the filing of a complaint form as described above. The 180 day time limit also applies to the filing of a formal complaint. If the complainant first pursued the informal process, and subsequently wishes to pursue a formal complaint, he/she may do so by checking the appropriate box, and signing and dating the complaint form.
The complaint, together with a statement from the AAO indicating that informal resolution was not possible, if applicable, shall be forwarded to the chairperson of the campus affirmative action committee within 7 calendar days from the filing of the formal complaint. If an informal resolution was not pursued, the AAO shall forward the complaint to the chairperson of the campus affirmative action committee within 7 calendar days from the filing of the complaint.
Notice to Parties: Upon receipt of a complaint, the AAO will provide an initialed, signed, date-stamped copy of the complaint to the Complainant. As soon as reasonably possible after the date of filing of the complaint, the AAO will mail a notice of complaint and a copy of the complaint to the Respondent(s). Alternatively, such notice with a copy of the complaint may be given by personal delivery, provided such delivery is made by the AAO (or designee) and, that proper proof of such delivery, including the date, time and place where such delivery occurred, is entered in the records maintained by or for the AAO.
Tripartite Panel Selection: Within 7 calendar days of receipt of the complaint, the chairperson of the campus affirmative action committee shall send notification to the Complainant, the Respondent and the campus president that a review of the matter shall take place by a tripartite panel to be selected by the Complainant and the Respondent from a pre-selected pool of eligible participants (Appendix B).
The tripartite panel shall consist of one member of the pre-selected pool chosen by the complainant, one member chosen by the respondent, and a third chosen by the other two designees. The panel members shall choose a chair among themselves. Selection must be completed, and written notification of designees submitted, to the chairperson of the campus affirmative action committee no later than 7 calendar days after the complainant, the respondent and the campus president received notice under paragraph four above. If the President is the Respondent, then the third member of the panel shall be selected by the Chancellor or designee at System Administration.
In the event that the procedural requirements governing the selection of the tripartite panel are not completed within 7 calendar days after notification, the chairperson of the campus affirmative action committee shall complete the selection process.
Panel Review: The tripartite panel shall review all relevant information, interview pertinent witnesses, and, at their discretion, hear testimony from the complainant and the respondent, if desirable. Both the complainant and the respondent(s) shall be entitled to submit written statements and/or other relevant material evidence and witnesses, and to provide rebuttal to the written record compiled by the tripartite panel. The complainant and respondent have the right to request alternative arrangements if the complainant does not want to be in the same room as the other party. These alternative arrangements must be consistent with the rights of the accused, and must enable both parties and the panel to hear each other during any hearing.
Findings and Recommendations: Within 15 calendar days from the completion of selection of the panel, the chairperson of the tripartite panel shall submit a summary of its findings, and the panel’s recommendation(s) for further action, on a form to be provided by the AAO, to the President. The burden of proof in cases of discrimination is preponderance of the evidence. If the President is the respondent, the findings and recommendation shall be submitted to the Chancellor or their designee. When the panel transmits the summary of its Findings and the panel's recommendations to the President, the panel will also send, concurrently, copies of both the summary of its findings and recommendation(s) to the Complainant, Respondent, and the AAO.
Within 10 calendar days of receipt of the written summary, the President or designee shall issue a written statement to the complainant and respondent, indicating what action the President proposes to take. The President or designee will use the preponderance of the evidence standard. The action proposed by the President or designee, may consist of:
a. A determination that the complaint was not substantiated; or
b. A determination that the complaint was substantiated.
i. For employees (including student employees) not in a collective bargaining unit: The President may take such administrative action as he/she deems appropriate under his/her authority as the chief administrative officer of the college, including but not limited to, termination, demotion, reassignment, suspension, reprimand, or training.
ii. For students: The president may determine that sufficient information exists to refer the matter to the student judiciary, or other appropriate disciplinary panel for review, and appropriate action under the appropriate student conduct code. For examples of sanctions, please see the relevant section of the applicable student code of conduct.
iii. For employees in collective bargaining units: The President may determine that sufficient information exists to refer the matter to his/her designee for investigation and disciplinary action, or other action as may be appropriate under the applicable collective bargaining agreement. The disciplinary process and potential outcomes are described in the applicable collective bargaining agreements.
The action of the President shall be final. If the President is the respondent, the Chancellor or his/her designee shall issue a written statement indicating what action the Chancellor proposes to take. The Chancellor’s decision shall be final for purposes of this discrimination procedure.
Notice of outcome: No later than 7 calendar days following issuance of the statement by the President or the Chancellor, as the case may be, the AAO shall issue a letter to the complainant and to the respondent(s) advising them that the matter, for purposes of this discrimination procedure, is closed. In cases of sex discrimination, notice of outcome will include the sanctions, as appropriate.
Time limitations: The time limitations set forth above may be extended by mutual agreement of the complainant and respondent with the approval of the panel. The panel will also have the discretion to reasonably extend the deadlines if an investigation is deemed complex. Such extension shall be confirmed in writing to the parties.
External Agencies: If the complainant is dissatisfied with the President’s or Chancellor’s decision, the complainant may elect to file a complaint with one or more state and federal agencies. The campus AAO will provide general information on state and federal guidelines and laws, as well as names and addresses of various enforcement agencies (Appendix A).
Legal Protections And External Remedies
Sexual harassment is not only prohibited by the State University, but is also prohibited by state and federal law.
Aside from the internal process at the State University, employees may also choose to pursue legal remedies with the following governmental entities at any time.
New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR)
The Human Rights Law (HRL), codified as N.Y. Executive Law, art. 15, § 290 et seq., applies to employers in New York State with regard to sexual harassment, and protects employees, paid or unpaid interns and non-employees regardless of immigration status. A complaint alleging violation of the Human Rights Law may be filed either with DHR or in New York State Supreme Court.
Complaints with DHR may be filed any time within one year of the harassment. If an individual did not file at DHR, they can sue directly in state court under the HRL, within three years of the alleged discrimination or sexual harassment. An individual may not file with DHR if they have already filed a HRL complaint in state court.
Complaining internally to the State University does not extend your time to file with DHR or in court.
The one year or three years is counted from date of the most recent incident of harassment.
You do not need an attorney to file a complaint with DHR, and there is no cost to file with DHR.
DHR will investigate your complaint and determine whether there is probable cause to believe that discrimination or sexual harassment has occurred. Probable cause cases are forwarded to a public hearing before an administrative law judge. If discrimination or sexual harassment is found after a hearing, DHR has the power to award relief, which varies but may include requiring your employer to take action to stop the harassment, or redress the damage caused, including paying monetary damages, attorney’s fees and civil fines.
DHR’s main office contact information is: NYS Division of Human Rights, One Fordham Plaza, Fourth Floor, Bronx, New York 10458, (718) 741-8400, www.dhr.ny.gov
Contact DHR at (888) 392-3644 or visit dhr.ny.gov/complaint for more information about filing a complaint. The website has a complaint form that can be downloaded, filled out, notarized and mailed to DHR. The website also contains contact information for DHR’s regional offices across New York State.
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The EEOC enforces federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the 1964 federal Civil Rights
Act (codified as 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.). An individual can file a complaint with the EEOC anytime within 300 days from the harassment. There is no cost to file a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC will investigate the complaint, and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred, at which point the EEOC will issue a Right to Sue letter permitting the individual to file a complaint in federal court.
The EEOC does not hold hearings or award relief, but may take other action including pursuing cases in federal court on behalf of complaining parties. Federal courts may award remedies if discrimination is found to have occurred.
An employee alleging discrimination against at work can file a “Charge of Discrimination.” The EEOC has district, area, and field offices where complaints can be filed. Contact the EEOC by calling 1-800-669-4000 (1-800-669-6820 (TTY)), visiting their website at www.eeoc.gov or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If an individual filed an administrative complaint with DHR, DHR will file the complaint with the EEOC to preserve the right to proceed in federal court.
Contact the Local Police Department
If the harassment involves unwanted physical touching, coerced physical confinement or coerced sex acts, the conduct may constitute a crime. Contact the local police department.
Harassment on the Basis of Protected Characteristic(s) other than Sex/Gender – harassment based on race, color, age, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or other protected characteristics is oral, written, graphic or physical conduct relating to an individual's protected characteristics that is sufficiently severe and/or serious, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the educational institution’s programs or activities.
Sex Discrimination – behaviors and actions that deny or limit a person’s ability to benefit from, and/or fully participate in the educational programs or activities or employment opportunities because of a person’s sex. This includes but is not limited to sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual violence by employees, students, or third parties. Employees should report sex discrimination, including but not limited to, sexual harassment and assault that they observe or become aware of, to the Title IX coordinator.
Sexual Assault is defined as a physical sexual act or acts committed against a person’s will and consent or when a person is incapable of giving active consent, incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct, or incapable of declining participation in, or communicating unwillingness to engage in, a sexual act or acts. Sexual assault is an extreme form of sexual harassment.* Sexual assault includes what is commonly known as “rape,” whether forcible or non-forcible, “date rape” and “acquaintance rape.” Nothing contained in this definition shall be construed to limit or, conflict with the sex offenses enumerated in Article 130 of the New York State Penal Law, which shall be the guiding reference in determining if alleged conduct is consistent with the definition of sexual assault.
Sexual Harassment – a form of sex discrimination and is unlawful under federal and state law. Sexual harassment includes harassment on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, self-identified or perceived sex, gender expression, gender identity and the status of being transgender.
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct which is either of a sexual nature, or which is directed at an individual because of that individual’s sex when:
A sexually harassing hostile work environment includes, but is not limited to, of words, signs, jokes, pranks, intimidation or physical violence which are of a sexual nature, or which are directed at an individual because of that individual’s sex, sexual orientation, self-identified or perceived sex, gender expression, gender identity and the status of being transgender. Sexual harassment also consists of any unwanted verbal or physical advances, sexually explicit derogatory statements or sexually discriminatory remarks made by someone which are offensive or objectionable to the recipient, which cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation, which interfere with the recipient’s job performance. Sexual harassment also occurs when a person in authority tries to trade job benefits, including hiring, promotion, continued employment or any other terms, conditions or privileges of employment, for sexual favors.
Sexual harassment in the educational setting can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment of a student denies or limits, on the basis of sex, the student’s ability to participate in or to receive benefits, services, or opportunities in the educational institution’s program.
Sexual Violence - physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent.
Preponderance of the Evidence – the standard of proof in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases, which asks whether it is “more likely than not” that the sexual harassment or sexual violence occurred. If the evidence presented meets this standard, then the accused should be found responsible.
 As stated above, for any complaints involving sex discrimination, the Title IX Coordinator or designee will be involved.
There are no forms relevant to this procedure.
Available on the Sexual Violence Prevention Workgroup website
Includes: Definition of Affirmative Consent, Policy for Alcohol and/or Drug Use Amnesty in Sexual Violence Cases, Campus Climate Assessment Policy, Sexual Violence Victim/Survivor Bill of Rights, Sexual Violence Response Policy, Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence, and Student Onboarding and Ongoing Education Guide
SUNY Procedure Doc. No. 6503 - Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination
SUNY Policy Doc. No. 6506 - Sexual and Romantic Relationship Policy
SUNY Policy Doc. No. 6507 - Sexual Harassment Response and Prevention Statement
Compliance Website pages on Equity and Diversity
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Federal Law
Related guidance available with the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Publications page
[All of the laws that are available on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website, the federal agency with oversight of the laws]
This document was updated in October 2018 pursuant to Labor Law §201-g, which requires every employer in the State of New York to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy that meets or exceeds enumerated minimum standards in order to prevent and combat sexual harassment in the workplace.
This document was updated in May 2015 pursuant to a SUNY-wide compliance review with the Office for Civil Rights. Document No. 6500 has been eliminated. Prior to this most recent update, this document was last published in March 2003.