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New hiring and reference check policies to address sexual harassment

August 28, 2018 By Marilyn Gardner

UW–Madison officials will be drafting or modifying human resources policies to ensure more robust hiring and reference check processes related to sexual harassment. These policies will ensure consistent disclosure of cases of sexual violence and sexual harassment to hiring institutions. They will also ensure that hiring institutions ask about sexual violence and sexual harassment during the hiring process.

The new policies are in response to a resolution introduced by the Board of Regents in June. The resolution calls for all UW System institutions, including UW–Madison, to document in personnel files instances of sexual violence and sexual harassment perpetrated by employees and to share that information with other employers, including but not limited to UW System institutions and other State of Wisconsin agencies, during the hiring process. The policies will also require the disclosure of substantiated instances of sexual violence and harassment from prospective employees.

Last Friday, draft policies created by a combined effort of UW System institutions were presented the Board of Regents to meet the resolution’s requirements. Using the work of these draft policies as a foundation, UW–Madison is now developing draft policies that will addresses the specific needs of the UW–Madison campus.

The UW–Madison draft policies will be reviewed by a variety of stakeholders across our campus, including shared governance groups and others. Once the policies have been finalized, processes will be modified to support the new policies. It is anticipated that the policies will be implemented in early 2019.

The new policies could become a national model, particularly in the area of reference checks. A work group of professionals from campuses across the UW System studied existing personnel policies nationwide before creating the draft policies presented to the Board of Regents. The work group found few existing policies of this type, and several universities and statewide higher education systems around the country have expressed interest in learning more about how UW System institutions will approach this issue.

The personnel file draft policy that was presented to the Board of Regents also standardizes the content of personnel files, defines when and with whom personnel files are shared, and ensures appropriate documentation of sexual violence and sexual harassment in personnel files. The policy does not require inclusion of investigatory records in a personnel file.

UW–Madison requires every employee to complete training in “Preventing Sexual Violence and Harassment at UW–Madison” every three years. Incoming students also take part in mandatory online training within their first six weeks on campus. The training was put in place following the introduction of a comprehensive new Board or Regents sexual assault and harassment policy in 2016.