FAQ about Ombuds

What is an Ombuds?

An Ombuds (also "ombudsman" or “ombudsperson”) is a designated neutral who provides confidential and informal assistance to visitors on a variety of issues and concerns. Ombuds will help people to informally resolve conflict by facilitating communication between all parties to reach mutually satisfactory solutions.

Who can go to the Ombuds for help?

The Ombuds Office serves all members of the Grinnell College Community, students, staff, and faculty.

Is the Office of the Ombuds a place to make a report?

Discussions with the Ombuds are “off the record” and do not constitute formal notice to Grinnell College. The Ombuds is not authorized to accept notice of claims against the College. If you have a complaint and want to pursue a formal remedy, the Ombuds can refer you to the appropriate office or help identify possible options.

Do you take action based on anonymous complaints?

No, since the Ombuds cannot determine what course of action to take without discussing the situation with the person involved. It must be emphasized that, given the confidentiality of the Ombuds Office, there is no need for anonymity.

What Happens to Information Provided to the Ombuds Office?

As a matter of policy, the Ombuds does not keep permanent records of confidential communications, and does not retain any information that would potentially identify the individuals involved in a matter

Will the Ombuds participate in formal proceedings?

The Ombuds program is purely voluntary and based on the principles of independence, neutrality informality and confidentiality. The Ombuds does not testify or serve as a witness with respect to confidential communication in any grievance process or any formal judicial or administrative hearings. However, the Ombuds can facilitate informal discussions with the consent of the other participants.

What about sexual harassment or misconduct?

The Ombuds will listen to your concerns and help you understand your options, including reporting options. The Ombuds will not report sexual harassment or misconduct without your permission.

Can anyone retaliate against me for going to the Office of the Ombuds?

Grinnell College policies provide protection for staff, faculty and students who contact the Office of the Ombuds for assistance. This policy regarding retaliation is taken seriously.

May I use work time to consult with the Ombuds regarding work-related concerns?

Employees may request a reasonable amount of time from supervisors for appointments to visit the Office of the Ombuds during working hours. Employees who prefer not to notify their supervisors of a visit to the Ombuds Office may make arrangements directly with the Ombuds for noon or after-hours appointments or may use vacation time for appointments.

*Many thanks to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University

Can I still file an appeal if I go to the Ombuds Office but my issue is not resolved? 

Your appeal rights do not change if you first try informal resolution through the Ombuds Office. But remember: formal grievance and appeal processes all have filing deadlines you must meet for your grievance or appeal to proceed. On rare occasions, a filing deadline might be extended if a party is working towards resolution through the Ombuds Office, but only Human Resource Services may grant such an extension. Therefore you should take advantage of the Ombuds Office services well before your appeal filing deadline arrives. This will enable you to try informal resolution, but still allow you to file a timely appeal if you decide you want to do that. 

I’ve got a situation that I think somebody at the College needs to know about. Can I rely on the Ombuds Office to handle it without my getting involved?

You are welcome to discuss any type of concern with the Ombuds Office, and the Ombuds will help you identify your options. But keep in mind that the Ombuds Office does not conduct investigations or issue decisions. The discussions that take place in the Ombuds Office remain confidential, so telling the Ombuds Officer about a situation does not put the College on notice. But the Ombuds Office can help you figure out how to accomplish your desired outcome. 

I want to use the Ombuds Office to resolve a conflict with my colleague, but my colleague doesn’t want to participate. What do I do now? 

It would still be helpful for you to visit the Ombuds Office, because you might learn some strategies you could use to deal with the conflict. Even though your colleague doesn’t want to work on resolution right now, there are often other things you can do so that your situation is more comfortable. Frequently just talking about a difficult situation can relieve some of the stress you may be feeling. 

Will the Ombudsperson be my spokesperson and represent me?

No. The ombudspersons are neutral, impartial third parties. They do not advocate for either side and do not represent individuals. They strive for fairness and help people reach mutually satisfactory agreements.

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