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Internal Investigation

Responsible Department
Office of the General Counsel
Effective Date
11/07/2019
  1. .

    Policy Purpose

    The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance for conducting internal investigations into alleged unlawful discrimination, harassment and other violations of law or the policies, rules and standards of conduct of the University of North Georgia (the “University”).

  2. .

    Definitions

    Information Technology Resources – Any facilities, equipment and services owned, operated or provided by contract to the University or Affiliated Organizations for the use of members of the University community.  By way of example, this includes e-mail and telecommunications systems, information technology systems, traditional and electronic bulletin boards, computers, mail, websites, broadcasts, fax machines, and copiers/printers.  Information Technology Resources also include, but are not limited to, equipment, software, wired or wireless networks, data, and telephones whether owned, leased, or otherwise provided by the University.

  3. .

    Policy Statement

    1. The University is committed to conducting its affairs ethically and in compliance with laws, regulations, and University policies, and to safeguarding members of the University community and University resources.

    2. When a report of potential ethical misconduct or other wrongdoing is made, the University has a responsibility to investigate and, if necessary, implement corrective action.

    3. The University is committed to ensuring that all University-initiated investigations are conducted in a fair, impartial, thorough, and prompt manner and in compliance with all applicable laws.

    4. The President shall designate appropriately trained individuals to oversee the investigation and resolution of allegations of violations of law and University policy.

    5. All University-initiated investigations must be conducted in a manner consistent with University System of Georgia (“USG”) and University policies and due process.

    6. Situations to be Investigated

      The following list, while not all-inclusive, provides examples of the types of situations that the University will investigate:

      1. Alleged conduct that potentially deprives an employee, student or third party of rights  because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, marital status or other characteristics protected by law.

      2. Alleged verbal or physical conduct that potentially denigrates or shows hostile feelings toward any individual because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, marital status or other characteristics protected by law.  This includes conduct that has the purpose or effect of any of the following:

        1. Creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or educational environment;
        2. Unreasonably interfering with an employee’s work performance or a student’s access to the University’s educational programs;
        3. Affecting an individual’s employment opportunity at the University.

      3. Alleged conduct or intentional behavior that potentially violates University policy or the safety or well-being of students, employees, visitors, operations or other University related activities.

      4. Allegations of fraud, waste or abuse in University operations;

      5. Allegations of research misconduct;

      6. The circumstances or alleged conduct that is the basis for a grievance submitted by a student or employee;

      7. Any other violations of federal or state law and University Policy, or potential claims against the University.

    7. Reporting

      Individuals concerned about potential violations of federal or state law and University Policy should report their concerns to the individuals designated by the President to conduct internal investigations into these allegations.  Employees should consult the Reporting Guidelines for Employees if uncertain about their reporting obligations.

    8.  Employee Cooperation

      Consistent with USG policy, an employee of the University shall cooperate to the fullest extent possible in any internal investigation conducted by the Board of Regents or the University, when directed to do so by persons who have been given investigatory authority by the President.  Failure to cooperate fully shall be grounds for appropriate administrative and/or disciplinary action up to and including termination.

    9. Confidentiality

      Consistent with UNG Statutes, Article 1, Section 2, an investigator should seek to preserve the integrity of the investigatory process and confidentiality of any employees being investigated during the investigation.  Other than as required by the Georgia Open Records Act, investigators should only share information regarding the investigation for official purposes.

    10. Investigative Tasks

      The following steps should be undertaken as appropriate for a particular investigation:

      1. Obtain verbal and written statements from all parties involved, including the complainant and accused;
      2. Secure all publicly available reports from police or other agencies concerning the report (if applicable);
      3. Take photographs/videos of any injury or damage (if applicable);
      4. Preserve and document all evidence obtained;
      5. Determine if there is a potential for risk occurrence.  If there is a potential, take all measures appropriate to protect employees, students, visitors, and property;
      6. Complete an investigation report and provide all relevant and necessary information, including findings.

    11. Access to Relevant Information and Evidence

      In order to conduct an effective investigation, authorized individuals may:

      1. Interview individuals, including members of the University community;
      2. Access, review, and utilize records of the University;
      3. Access University workspaces, including, but not limited to, offices, desks and file cabinets that may contain information relevant to the subject of the investigation;
      4. Access University-owned Information Technology Resources that may contain information relevant to the subject of the investigation;
      5. When appropriate, access and review privately owned phones, laptops, or other devices that may contain University records or other information (i) relevant to the subject of the investigation and (ii) potentially responsive to a request under the Georgia Open Records Act.

    12. An employee accused of misconduct shall be provided notice of the allegations and given an opportunity to present his or her position relative to the allegation(s) before any adverse employment action is taken.  At times, it may be necessary for this to occur in more than one interview or statement.  An investigator should gather as many facts and other forms of evidence as will allow the investigator to make a reasonable conclusion regarding the allegation(s).

    13. Prior to accessing any secured locations on campus or personal devices, the investigator should contact the Office of General Counsel to coordinate the access and ensure appropriate due process protections have been afforded to the individual(s) involved.

    14. Investigators may need to take possession of documents or other information relevant to the subject of the investigation.  When that is necessary, reasonable efforts should be made to duplicate or reimage the materials and provide working copies for use by the department.

    15. Documentation of Findings
      Based on the investigation, the University investigators should determine whether the allegation(s) were substantiated, unsubstantiated, or inconclusive.  This determination should be documented in writing and made part of the investigative report.

    16. Retention of Investigative Records

      Unless advised otherwise by the Office of General Counsel or Human Resources, the University will retain records relative to University-initiated investigation consistent with the USG Record Retention Schedule.

    17. Retaliation

      Federal and state law, as well as University policy prohibit retaliation against individuals who participate in internal investigations.  Individuals who feel they are being subjected to retaliation should promptly report their concerns to the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Internal Audit, or the University or the USG Ethics and Compliance Hotline.

    18. Unauthorized Investigations

      Investigations should not be conducted by unauthorized employees or individuals.
  4. .

    Procedures

    Any related operating procedures must comply with and should reference this policy.

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