Employee & Applicant Disability Grievance

ADA (AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT)/SECTION 504 GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES

Northwestern University does not discriminate or permit discrimination on the basis of disability in matters of admissions, employment, housing, or services or in the educational programs or activities it operates. The Director of Equal Opportunity and Access has been designated as the Section 504 Coordinator and coordinates compliance with the nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and applicable federal and state regulations.

Northwestern University has adopted internal grievance procedures providing for prompt, equitable, and impartial resolution of grievances alleging any action prohibited by the ADA or Section 504. These procedures apply to complaints of discrimination or harassment on the basis of disability by staff, faculty, students, applicants for both University employment and academic admission, vendors, contractors, and third parties. Such a complaint is referred to in these procedures as a “grievance.” The person filing the grievance is referred to as the “grievant.”  The person against whom the grievance is made is referred to in these procedures as the “respondent.”

These rules will be construed to protect the substantive rights of interested persons, meet appropriate due process standards, and assure that Northwestern University complies with the ADA, Section 504, and their implementing regulations.

The Office of Equal Opportunity and Access will maintain the files and records relating to grievances filed under these procedures.

Filing a Grievance

  • A grievance must be filed as soon as possible after the grievant becomes aware of the alleged violation.
  • A grievance must be filed in writing, contain the name and address of the person filing it, and briefly describe the alleged violation.
Grievances should be addressed to the University’s Section 504 Coordinator:

Section 504 Coordinator
Office of Equal Opportunity and Access
720 University Place
Evanston, IL  60208
Phone:  847-491-7458
Fax:  847-467-0698
eeo@northwestern.edu

If a grievance is about the Section 504 Coordinator, the grievance should be addressed to:

Associate Vice President for Human Resources
720 University Place
Evanston, IL  60208
Phone: (847) 491-7505
Fax: (847) 467-2688
p-beemer@northwestern.edu

Investigation
  • An investigation, as may be appropriate, will follow the filing of a grievance. The investigation will be conducted by the Section 504 Coordinator or his/her designee. Investigations will be conducted as expeditiously as possible and are usually completed within 30-60 days, though this may vary based on the availability of witnesses, the scope of the investigation, or unforeseen circumstances. 
  • These rules contemplate informal but thorough investigations. During an investigation, the grievant will have the opportunity to describe his or her allegations and present supporting witnesses or other evidence. The respondent will have the opportunity to respond to each allegation and present supporting witnesses or other evidence. The investigator will review evidence presented and will meet with additional witnesses identified by the grievant, the respondent, or third parties, as determined appropriate by the investigator. All parties involved in the investigation are expected to cooperate and provide truthful information throughout the investigation process. 
  • During the investigation process, both the grievant and the respondent may ask a non-attorney support person from the University community to accompany him or her. The support person must be a member of the Northwestern community (faculty, staff, or student), cannot be a family member, and cannot be a potential witness in the matter, or another grievant or respondent in the same or a related matter. Since investigations are internal University proceedings, the persons involved may not have legal counsel present at any interview during the investigation. The support person does not serve as an advocate on behalf of the grievant or respondent, and he or she must agree to maintain the confidentiality of the investigative process. Witnesses and others involved in an investigation are not entitled to have a support person accompany them to interviews. 

Confidentiality

  • Northwestern cannot ensure total confidentiality in its investigation of grievances filed under these procedures. However, Northwestern makes every reasonable effort to conduct investigations and related proceedings in a manner that protects the privacy of all parties. Each situation is reviewed as discreetly as possible, with information shared only with those who need to know about it in order to investigate and resolve the problem. All participants in an investigation will be advised that they should keep the grievance and the investigation confidential.
  • At the conclusion of an investigation, the Section 504 Coordinator will determine whether the preponderance of the evidence indicates that the respondent violated Northwestern’s policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of disability. The Section 504 Coordinator will provide, in writing, his or her conclusions and any recommended actions to the appropriate University office.  For staff, the appropriate office is the Office of Human Resources in collaboration with the respondent’s manager(s). For students, the appropriate office is the Dean of Students. For faculty, the appropriate office is the faculty member’s Chair or Dean. The appropriate office will review the recommendations and, in consultation with the Section 504 Coordinator, make a decision concerning the resolution of the grievance and any corrective actions that will be imposed. The grievant and the respondent will be notified in writing of the outcome of the investigation upon its conclusion.

Resolution

  • When a grievance is found to have merit, the University’s response is based on several factors, including the severity of the conduct, and aims to prevent problems from recurring and ensure compliance with the ADA and Section 504.  Violators will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment, in accordance with relevant University policies and/or procedures and other requirements set forth in the Staff Handbook, Faculty Handbook, or Student Handbook.
  • In cases of disability harassment, Northwestern will take steps to prevent any recurrence of the alleged harassment and to correct discriminatory effects on the grievant and others, if appropriate.

Appeals

  • The grievant or respondent may request a reconsideration of the case in instances where he or she is dissatisfied with the outcome.  The appeal must be made within ten (10) business days of the party’s receipt of the determination from the Section 504 Coordinator.  An appeal must be in writing, submitted to one of the individuals listed below, as appropriate, and specify the substantive and/or procedural basis for the appeal.  The appropriate individual below will review the appeal and issue a written decision, which shall be final and not subject to further appeal.  The decision will be issued within a reasonable period of time, generally no longer than ninety (90) days after receipt of the appeal.
An appeal by an employee or third party should be addressed to:

Associate Vice President for Human Resources
720 University Place
Evanston, IL  60208
Phone: (847) 491-7505
Fax: (847) 467-2688
p-beemer@northwestern.edu

An appeal by a student should be addressed to:

Vice President for Student Affairs
633 Clark Street
Rebecca Crown Center
Evanston, IL  60208
Phone: (847) 491-8430
Fax: (847) 467-2523
tellesirvin@northwestern.edu

An appeal by a faculty member should be addressed to:

Provost
633 Clark Street
Rebecca Crown Center
Evanston, IL  60208
Phone: (847) 491-5117
Fax: (847) 467-1630
nu-provost@northwestern.edu

Retaliation is Strictly Prohibited

  • Northwestern prohibits retaliation against anyone for inquiring about suspected breaches of Northwestern policy, registering a complaint pursuant to its policies, assisting another in making a complaint, or participating in an investigation under its policies.  Retaliation is a serious violation that can subject the offender to sanctions, regardless of whether there is a finding that a complaint of discrimination or harassment has merit.  Anyone experiencing any conduct that he or she believes to be retaliatory should report it immediately to the Director of Equal Opportunity and Access or one of the individuals listed in “Where to Get Advice and Help.”