9.8 Complaint Resolution

This policy was last updated February 3, 2020. See the update history page for more information.

MIT is committed to providing a prompt, fair and impartial process, with informal and formal options, to address concerns of harassment, discrimination, or other inappropriate conduct prohibited by MIT policy. The goals of the complaint resolution process are to stop inappropriate conduct, to respond effectively to allegations of inappropriate conduct, and to restore a productive and welcoming working or learning environment.

9.8.1 Application of Policy 

The complaint resolution process described in Section 9.8 is available for any complaint by an MIT community member that an MIT faculty member, staff member, or postdoctoral scholar (fellow or associate) engaged in conduct that violates any of the following “Conduct Policies:”

Discrimination or Discriminatory Harassment 

  • Harassment when the alleged conduct is based on an individual’s protected class as defined in Section 9.2 (Section 9.4)
  • Nondiscrimination (Section 9.2)
  • Racist Conduct (Section 9.3)
  • Retaliation when the alleged conduct is based on an individual’s protected class as defined in Section 9.2 (Section 9.7)
  • Violence against Community Members (Section 9.6) based on an individual’s protected class

Other Inappropriate Conduct

  • Harassment not based on an individual’s protected class (Section 9.4)
  • Personal Conduct and Responsibilities Towards Students and Employees (Section 9.1)
  • Relations and Responsibilities Within the MIT Community (Section 9.0)
  • Retaliation not based on an individual’s protected class (Section 9.7)
  • Violence against Community Members (Section 9.6) not based on an individual’s protected class

While non-MIT community members may not file a Complaint, the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response office may file an Administrative Complaint (defined below) for allegations brought by a non-MIT community member that an MIT faculty member, staff member, or postdoctoral scholar violated one or more Conduct Policies.

This complaint resolution process is not for complaints against students. Complaints against students follow the procedures set forth in the Mind and Hand Book Section VI and the Committee on Discipline rules, unless a student is alleged to have violated one of MIT’s Conduct Policies while primarily acting in a capacity where they are paid by MIT for their services. Also, this process generally does not apply to complaints against affiliates or other unpaid members of the MIT community (other than complaints against postdoctoral fellows).

This process does not apply to complaints about academic decisions (such as grade appeals, thesis issues, or authorship issues), allegations of research or academic misconduct, and to any other allegations where other internal complaint handling procedures have been established by MIT. This policy also does not apply to reviews of conduct where a Complaint has not been filed, such as a review initiated by manager or supervisor.  

For any complaint made against an MIT faculty member, staff member, or postdoctoral scholar that does not allege violation of a Conduct Policy, MIT will determine the process for review of the complaint on a case-by-case basis. In any formal investigation, the steps in Section 9.8.4.2 are usually followed. 

More information on these procedures can be found on the Institute Discrimination & Harassment Response Office website.

9.8.2 Definitions

  • Complaint: A written statement filed online or with the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response office alleging a violation of one of the Conduct Policies.  A Complaint may be filed by any member of the MIT community.
  • Complainant: The faculty, student, staff, or other member of the MIT community who files a Complaint.
  • Administrative Complaint: A Complaint filed by the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response office where a concern is raised by a non-MIT community member or by an MIT community member who does not want to be a Complainant, and where, in the judgment of the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response office, the concern warrants investigation. 
  • Respondent: The MIT faculty member, staff member, or postdoctoral scholar who is alleged to have violated one of the Conduct Policies.
  • Faculty Panel:  A panel of three tenured faculty members who determine whether there is a violation of a Conduct Policy when the Respondent is a faculty member, a senior research scientist, senior research engineer, or senior research associate. The three faculty members serving on a particular Faculty Panel are selected by the Associate Provost.

9.8.3 Informal Options for Resolving Complaints

When appropriate and possible, faculty, supervisors, managers and other employees are encouraged to talk directly with one another about any concerns, with the goal of understanding perspectives and resolving differences. Supervisors are encouraged to address concerns informally, and as early as possible (see Section 7.3.1). Employees may also seek assistance from the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response office (IDHR), a human resources professional in their department, lab, or center or in the Human Resources office, or from an MIT Ombudsperson to informally resolve a concern.

In some cases, a more structured informal process may be selected by the Complainant and the Respondent. This may include facilitation of an agreement between the parties, individual or group educational or training programs, and coaching or counseling assistance. This type of informal resolution may be conducted with the assistance of the IDHR, a human resources professional in the department, lab or center, the Ombuds Office, or the Human Resources office. As part of this more structured process, there may be factual inquiries to assist in informally resolving the concern. Any resolution resulting from this process is documented by the IDHR (with the exception of resolutions resulting from work with the Ombuds Office, which does not generate records).

With all informal resolution options, no determination is made as to whether a Conduct Policy was violated.

At any time, either the Complainant or the Respondent may end any attempt at informal resolution of a Complaint, in which case the formal investigation process begins or resumes under Section 9.8.4. The IDHR office may also decide that a Complaint needs to be formally investigated even if both Complainant and the Respondent wish to resolve the matter informally.

See the IDHR website or HR website for more information.

9.8.4 Investigation of Complaints

9.8.4.1  Filing and Initial Assessment of a Complaint

Any member of the MIT community may file a Complaint online or with the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response Office (IDHR) to initiate an investigation of an alleged violation of a Conduct Policy.  

The Complainant is encouraged to file a Complaint as soon as possible after the offending conduct occurred. Although MIT does not impose a specific time limit for reviewing a Complaint, the Institute can respond more effectively to a Complaint that is filed while the underlying facts are recent. In its discretion, the IDHR may decide not to undertake an investigation due to the passage of time.   

When a Complaint is filed, the IDHR does an initial assessment of the Complaint to determine whether the behavior would violate a Conduct Policy, assuming for purposes of this analysis that the factual allegations contained in the Complaint are true. If the IDHR determines that:

  • The Complaint does not state a violation of a Conduct Policy, the IDHR closes the Complaint.
  • The Complaint states a violation of a Conduct Policy in the category of Discrimination or Discriminatory Harassment (see Section 9.8.1), the IDHR will begin an investigation of the Complaint or attempt informal resolution.
  • The Complaint states a violation of a Conduct Policy in the category of Other Inappropriate Conduct (see Section 9.8.1), the Complaint is referred to the Human Resources office to begin an investigation or attempt informal resolution.

The IDHR will inform the Complainant of its initial assessment decision. The IDHR’s initial assessment decision is final and cannot be appealed.

9.8.4.2 Investigation Process

The formal Investigation Process includes the following steps:

  • The Complainant and Respondent are notified in writing of the name of the investigator, the nature of the allegations, and a summary of the process that will be followed.  A copy of the written notification is also provided to the Respondent’s supervisor or manager.
  • The Complainant and Respondent meet separately with the investigator and provide any information they would like the investigator to consider.
  • The investigator may interview witnesses, collect other information, and consult with other individuals or offices, all as the investigator deems appropriate.
  • The Complainant and the Respondent have an opportunity to review a draft investigation report and provide comments to the investigator.
  • The investigator uses a preponderance of the evidence standard (“more likely than not”) in drafting the investigation report.   

Investigations are usually completed within 75 calendar days from the date the investigation begins. See IDHR website for more information.

9.8.4.3 Findings and Discipline – Faculty Members, Senior Research Scientists, Senior Research Engineers, and Senior Research Associates

If the Respondent is a faculty member, senior research scientist, senior research engineer, or senior research associate, the investigator investigates and prepares a report with findings of fact and a recommendation as to whether the Respondent violated any Conduct Policy. The report is provided to a Faculty Panel. The Faculty Panel may meet or consult with the investigator or others but generally does not meet with the Complainant or the Respondent. The Faculty Panel decides if the Respondent violated one or more of the Conduct Policies.

If the Faculty Panel decides that the Respondent violated a Conduct Policy, the Faculty Panel recommends to the appropriate Dean (or other Academic Council member for some senior research scientists, engineers, and associates) what action should be taken in light of the finding. Examples of discipline include, but are not limited to, a reprimand (oral or written), a suspension, a salary reduction, a demotion, a removal of privileges, or termination of employment or appointment. See Section 3.4.2 Faculty Misconduct or Performance Below Standards regarding discipline for tenured faculty.

The Dean reviews the recommendation from the Faculty Panel and determines what discipline will be imposed or other action taken. If the Dean disagrees with the Panel’s recommendation, the Dean must meet with the Faculty Panel to discuss. If the Dean continues to disagree with the Faculty Panel’s recommendation after that discussion, the Dean must inform the Provost in writing of the reason(s) for their disagreement on discipline. In such cases, the Provost will make the final decision on discipline and will inform the Dean and the Faculty Panel of the decision.  

The investigation report and the Faculty Panel’s determination regarding any policy violation are confidentially shared with the Complainant, the Respondent, and the Respondent’s supervisor or manager. If the Faculty Panel determines that the Respondent violated a Conduct Policy, the report and conclusions are also sent to the Respondent’s department/unit head and to the Dean of the unit in which the Respondent works.

The Respondent and the IDHR are provided written notice of any discipline. The Complainant is not generally provided with information about the discipline issued unless the discipline directly affects the Complainant, such as a “no contact” order. However, in cases of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking, the Complainant and Respondent receive simultaneous notification in writing of the result of the investigation (including discipline), procedures for appeal (if applicable), any change to the result, and when the results become final.

Decisions on discipline are final and cannot be appealed.

9.8.4.4 Findings and Discipline - Staff Members and Postdoctoral Scholars

If the Respondent is a staff member or postdoctoral scholar, the investigator investigates and prepares a report with findings of fact and a determination as to whether a Conduct Policy was violated. The report is confidentially shared with the Complainant, the Respondent, and the Respondent’s supervisor or manager. If the investigator determines that the Respondent violated a Conduct Policy, the report is also sent to the Respondent’s department/unit head and to the appropriate Dean or other Academic Council member of the unit in which the Respondent works.

The Dean or other Academic Council member will determine the appropriate action to take against the Respondent. This may include, but is not limited to, a reprimand (oral or written), suspension, a salary reduction, a demotion, a removal of privileges, or termination of employment or appointment.

The Respondent and the IDHR are provided written notice of any discipline. The Complainant is not generally provided with information about any discipline issued unless the discipline directly affects the Complainant, such as a “no contact” order. However, in cases of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking, the Complainant and Respondent both receive written notice of the result of the investigation (including the discipline), procedures for appeal (if applicable), any change to the result, and when the results become final.

Decisions on discipline are final and cannot be appealed.

9.8.4.5 Appeals

Either the Complainant or the Respondent may appeal a finding as to whether a policy violation occurred. Neither party may appeal a decision on discipline or other action taken. An appeal must be filed in writing with the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response office within 21 calendar days of the date of the written notice of the decision as to whether a policy violation occurred.  An appeal is limited to one or more of the following grounds:  

  • New significant information: There exists significant, substantive, and relevant information that was not available at the time of the decision.
  • Material procedural issue: There was a substantial departure from the procedures in Section 9.8 that significantly affected the outcome.
  • Material finding against the weight of evidence: A material finding that formed a basis for the decision by the investigator or Faculty Panel was substantially against the weight of the evidence.

Appeals are decided as follows:

  • The Provost decides appeals on cases in which the Respondent is a faculty member, senior research scientist/engineer/associate, principal research scientist/engineer/associate, research scientist/engineer/associate, or Academic Instructional staff. However, if the Provost made the decision on discipline due to disagreement between the Faculty Panel and the Dean, the President will decide the appeal.
  • The Vice President for Research or the Provost decides appeals on cases in which the Respondent is a postdoctoral scholar.
  • The Executive Vice President and Treasurer decides appeals on cases in which the Respondent is another category of employee.

Both the Complainant and the Respondent will be informed in writing of the decision on the appeal. The decision on an appeal is final. Generally, the decision on an appeal is made within 30 calendar days from the date the appeal was submitted.

9.8.5 Provisions Common to Section 9.8

The following provisions apply to all complaints or concerns raised under Section 9.8, whether using an informal resolution option or a formal investigation.

9.8.5.1 Interim Measures

The Institute will offer reasonable and appropriate measures if needed for the Complainant and Respondent to facilitate their continued employment or education during any informal resolution process and during an investigation. These measures may be remedial or protective, such as a no-contact order, change in work schedule or location, or placement of the Respondent on administrative leave during the Complaint review process.

9.8.5.2 False Accusations or Testimony

A false Complaint determined by the Institute to have been made in bad faith and any dishonesty in the context of an investigation or other review are serious offenses. Such offenses may be investigated and may lead to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment or other affiliation with MIT. False accusations, false testimony, or dishonesty by a student in the course of the complaint process will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.  

9.8.5.3 Confidentiality

All participants in the Complaint resolution process are expected to maintain confidentiality to protect the privacy of all involved, to the extent possible and as permitted by law. Participants should keep in mind the effect that allegations can have on reputations, even if the allegations are not sustained by the investigation.

In general, only those people with a need to know should be informed of a Complaint, although the Institute has the discretion to disclose information about a Complaint or investigation when it deems disclosure necessary or appropriate. In addition, in some cases, MIT may be obligated to notify federal agencies about certain violations of MIT’s policies on sexual harassment or discrimination.

9.8.5.4 Assistance During the Complaint Resolution Process

All parties involved in a dispute are encouraged to seek assistance from resources at the Institute such as their departmental human resources professional, their human resources officer, ombudspersons, or other departmental managers.

During an informal resolution process or during a formal investigation, both the Complainant and the Respondent may be accompanied by a member of the MIT community to any meeting about the Complaint. These individuals may not be family members, subordinates, or attorneys, although parties may, of course, consult with an attorney or other advisor on their own before or after any meeting at MIT. While the individual may provide support or advice, they may not speak on behalf of the party or otherwise participate in or in any manner disrupt any proceeding.  MIT reserves the right to remove any individual whose actions are disruptive to the process.  

In cases of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence or stalking, the parties may have an advisor who is an attorney or person outside the MIT community, as long as that person is not a witness or a party to the Complaint.

9.8.5.5 Pay Status for Time Spent in Complaint Resolution Process

Where complaint resolution occurs during an employee’s normal working hours, a reasonable amount of paid release time may be granted.

9.8.5.6 Departure of Complainant or Respondent from MIT

If either the Complainant or the Respondent leaves MIT after a Complaint is filed, MIT generally continues the investigation to the extent possible. If an individual sues or files a complaint with an external agency before MIT’s complaint resolution process is completed, MIT also generally continues an ongoing investigation. However, the provisions of this Section 9.8 may be modified by MIT to reflect the fact that one or more parties is no longer at the Institute.  

Notwithstanding the above, MIT may decide to terminate an investigation if one or both of the parties have left MIT, or if a lawsuit or agency complaint has been filed.

9.8.5.7 Legal Information

These procedures serve as the complaint and grievance procedure for employees (including student employees) as required by all relevant state and federal laws, specifically including concerns about race, sex, gender, disability, color, nationality, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, and veteran's status (including Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title IX of the Federal Education Amendments of 1972), and all other forms of proscribed discrimination. Questions on this subject may be addressed to the Ombuds Office, the Vice President for Human Resources as the Institute’s Equal Opportunity Officer, or the Title IX Coordinator.

Individuals may also file complaints of violations of law with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), John F. Kennedy Federal Building, 475 Government Center, Boston, MA 02203, (800) 669-4000; and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ("MCAD"), One Ashburton Place, Rm. 601, Boston, MA 02108, (617) 994-6000.  For both the EEOC and the MCAD, the time period for filing a complaint is 300 days from the date of the last alleged discriminatory event.