Employee Relations Complaint Process

The George Washington University is committed to a work environment in which all individuals are treated with professionalism, respect and dignity in compliance with GW’s internal policies and procedures.If you are a staff member and believe you have been subjected to adverse action in the terms and conditions of your employment, you must first contact your HR Business Partner and/or supervisor to outline the complaint. 

This policy sets forth the procedures for staff members to file a complaint related to:

  1. an adverse employment action, including but not limited to discipline and involuntary separation;
  2. university action or inaction that is negatively impacting the staff member’s work environment; or
  3. any allegation that the staff member has been or is being adversely affected by an improper application or interpretation of a rule, regulation, policy, or procedure that is not specifically excluded below.

If the complaint relates to prohibited discrimination or retaliation related to participation in a process associated with a complaint of prohibited discrimination, staff should follow the procedures in the EEO Complaint Process.  

If the complaint relates to sexual and gender-based harassment or discrimination, staff should refer to the university’s Gender-Based Harassment and Interpersonal Violence Policy and make a report to the university’s Title IX Office, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, via 24/7 Sexual Assault Response & Consultation (SARC) at (202) 994-7222 or report an incident.

If the complaint relates to violation of a collective bargaining agreement, staff should follow the procedures set forth therein.

Who Is Covered By this Policy?

Regular staff members who are past their initial employment period (IEP) may file a complaint under this procedure. Staff members who are terminated within their IEPs are ineligible to file a complaint under this procedure, but can bring a claim under the EEO Complaint Process if the complaint is based upon prohibited discrimination.

How to File a Complaint

Staff should first work with their managers and/or HR Business Partners to make reasonable efforts to resolve the issue with the individual(s) against whom the staff person plans to file a complaint. If the matter is not resolved through the HR Business Partner, staff may be referred to the EEOA Office. A formal complaint will need to be submitted to the HRBP within thirty (30) days of the challenged action. The complaint should be submitted to [email protected]. Complaints filed outside this time frame may be denied unless the Complainant can demonstrate a good reason for the delayed submission. Early reporting and intervention are generally the most effective method of resolving actual or perceived conflicts, concerns, or policy disputes. Therefore, we strongly urge the prompt reporting of complaints or concerns so that rapid and constructive action can be taken when appropriate.

The Employee Relations Complaint Process

All communication associated with the complaint process will be transmitted electronically.

Stage I: Reporting complaint to HR Business Partner and/or Manager

Staff members contact their HR Business Partner with the complaint. The HR Business Partner may work with the manager to resolve the issue. If the matter is not resolved, the process will then move to the EEOA Office. A formal complaint will need to be submitted to the HRBP within thirty (30) days of the challenged action. The complaint should be submitted to [email protected].

Stage II: The Informal Resolution Process

Upon referral, the EEOA Office will provide an Employee Relations (ER) Complaint Intake Form to the staff member (the “Complainant”). Should the staff member wish to seek consultation, the completed form must be returned to the EEO Office via email at [email protected] within the time frames set forth above. 

Upon receipt and review of the completed form, the complaint will be assigned to an EEO Investigator (the “Investigator”) who will then reach out to the Complainant within five (5) business days of submission. 

Consultation provides the staff member with an opportunity to speak with the EEO Investigator in confidence, learn about the ER complaint process, and determine whether to pursue the ER complaint process.

At this consultative stage, complainants may request anonymity, that their identity not be shared with the individual(s) they are filing the complaint against, that no investigation be pursued, or that no disciplinary action be taken. The EEOA Office does not guarantee anonymity, but will carefully balance the request for anonymity in the context of the university's commitment to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all university community members.

In some cases, the Investigator may recommend mediation between the Complainant and the party against whom they have lodged the complaint (the “Respondent”). Mediation is an informal meeting, facilitated by the Investigator, to help the Complainant and Respondent explore possible ways to reach a resolution.

Stage III: The Formal Resolution Process

If informal resolution is unsuccessful, the Complainant may choose to move forward with a formal investigation, in which case all appropriate parties, including but not limited to supervisors, will be notified. In limited situations, the EEOA Office will initiate its own investigation into suspected violations of university policies and procedures, even absent a complaining party.

1. Investigation

Complainants will have ten (10) business days from the close of the informal resolution process to provide the Investigator with all relevant documentation including witnesses. The Investigator may request additional evidence from the parties or from other sources and is not restricted to information and witnesses provided by Complainant.

2. Determination

At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator will make a determination based on a preponderance of evidence (i.e., whether it is more likely than not that the violation occurred). If discipline or a performance management action is the subject of the grievance, the Investigator will determine whether the university followed the appropriate process and, if applicable, whether the corrective action issued is commensurate with the underlying behavior.

All appropriate parties will be formally notified of the outcome of the investigation. Note that a finding that the complaint was substantiated does not guarantee any requested relief or corrective action.

If a violation is found, the Investigator will issue recommendations for corrective action to end the misconduct, prevent its recurrence and address its effects. However, the EEOA Office does not itself have disciplinary authority. Under limited circumstances, including a threat to the health or safety of any individual or to comply with applicable law, the EEOA Office may independently notify the university’s safety and security department. 

All investigation-related materials and reports are confidential and will not be shared with Complainants, Respondents, or other investigation participants. The distribution of investigation materials and reports will be restricted to those with a legitimate ‘need to know’.

3. Appeals

If either party is dissatisfied with the results of the investigation, either may appeal the findings by submitting an email formally requesting an appeal to [email protected] within five (5) business days of being notified of the decision.

The EEOA Office will convene a committee within ten (10) business days of the request for an appeal. The Committee will consist of three panelists and one alternate, selected from among HR Directors and GW administrators, all of whom will be outside of the involved parties’ departments. The EEOA Office reserves the right to convene a “Special Committee” that does not consist of HR Directors under very limited circumstances. The EEOA Office will notify the parties if the complaint warrants a “Special Committee.” 

The Committee will have fifteen (15) business days to review the case and make a ruling as to whether an appeal is warranted. After reviewing the case, the Committee may rule that an appeal is not warranted and the original investigation outcome will stand. 

If the Committee grants the appeal request, it will set a date for a formal hearing. The Committee will be provided with a hearing packet to be considered on review. No new documentation may be presented on appeal. Notwithstanding this, the Committee may request additional information for its consideration and/or may ask the involved parties to testify at the hearing. 

The Committee will formally notify involved parties, together with the relevant department head, of the Committee’s decision. This decision is final, and no further appeal will be considered. The department is required to implement the Committee’s decision and any directives for corrective action. 

Administrative Discretion

  • In limited situations, the EEOA Office will conduct an investigation into allegation(s) of a violation of university policies and procedures where no staff member has filed a specific complaint. 
  • In limited situations, the EEOA Office will not conduct an investigation, if after reviewing the allegations set forth in the complaint form and consulting with the Complainant, it is  concluded that the Complainant has not alleged a cause of action that violates the law and/or GW policies.


The EEOA Office timeframe to conduct an equitable investigation may depend upon various extenuating circumstances, including the scope of the allegations, availability of evidence, and responsiveness of witnesses. 

The timeframe for the appeals process depends upon a variety of factors, although every effort is made to complete the appeal process as quickly as possible.



Retaliation against a person who makes a good faith report or complaint, or participates in an investigation or proceeding covered by this process is prohibited. For more information, see GW’s Non-Retaliation policy. Allegations of retaliation will be investigated and may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of the accused retaliator if substantiated. Members of the university community who believe that they have been retaliated against may submit a complaint to the EEO/ER Office or report anonymously using the Regulatory Compliance Help and Referral Line at (888) 508-5275.

Obligation to Provide Truthful Information

All university community members are expected to provide truthful information in this process. Intentionally submitting or providing false or misleading information may subject you to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. This provision does not apply to reports made or information provided in good faith, even if the facts alleged in the report are unsubstantiated.


All university community members are expected to cooperate fully with the investigation and disciplinary procedures.

Confidentiality and Privacy

To the extent possible, the university will protect the confidentiality of Complainants, witnesses, and accused parties and, if information is disclosed, will disclose it on a need-to-know basis. However, parties should understand that in order to investigate the matter and provide the other party with notice of the allegations and an opportunity to respond, the university may need to reveal the identity of the grievant and relevant witnesses. Individuals involved in investigations or disciplinary proceedings under this complaint process are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information with individuals outside the EEOA office in order to safeguard the integrity of the process. All parties, however, are encouraged to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information gathered or learned in the process.

Actions upon Completion of Investigation and/or Appeal

In all instances, the Disciplinary Authority may consult with the HR Business Partner to ensure that the sanction and/or remedies satisfy the university’s obligation to maintain a non-discriminatory, harassment-free, and diverse work environment.

ER Process Workflow Overview

  1. Submit complaint to HR Business Partner within 30 calendar days of the challenged employment action. The complaint should be submitted to [email protected].

  2. If a complaint is not resolved with the HR Business Partner, the matter will be referred to the EEOA Office.

  3. Written Complaint: 
    • Submit an ER intake form for ER-related complaint via email.
  4. Consultation and Mediation: 
    • EEOA will reach out within 5 business days to schedule a consultation.
    • May propose mediation.
  5. Investigation: 
    • If informal resolution is unsuccessful, provide all relevant documentation within 10 business days to begin formal investigation.
  6. Review & Determination:
    • Investigator reviews the file and issues a Letter of Determination.
    • A finding in the Complainant’s favor is not indicative of relief or corrective action taken.
  7. Request for Appeal: 
    • Submit a request within 10 business days of Determination.