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Civil Rights Complaints in Penn State Extension and Research Programs

Principle

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences is committed to compliance with applicable federal, state, and local rules and regulations pertaining to equal access to programs, facilities, admission and employment in extension and research programs. This is consistent with Penn State’s prohibition of discrimination against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, genetic information, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status.

Any individual, group of program participants, or potential program participants may file complaints related to civil rights compliance in extension and research programs. The public must be told of their right to file a discrimination complaint.

One way that the public is told of this right is through the use of the USDA "And Justice for All" poster. This poster must be visibly displayed in extension and research meeting rooms and main offices. The USDA poster advises participants that they can file complaints with the Office of Civil Rights at USDA. This office will investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination in programs operated or assisted by USDA, including Cooperative Extension and Research programs.

Another means in which the public is told of this right to lodge a discrimination complaint is by providing clients the Discrimination Complaint Notification Template included at the end of this document. 

Organizational Guidelines

The following procedure is recommended for handling complaints of extension or research program discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Acts:

  1. When a client voices a concern about possible discrimination in a program, listen carefully. Do not argue with the client or respond defensively. Write down what the client tells you and repeat what you heard to the client in order to be sure you have accurately documented what they said. Let them know that you take their concerns seriously. Ask them what they would like to see happen differently. Make the client aware that they have the right to take their concern to the Extension District Director or your immediate research supervisor as a step in the informal complaint process.  Make the client aware that they also have the right to file a formal complaint.
  2. If, as a result of your discussion with the client, the complaint can be resolved to the client’s satisfaction, complete step three and you are done.
  3. If the client decides not to file a formal complaint, you should document by letter to the client, a summary of your discussion, the corrective action to be taken or already taken concerning the complaint. In your letter, remind them of their right to file a formal complaint by providing them with a copy of the completed Discrimination Complaint Notification Template below. Copy your supervisor on the letter and file a copy in your unit’s central Civil Rights file.
  4. If the client wishes to file a formal complaint, provide the client with the Discrimination Complaint Notification Template below, with the appropriate information filled in.
  5. Notify the Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs immediately and send a copy of the details of the complaint.
  6. The Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs will investigate the complaint with the Director of Human Resources and other appropriate persons or refer it to Penn State’s Affirmative Action Office.  The Extension District Director or Academic Department Head will be notified, as will the Directors of Extension and the Experiment Station.
  7. Allegations made, and any remedies obtained, as appropriate, should be documented and maintained in the unit’s central Civil Rights files.

 

Adapted with permission from Virginia Cooperative Extension