Harriet is a program coordinator and has just completed her performance appraisal discussion with Ozzie, her supervisor. From Harriet’s perspective, she has been a model employee, and she feels Ozzie has been overly critical. She is fuming mad that Ozzie rated her performance a 2 on a scale of 1 to 5, and she believes he plays favorites with other program coordinators in the office. She wants to raise this as an issue of his management, but she is not sure where to take it.
What office is best able to address Harriet’s performance appraisal issue?
- Compliance Office
- Human Resources
- UAB Ethics Hotline
B. Raising good faith concerns about organizational practices is a service to UAB, but it is important to know which office to contact to best handle a review and give advice. A matter like a poor performance appraisal – absent any legal concerns, like discrimination or sexual harassment – is a matter best addressed by the Human Resources department. HR staffers are trained to resolve conflict between supervisors and employees and can provide objective advice. In fact, if Harriet were to bring her complaint to the compliance office or the UAB Ethics Hotline, Human Resources would be brought into the review for subject-matter expertise to work with the department to resolve the problem, so it would be most efficient to raise the concern with that office in the first place. Additionally, an anonymous report to the hotline would likely not provide sufficient information for a thorough review to be conducted.
Case #2: Bring suspected violations to the attention of the appropriate office.
Darryl is a financial officer for a large department that administers several very large federally-funded clinical trial grants. One night at home, Darryl hears a knock at his front door. He opens the door to find two law enforcement officers standing on his porch. When he asks if he can help them, they ask him if they can come in to talk to him about some of the work the department chair is doing on a particular grant. Darryl is caught off-guard, and though he wants to be cooperative, he is unsure what questions they might ask for which he might provide answers.
What are Darryl’s options as it relates to participation in this interview?
- To agree to the interview and answer any and all questions to the best of his knowledge.
- To ask to schedule a time for the interview during regular business hours.
- To decline the interview altogether.
- To ask to have legal representation.
- To notify and seek guidance from senior leadership and University Compliance Office or UAB legal counsel.
- Any of the above.
F. As awkward as it may seem, it is possible that law enforcement may try to gather information about UAB activities from UAB employees outside of work hours or at home. Even if law enforcement officers suggest that their visit should remain confidential, they may not prohibit Darryl from informing UAB. Darryl should report the visit to his immediate supervisor or senior leadership at the first opportunity. Not only will this serve to alert UAB to law enforcement’s investigation or interest, but it will also serve to organize any resources that Darryl may want or need to complete the interview, including to have a compliance officer or UAB legal counsel participate. Darryl is perfectly within his rights to decline an interview in his home, at night, or without legal representation. On the other hand, it is also perfectly acceptable for him to take the interview at that time and answer any questions they may have to the best of his knowledge. The choice is up to Darryl based on his comfort level. UAB will prohibit retaliation against him for his participation in an interview.
Case #3: Bring compliance concerns to the attention of the appropriate office.
Tabitha is concerned that her department’s petty cash handling process is not properly accounting for the funds. Several people have access to the lockbox, and the book that tracks receipts and payments is not always current or complete. Tabitha suspects that one or more of her co-workers may be stealing, but with the way that the petty cash is maintained, it would be difficult to figure out whom. She recognizes this is a risk and wants to see it addressed.
How should Tabitha raise her concerns?
- Talk to her supervisor.
- Talk to the individual to whom her supervisor reports.
- Talk to a compliance officer.
- Place a call to the UAB Ethics Matters Hotline.
- Any of the above, and preferably if circumstances allow, in this order.
E. Under the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct, each of us is accountable for raising compliance concerns to the attention of the appropriate office or another individual who is in a position to resolve them. In this case, Tabitha correctly recognizes that a risk exists that potentially could result in a violation of law, regulation, or policy and understands her responsibility to bring the issue forward and help to work to address it. Any of the choices above may be the correct avenue for doing so. It is up to Tabitha to use her best judgment given the specific circumstances she faces. Tabitha would be encouraged to start with her supervisor, but if she is not comfortable with that path for some reason, she may choose another option, like talking with her supervisor’s supervisor, a compliance officer, or the UAB Ethics Matters Hotline.