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UI releases first report from employment practices review

The first report from the UI’s employment-practices review includes recommendations to revise policies, including its anti-harassment policy.

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FILE - The Old Capitol is shown on Monday, July 25, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/file)

FILE - The Old Capitol is shown on Monday, July 25, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/file)

FILE - The Old Capitol is shown on Monday, July 25, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/file)

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Nearly a year after a jury found the University of Iowa discriminated against former employees because of their gender and sexual orientation, a law firm conducting an external review of the UI’s employment practices has released its first report on the process.

After conducting the first phase of the review, the firm Fredrikson & Byron P.A. provided a number of suggestions in the report, including updating some terminology in the policies or otherwise clarifying the policies.

The firm recommended the UI amend its anti-harassment policy, because the policy “does not accurately communicate what constitutes protected-class harassment in the workplace.” The report stated the UI sets a high bar for speech to be considered illegal harassment, which, it said, may lead employees to believe harassment falling below that standard should not be reported.

Additionally, the firm suggested retaining a statement concerning protection of First Amendment rights and a separate policy pertaining to free speech.

Other recommendations include:

• Reorganizing policies in the Operations Manual and more clearly cross-referencing policies, possibly renaming and regrouping some

• Providing examples of prohibited conduct and note when the examples are not exhaustive

• Revising policies that “may discourage employees from reporting suspected policy violations,” such as minimizing or replacing the term “alleged victim”

The firm concluded the university’s existing 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.

“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,” Cheryl Reardon, the UI chief human-resources officer and associate vice president, said in a statement. “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.”

In May 2017, UI President Bruce Harreld announced the UI would hire an independent firm to conduct the review after a jury ruled in favor of Jane Meyer, a former senior associate athletics director who had filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the university.

Soon after, the UI settled discrimination lawsuits with Meyer and Tracey Griesbaum, a former coach. The UI agreed to pay the women $6.5 million to cover their lost wages, legal expenses, and emotional distress. After Harreld’s May announcement about plans to conduct a review of employment-related policies and practices, it wasn’t until November that the UI selected a firm to conduct the review.

Harreld told The Daily Iowan in March that sometimes, important things take awhile.

“We want to improve, and so we bring external people who have looked at other universities with a different pair of eyes, a different set of experiences, and let them kick the tires, find the gaps, and then we can go to work and fix them,” he said. “We need to be held accountable on that.”

University leaders anticipate the next step will be to examine practices to determine whether there are discrepancies between the written policies and the implementation of the policies. The three phases of the review will evaluate the UI’s academic and operational units, the Athletics Department, and UI Health Care. The firm’s contract extends to Nov. 2 unless amended.

 

Timeline of review process

• May 4, 2017: A jury awards former UI senior associate athletics director Jane Meyer $1.4 million in discrimination lawsuit.

• May 5, 2017: UI President Bruce Harreld announces UI will hire an independent firm to conduct an external review of employment practices

• May 19, 2017: UI settles Meyer and partner Tracey Griesbaum cases for $6.5 million.

• June 1, 2017: Shared governance selects 14 representatives to serve on the committee charged with selecting a firm to conduct the review

• July 20, 2017: Committee completes the Requests for Qualifications for the external reviews

• Nov. 9, 2017: Committee selects a Des Moines law firm, Fredrikson & Byron P.A., to review the UI’s employment policies and practices

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About the Writer
Marissa Payne, Managing Editor
Marissa Payne is the Managing Editor of The Daily Iowan. She started working at the DI her freshman year as a news reporter covering the UI administration and Iowa Board of Regents, and also as a page designer. She has also served as News Editor and Digital Editor. During her sophomore year, she primarily continued...
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