- The Civil Program receives a wide variety of cases. To properly gather facts in an objective and thorough manner, effective administrative inquiries can take several weeks. Many factors can contribute to the time it takes to complete an inquiry, including obtaining statements from and/or scheduling interviews with multiple staff members, analyzing all the information provided, and coordinating with appropriate management officials and other stakeholders as appropriate on the next steps.
- For more specific examples of the process, please review the Case Studies and guidance on potential Corrective Actions.
- For a variety of reasons, this process can be frustrating for some. However, please keep in mind that your communication with others, including Civil Program staff, before and during the inquiry will be considered in the findings.
- Anonymity is different than confidentiality, which indicates that one says is private or secret. To discuss matters with an office that operates under principles of confidentiality, please contact the Employee Assistance Program or the NIH Office of the Ombudsman.
- For data since the implementation of the policy in the late 2018, please review Civil Case Data.
What To Expect: The Civil Process
Any federal employee, non-federal worker, or contractor who believes they have experienced harassment or inappropriate conduct may report such behavior to any manager, Civil, the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and/or the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE), Office of Intramural Research (OIR). In addition, contractors are encouraged to report such behavior to their employing organization and/or the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) and are encouraged to follow any reporting requirements set forth by their organization. All managers, supervisors, CORs, staff from EDI, and OITE/OIR have an obligation to report alleged harassment to the Civil in a timely manner.
The incident may be reported either anonymously or non-anonymously. Civil staff members will contact the reporting party to discuss the facts surrounding the incident. If the reporting party chooses to remain anonymous, Civil will review the allegation to the greatest extent possible given the information available.
INITIAL REVIEWCivil will review the initial documentation and, if it is determined the matter would be more appropriately handled by another NIH resource, it will be referred to the most appropriate partner office(s). Civil will notify the reporting party of any referrals and provide them with a referral information as well. Those resources include, but are not limited to:
- Division of Police (if there is an immediate safety concern, call 911)
- Employee and Labor Relations
- Employee Assistance Program
- Institute/Center/Office (ICO) Leadership
- Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
- Office of Intramural Training and Education
- Office of Management Assessment
- Office of the Ombudsman
- Office of Research Integrity
- Office of Security and Emergency Response
NIH leadership designated Civil as the entity charged with overseeing the appropriate administrative review or inquiry in an objective and consistent manner across all of NIH. The goal is to stop any inappropriate or harassing behaviors immediately and to ensure that appropriate corrective action is taken in a timely manner. This is separate and distinct from the EEO complaint process. For more information about the differences between this process and the EEO complaint process, please review Manual Chapter 1311, Section. E. Procedures.
The type of administrative review can take on a variety of characteristics depending on the nature and complexity of the allegations. Civil has the discretion to determine the type of review that may be required to ensure a thorough, objective examination of the allegation to determine if inappropriate conduct has occurred.
- Internal administrative inquiries: Conducted by Civil staff
- External administrative inquiries: Conducted by a contract investigator if the situation is confounding or has a large, complex scope or potential impact. Civil will notify the ICO Executive Officer or the most appropriate management official that the inquiry will be conducted by a third party and obtain approval for funding.
Many factors contribute to the time it takes to complete an inquiry, including obtaining statements from multiple staff members, scheduling interviews with multiple staff members, analyzing all the information collected, and coordinating with the appropriate management officials and stakeholders on next steps.
The process can be uncomfortable and participants are encouraged to ensure they understand the process and their roles and responsibilities outlined in Manual Chapter 1311, and utilize NIH resources outlined in Section H. as needed.
Communication with others, including Civil staff, throughout this process will be considered in the findings and maintained as part of the case file.
Evidence collected during the inquiry is evaluated to determine to determine if a preponderance of evidence (evidence which shows that the fact to be proven is more probable than not) supports that a violation of Manual Chapter 1311 has occurred. If a violation has been found, Civil Specialists will work with the appropriate management officials and the Employee & Labor Relations Office to develop corrective administrative actions. When a government contractor is involved, the preceding steps will include the COR and the contracting company as appropriate. If the situation involves only contractors, then the contracting company may take the lead on the inquiry but must provide findings and subsequent action to the COR, who will then provide the information to Civil.
Civil will notify the reporting party of the status of the administrative inquiry and when it has been referred to the appropriate management officials. However, because Civil is responsible for protecting the privacy of all participants in the process, no further information can be provided.
The purpose of the Civil process is to ensure that any alleged policy violations are reviewed in an objective and fair manner and, if necessary, addressed appropriately. The goal is to ensure that the inappropriate behavior and/or harassment stops and is addressed through corrective action. The resolution that reporting parties should be looking for is improvement in the work environment and an end to uncivil or harassing behaviors, not public disclosure of corrective actions taken against a respondent.
Should an ICO not cooperate throughout this process, or not implement the corrective administrative action in whole or in part, Civil will notify the NIH Principal Deputy Director, who will request a meeting with the ICO Director and Executive Officer so they may explain their ICO’s lack of coordination and/or their rationale for not implementing the corrective administrative action in full.