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Being Heard: Conciliation Agreements

Remember how I said in the other post that the sky is the limit, when it comes to remedies? As it so happens, there is a specific term that is used when referring to these remedies. This is called a "Conciliation Agreement", and you can basically think of it as your terms of unconditional surrender to your offending institution. When you get to this point, the school is so desperate to right their wrongs, that you may be able to get them blindly agree to many things that they would otherwise not consider in the earlier stages of your reporting.


Generally, when it does get to this point, the federal agency will give the offending institution an opportunity to resolve the incident internally. If your institution does take the federal agency up on their offer, you want to make sure that you have two things in place before discussing further with them, the first being the conciliation agreement that we will discuss today, and the second being mediation services. Most likely, your institution will request a one-on-one meeting with you, if they try to resolve internally. While superficially, this may look like they're trying to be open minded and reasonable with you, do not be deceived! A well-trained human resources professional is experienced in making sure you as the employee get the short end of the stick. That is why you will want to plan and prepare for this meeting in advance.


So, how do we formulate a conciliation agreement? What can we and can't we ask for? We will discuss all of this in today's post.


First, let's start with the format --- what should this type of agreement look like? Don't try to overcomplicate this; a simple bulleted list will work just fine. You can add each term and condition as a separate bullet point, and make any additional annotations for each term as sub-bullets. You may want to use a numbered or lettered list instead though, so that it is easy to determine how many terms you have to the reader.


Again, if you get to this point, I encourage you not to be modest. Anything and everything you can think of is fair game here. We will generate a list of possible examples you can include here, but of course, if you can think of other things, that is even nicer.


Also keep in mind that your institution can either accept some terms, or reject all of them. If you are willing to compromise and remain openminded, you may consider the partial rejection of your terms and conditions, especially if you want an expedient resolution to your complaint. Otherwise, if you really feel like you're being shortchanged, I would encourage you to reach out to the federal agency that has jurisdiction over your case, and inform them you would like to end all negotiations, and have them proceed with the investigation.


Now that we have gotten all of that out of the way, what are some things that we can include in a conciliation agreement? The following are some ideas.


  1. Publicly acknowledge to all students, staff and faculty that the institution has wronged an individual or a protected group of individuals at the institution.

  2. Publicly apologize for your actions. a. Conduct a press release and distribute to all local and national news outlets. b. Release the apology on all school-associated social media accounts.

  3. Inform all staff, employees and students that discrimination is against the law.

  4. Mandate training that sufficiently covers employee civil rights, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Civil Rights Act throughout the institution, for all students, staff, faculty, and volunteers.

  5. Approve all reasonable accommodation requests that I originally asked for.

  6. Implement a professionally developed disability awareness training program, mandating its attendance by all employees and volunteers. a. Training must include sensibility/etiquette modules for various mental health and physical health related disabilities, including, but not limited to depression, autism, ADHD, and generalized anxiety disorder.

  7. Complete review of all job descriptions, including the Graduate Research Assistant position, to ensure accuracy and non-discriminatory knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) a. Specifically, all work-exempt and non-exempt statuses should be properly indicated, as applicable. For any mislabeled work non-exempt positions, backpay equal to the amount of overtime per employee should be given to each affected employee.

  8. Remove all discriminatory barriers in place that are preventing me from successfully completing my graduate program: a. Relocate me to a different lab. b. Ensure that discriminatory behavior is discouraged by the new mentor, and dealt with accordingly.

  9. A flexible schedule that will accommodate all of my medical appointments, whether scheduled or unscheduled.

  10. A reasonable schedule not to exceed 40 working hours per week.

  11. Uninterrupted "off" work time.

  12. Purchase monitor mirrors for me.

  13. Purchase an air filtration system for me.

  14. Provide Environmental Health and Safety Training that is in compliance with OSHA and NIH standards.

  15. Enforce a "no retaliation" policy a. Discipline accordingly any employees that are not in compliance with this policy, leading up to, and including termination.

  16. Remove all requirements for me to comply with copyright, intellectual property, non-disclosure agreements, and non-compete agreements for all intellectual properties and job opportunities past, present and future.

  17. Complete discharge of the federal student loans I have accrued while pursuing my graduate education.

This should be enough to get you started. Keep in mind when requesting discharge for student loans, the government can only discharge federal student loans. However, if you have any personal loans, you may also try to see if the school can discharge those as well for you.


Also, don't let this list limit you. If you have any other ideas, throw them out there. Now is the time to negotiate. Have fun with this. This is your moment!


Good luck!


P.S.

To anyone who is following me so far, I would like to apologize in advance, as I will not be able to post any updates until Sunday at the earliest. We will be taking some time off as a family to enjoy some time together.

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