Policy: Risk Management
Risk management is the means by which Trinity seeks to reduce liabilities by increasing employee attentiveness to compliance with policies and procedures, as well as the exercise of a reasonable duty of care while employed with Trinity. The term “Employee” as used in this statement includes all faculty and staff, both full-time and part-time, as well as the employees of vendors who work on Trinity’s premises.
The president of Trinity is the chief compliance officer as required in the By-laws of Trinity. The president shares this responsibility, according to their respective areas of supervisory oversight, with chief financial officer, the provost, Trinity’s general counsel and all members of the Senior Executive Staff.
Compliance with risk management principles is not optional or voluntary. Employment status (full-time or part-time, faculty, staff or contract personnel) does not create any exemption or variance, except to the extent that an employee may have a greater degree of responsibility depending upon the position and the degree to which he or she exercises oversight of other personnel, students or events, or money.
Trinity carries liability insurance that will protect Trinity employees (vendor employees are protected through the vendor insurance unless otherwise stated in the contract with Trinity) and Trinity if Trinity can demonstrate that (a) Trinity promulgated and followed stated policies carefully, and (b) Trinity and its employees exercised reasonable care and due diligence in the discharge of duties. Ignoring the policies, acting negligently, or deliberately acting outside of the norms of the institution not only puts Trinity at risk, but the employee as well. Trinity will provide legal defense and indemnification only if employees follow Trinity’s policies and directions. Employees can and will be personally liable for their own defense costs and legal damages if they ignore Trinity’s policies and directions. Such failure may also incur disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
Vendors provide their own legal protection for their employees working onsite at Trinity. All vendor contracts include the provision that the employees will comply with Trinity’s policies and direction while working onsite.
1. Compliance with All Trinity Policies
Employees of Trinity and Trinity’s vendors are responsible to know and comply with all Trinity policies. Almost all policy statements, handbooks and related guides are published on Trinity’s website at www.trinitydc.edu
Policies sometimes arise from the verbal directions of senior managers. Policies also exist in the longstanding practices of the institution that are not necessarily always written, but that form the ‘common law’ of Trinity. Trinity captures most policies in writing and posts them on the website, but the absence of a written document does not mean that a policy arising from practice, or given orally, is invalid.
Trinity expects employees to follow and respect the policies, and to apply them fairly and accurately in all situations. Where a set of facts requires interpretation of a policy, an employee must seek guidance from a supervisor. If the issue involves legal, regulatory, compliance, contract, insurance, risk management or other such issues, the employee and supervisor also have a very serious obligation to bring the matter to the attention of the President or Executive Vice President.
Trinity’s website includes a specific policy statement on “Contracts, Regulations and Legal Authority.” Employees should review this policy, and supervisors must review it with all new personnel.
2. Creating New Policy Statements
From time to time employees need to create new policy statements as part of the effective discharge of their duties. This may include administrative or academic policy statements. Because all policies have legal implications, proposed new policy statements must go through a review process. Managers are responsible to bring proposed or revised policy statements forward to their respective vice presidents who, in turn should review the policies, refer the documents to the general counsel for legal review, and at the same time notify the president of the proposed policy issuance or revision. All policies are issued on the authority of the president and the president reserves the right to send a proposed policy statement or revision back for further review, or to request new policy development.
The Framework for Academic Governance spells out the most likely processes for most academic policies. When new academic policies have progressed through the various steps toward adoption, the provost and the respective deans are responsible to bring those proposed policies to the attention of the president for any additional review that may be necessary. If academic policies affect Trinity’s financial policies, including financial aid and student billings, the chief financial officer must also review the policy statements.
From time to time, Trinity finds it necessary to make exceptions to policies for good cause. As a general protocol, if an employee believes that an exception to a policy is warranted, that employee should discuss the need for an exception with the supervisor, who should bring the case forward to the responsible member of the Senior Executive Staff. Exceptions should be rare, and final decisions should be documented in writing.
Please note that exceptions to policies do not create precedents. Exceptions occur because of unique facts and circumstances that are unlikely to recur for others. If it appears that an exceptional circumstance is likely to recur many times, then the policy needs revision.
3. Personal Conduct
All personnel are responsible to act truthfully and ethically. The Employee Handbook and the Faculty Handbook both have sections concerning professional norms. Conduct that violates Trinity’s expectations for truthfulness and integrity (for example, plagiarism, lying on a resume, misrepresenting credentials, falsification of timesheets or leave sheets, fraudulent expense requests) will incur personnel action up to and including termination.
No employee of Trinity may accept a gift or other favor of value from a contractor or vendor. Trinity also has clear conflict-of-interest policies for all personnel.
Employees are responsible to know and abide by the Policy on Harassment. Trinity strictly prohibits any other form of harassment — racial, religious, or any other demeaning behavior toward another person. Off-color jokes, ethnically offensive language, suggestive photographs or posters, and similar offensive conduct have no place in Trinity’s work environment, and supervisors must intervene to address the situation according to Trinity’s stated policies. An employee will incur discipline up through and including termination if he or she engages in conduct that Trinity considers threatening to other personnel or students, even if the conduct occurs off-campus (for example, arrests for drugs, weapons or violent crimes, theft and fraud, or crimes involving pornography or any form of abuse of others).
All personnel must refrain from needlessly dangerous conduct, or find the most prudent way to conduct an activity safely. For example, a scientific demonstration might involve certain risks which can be mitigated depending upon how the experiment is conducted; safety glasses and other protective gear must be worn in laboratories. Grounds personnel should wear protective glasses and gloves when handling chainsaws or other dangerous equipment. Athletic coaches should not force outside training sessions on oppressively hot days, and the trainer must not allow an injured athlete to keep playing. Personnel who work with chemicals, cleaning solvents, electrical and mechanical systems, tools and machines, and other hazardous materials must use all reasonable caution, have appropriate training in the use and storage of the materials, and report defects immediately. These are just a few examples of the myriad activities that create the danger of injury to students and employees. Supervisors are responsible for continuous review of safety practices in all work and campus activities.
While it may also seem to go without saying, Trinity absolutely prohibits weapons of any kind on the premises — not in a car, in a glove compartment, in a car trunk, in a gym bag, in an office drawer, or in any other place. The only exception is for law enforcement and military personnel who must carry weapons by law. No other persons may have weapons on campus.
Employees should report unethical, fraudulent or illegal conduct to appropriate authorities. The Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct and Communications addresses the reporting process.
4. Human Resources and Personnel Practices
The Director of Human Resources is responsible for all staff personnel issues, and the Provost and President direct all faculty personnel matters. The Handbooks for employees and faculty include the most pertinent Human Resources policies and procedures. Following are key risk management issues in Human Resources:
Hiring Practices: NO hiring or contracts for payments to personnel may occur outside of the established procedures and directions. Trinity has well established hiring policies and procedures that all staff must follow. Please note that Trinity does not hire relatives of current personnel.
Part-Time and Temporary Personnel: Part-time temporary employees, including adjunct faculty, athletic coaches and personnel with similar assignments work on contracts that specify the time period for the engagement, the duties expected, and the compensation. Part-time temporary employees do not have a continuing contractual relationship outside of the contract period, and they may not conduct business in Trinity’s name or represent Trinity for any purpose outside of the contract period. During the contract period, the work of part-time personnel is limited to the specific duties for which they have been hired, and part-time faculty and staff may not undertake other work on Trinity’s behalf without specific written approval.
Volunteer Personnel: Employees may not retain “volunteer” assistants without the approval of the HR director. Even if someone is generously volunteering their time to help out with a program, a class, a sporting event or some other activity, their engagement means that they are working for Trinity and Trinity has liability for their safety and their actions. Accordingly, Trinity has an obligation to know who is working for Trinity, even in a volunteer capacity.
DEALS: Just say NO. Trinity does not make sidebar ‘deals’ including special payments, stipends, time off, office arrangements, furniture swaps or swipes, or other terms of work or perquisites that are negotiated outside of the boundaries of Trinity’s normal personnel rules. If a colleague needs a special arrangement, the Director of Human Resources will review the situation and determine the best course of action. The various handbooks address work hours and leave time, and no arrangements may be made outside of the provisions of the handbooks.
Personal Employment: Employees may not employ Trinity personnel or students to do personal chores such as typing, tax work, babysitting or housekeeping. Such arrangements are inconsistent with good risk management practices that seek to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, unfair treatment, or coercion of any kind. Such arrangements may also violate Trinity’s Harassment Policy.
Medical Leave: An employee who needs to take extended medical leave should consult with the Director of Human Resources to work through the details of compliance with Trinity’s medical leave policy and FMLA. Faculty and Staff who need medical leave, including parenting leave, must consult directly with the Director of Human Resources about the policies and procedures for medical leave, and she will consult with the appropriate member of the senior staff to finalize the leave plan. Other employees do not have authority to determine the appropriate leave schedule.
Reference Calls: The Director of Human Resources handles reference calls, including references for personnel currently working at Trinity and personnel who are former employees. If you receive a call or message to provide a reference for a current or former colleague, please refer the call to the Director of Human Resources. [Employees sometimes wonder why this particular rule is necessary. References have become an increasingly difficult legal area with considerable liability for employers and those who give the references. Some reference calls are a test of the institution's compliance with various laws and agreements. Some reference calls are recorded or transcripted without the speaker's knowledge. Even positive comments could still incur liability for discussing matters about which the speaker does not have accurate information or authority to comment: protected information that could violate existing agreements and privacy expectations, or false information where the speaker is not privy to all of the facts.]
Personnel Actions: When a supervisor finds it necessary to document an employee’s conduct, or to take a specific personnel action, the supervisor must consult with the Director of Human Resources, and supervisors must follow her directions about documentation. Supervisors who create documentation without adequate legal review expose Trinity to great risk, and can incur disciplinary action themselves.
Privacy: Privacy and confidentiality are large issues for both students and staff. The HIPPA law requires absolute confidentiality about medical matters involving personnel, students and all others. All employees are reminded that even casual expressions of concern for a colleague’s medical condition can be a violation of HIPPA. Similarly, FERPA (see more below) protects the privacy of student information. Personnel are expected to act with a large sense of respect for and adherence to the privacy of others in all matters.
Parties and Entertainment: From time to time, employees will want to celebrate colleagues and group achievements — birthdays, reaching goals, etc. Small office parties are, of course, part of the joy of work. Such events should be modest in terms of cost and the burden placed on individual staff members. Except for occasional institutional gifts approved by the president, Trinity does not buy presents for staff members from Trinity funds. Also, Trinity does not permit alcohol at office parties on campus, nor may office parties occur at bars. Colleagues who choose to gather at a bar, club or home do so as private individuals. Supervisors must exercise great care to ensure that an invitation to an off-campus social function does not put pressure on a colleague to participate. If an office group needs to conduct an off-campus event as part of work expectations — a luncheon, dinner, a working retreat — then that event should have the prior approval of the President.
5. Student Privacy and Risk Management
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, also known as the Buckley Amendment) generally protects student privacy in their academic and disciplinary records. Trinity has a large responsibility to protect student information from improper disclosure.
However, sometimes FERPA is improperly cited to keep information away from professional staff who have a need to know. FERPA permits access to student information among professionals at Trinity who have a legitimate reason to access the data. All professionals who have access to student data should treat it with great care. Do not leave printouts with student names and records, and other print materials that are identifiable to students, in public view. Shield computer screens when working on student data. Conversations with students about their grades, bills, financial aid, personal problems or other individual matters should occur in private, not in the cafeteria line or other public spaces where others might overhear the conversation.
Faculty and staff must alert the Dean of Student Services whenever a student manifests a potential to harm herself or others. No employee can agree to keep information “in confidence” when that information indicates a potential threat. Courts are increasingly clear: colleges and employees are being held liable for substantial damages in cases in which students manifested suicidal or threatening behavior toward others and the institutions did nothing to intervene. Confidentiality rules do not mean that an employee can keep such information from the professional personnel who need to take action to protect the student and others.
Trinity’s policies for handling financial matters — PO’s, check requests, travel advances and reconciliation of advances, credit cards, etc. — are available on the website. From time to time, the CFO issues updates of these policies. Breaching the established policy will result in personal liability for the employee.
No employee may engage in personal financial transactions with students or other personnel in the discharge of your duties with Trinity. What does this mean? Here are some examples:
- Faculty may not charge students directly for course materials. If a faculty member needs to use certain materials that cause the faculty member out-of-pocket expenses, the faculty member should discuss this with the dean and provision will be made to reimburse the faculty member and, if necessary, to charge the students additional fees. This discussion should occur BEFORE the faculty member engages the expense.
- Athletic coaches may NOT purchase equipment and clothing for the athletes and then ask the athletes to write checks to the coach. This practice is specifically prohibited. If a coach determines that certain items of equipment or clothing are desirable, the coach may discuss that with the supervisor of athletics, who will consult with the Dean of Students on how to handle the expense.
Employees may not solicit or receive charitable gifts, including gifts-in-kind, without the prior approval of the vice president for institutional advancement.
7. Technology and Systems
All personnel should know and follow Trinity’s Technology Policy, including the “acceptable use” standards. Computers, the email system, phones and voicemail are all Trinity property, and may only be used for Trinity business.
Employees may not install personal software on their Trinity computers without the specific approval of the Director of Technology Services.
Email is not private. Email is also discoverable in legal proceedings, and as necessary, Trinity must produce employee email records in discovery. For this reason, employees should take great care to limit sensitive email communications about students and personnel. In the past, Trinity has had had some unfortunate cases in which staff (a) made derogatory comments about students and other staff members in email that subsequently came to light in various cases, (b) made erroneous judgmental statements about complying with various regulations that complainants used to their advantage. While some sensitive communications may be necessary on email, please keep them brief, factual and do not characterize other people.
Trinity reserves the right to review email and to block access to email accounts for any employee who violates the Technology Policy.
Similarly, Trinity’s website and web server are for official business only. Trinity will not permit links to personal web pages from Trinity’s official website.
Audio/visual equipment is Trinity’s property. No personnel may adapt, fix, replace or take off-campus any projector, screen, computer, or other item of equipment without authorization.
8. Travel and Field Experiences
Trinity’s policies for the conduct of all travel and field experiences are posted on the website. Key points include:
NO employee may drive students on trips. All student trips must be with professional drivers in buses. Trinity no longer uses 15-passenger vans for student transportation of any kind.
ALL field experiences must be vetted for student safety and the appropriateness of placement. Certainly, some locations even in the city involve some risk — the issue is not a total avoidance of risk, but a reasonable assessment of the risks and a management plan to protect the student (and Trinity personnel) from foreseeable harm. For example, a placement at a community service site where the clients have special needs would require the supervisor to assess the ability of the students to work with those needs. A student teaching placement in a school in a rough neighborhood requires analysis of the risks in the neighborhood and a plan to manage those risks prudently.
For study abroad, Trinity will review the study plan, the location and the risks associated with the location, and Trinity reserves the right to refuse to approve a study abroad plan that is not properly prepared, or where the travel is to a place that Trinity judges the risk to be unacceptable.
9. Working with Children
Trinity’s policy on children is on the website. Given increased legal and regulatory scrutiny in areas involving children, Trinity is increasing its oversight of all programs involving children. Personnel who work with children are now required to have criminal background checks, including giving fingerprints, and to comply with new directions for program planning and safety.
10. Grants and Contracts
Some personnel work on grants and contracts — privately funded, federally funded, locally funded. Whatever the source of the funding, the conduct of personnel working on grant-funded projects must adhere to all Trinity policies . Additionally, those personnel involved with grant-funded projects may have additional compliance and reporting responsibilities beyond existing policies.
Please note that working on a federal or local grant does NOT mean that personnel may abrogate Trinity’s pay scales, P.O. rules, travel and safety policies, or other policies. Working on a grant increases rather than decreases your risk management responsibilities.
Along with increased responsibility, working on a grant also carries responsibility for accurate and timely reporting of expenses, justification and reporting of activities according to the grant terms, compliance with the funder’s expectations about assessment and program reports.
The CFO supervises compliance with all grants, and all personnel working on grants must comply with her directions.
11. Events Planning and Management
Trinity has specific procedures and protocols for planning and managing events. Employees should know those procedures and follow the protocols, including timely notice to the Conference Office and other relevant parties, formal scheduling of space, participation in the weekly facilities meeting when your event is on the docket, obtaining PO’s for food, rentals, security and other costs associated with the event. Supervising managers should be present for the event and ensure that all affected personnel — security, facilities, food service — are ready for the program.
Updates to this policy guidance occur from time to time. Supervisors should plan to review this memo and the underlying policies at least once a semester with all staff in each department.