Staff Complaint Process

If a staff employee is unable to resolve employment-related concerns after consultation with his/her manager and/or HR Partner, s/he may escalate the complaint under the Staff Complaint Process described in this policy. The Staff Complaint Process is not available to faculty, postdoctoral fellows, those claiming student status (including teaching and research assistants), employees of temporary agencies, and staff employees who are subject to collective bargaining agreements (unless the collective bargaining agreement so provides).

This process excludes the following types of complaints that must be addressed through other established processes:

Sexual harassment

Discrimination or harassment (based on any protected category, or retaliation for complaints related to these categories)

Workplace violence – for immediate threats, contact DPS at (213) 740-4321, or 911 for situations occurring in off-campus facilities; non-immediate concerns, contact Equity and Diversity at (213) 740-5086 or (323) 442-2020

Legal and regulatory compliance – submit a report at the Report & Response website or by calling 213-740-2500.

Misappropriation of university assets or accounting/auditing complaints – contact Audit Services at (213) 740-8258

Filing and Response Timelines

If a staff employee does not file a complaint or proceed with the process in accordance with the time limits detailed in this Staff Complaint Process, the employee will waive his/her right to proceed with the complaint under these guidelines. If an HR Partner, manager, administrator or delegate does not respond in accordance with the time limits set forth in this policy, the complainant may proceed to the next step. Time limits set forth are in calendar days and exclude recognized university holidays and winter recess.

Terminated staff employees must submit their complaint within 90 calendar days of the action on which the complaint is based.

Advice and Assistance

Because this is an internal process, legal counsel is not allowed to represent staff employees in any proceedings under this policy. Employees wishing to be represented by legal counsel should advise their attorney to contact the university’s Office of the General Counsel.

However, during any interviews associated with this process, the complainant or respondent may be accompanied by a non-attorney support person from the university community (faculty or staff member). The support person cannot be a family member, a potential witness in the matter, or another complainant or respondent in the same or a related matter. The support person does not serve as an advocate on behalf of the complainant or respondent, and he or she must agree to maintain the confidentiality of the investigative process. Witnesses and others involved in an investigation are not entitled to have a support person accompany them to interviews.

Informal Face-to-Face Discussion

When a staff employee has concerns regarding an employment matter, before undertaking the Staff Complaint Process, a complainant should discuss the problem face-to-face with his/her manager (or that manager’s manager) and/or the school/division HR Partner. If talking with the manager and/or HR Partner does not resolve the matter, the complainant may seek resolution by following the steps outlined in this Staff Complaint Process.


Although the university cannot guarantee a complaint will be kept confidential because of the need to investigate the complaint, the university will use its best efforts not to disseminate information concerning the complaint beyond those who have a need to know.

No Retaliation

USC will not retaliate against anyone who participates in this Staff Complaint Process, and does not tolerate or permit retaliation. A staff employee who does so may be subject to disciplinary action, which may include termination.

At-Will Employment Status

Nothing in this Staff Complaint Process will be interpreted as altering in any way the at-will employment status of staff employees.

Formal Process

STEP ONE – Resolution by HR Partner

If the complainant is unable to resolve his/her concerns via informal discussions, s/he must describe the complaint in writing and submit the formal complaint to the school/division HR Partner within 21 calendar days of the occurrence that led to the complaint. The HR Partner must investigate the concerns raised by the complaint and respond in writing to the complainant within 21 calendar days of receipt of the written complaint. If an HR Partner is unavailable, otherwise unable to investigate the matter, or is the subject of the dispute, the complainant must address the formal complaint to the HR Service Center Manager who will assign an appropriate HR Business Partner to handle Step One of the process.

STEP TWO – Resolution by Senior Administrator

If the complaint is not resolved in Step One, the complainant may take the written complaint to the senior administrator of the school/division (this administrator is identified in an employee’s record as the Dean/VP support role in Workday). This action must occur within 14 calendar  days of the time the HR Partner in Step One responded or from the expiration of time for that HR Partner to respond, whichever occurs first. The senior administrator, or a person designated by the senior administrator, must arrange to meet with the complainant to discuss the concerns within 14 calendar days. The senior administrator (or delegate) must render a written decision within 14 calendar days of the date of the meeting with the complainant. If the senior administrator is the subject of the dispute, the complainant must address the formal complaint to the university’s Associate Senior Vice President for Human Resources.

STEP THREE – Resolution by Associate Senior Vice President for Human Resources

If the complaint is not resolved in Step Two, the complainant may petition the university’s Associate Senior Vice President for Human Resources to consider the case by submitting a written appeal within 14 calendar days of the time the senior administrator in Step Two responded or from the expiration of time for that senior administrator to respond, whichever occurs first. The Associate Senior Vice President for Human Resources or his/her delegate will investigate the matter and respond within 21 calendar days. The decision will be final.

Other Remedies

A staff employee who is unable to obtain satisfactory resolution of his/her claims through the Staff Complaint Process may pursue the claims through arbitration, as provided in the Agreement to Arbitrate Claims. However, using the Staff Complaint Process is not a prerequisite to arbitration under the Agreement to Arbitrate Claims, nor does it affect any applicable statute of limitations for legal claims.

Responsible Office

Associate Senior Vice President, Human Resources
(213) 821-8100

Issued by

Todd R. Dickey, Senior Vice President, Administration
University of Southern California