Nepotism and Personal Relationships


Nepotism and Personal Relationships

Questions about nepotism and personal relationships may be directed to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at 612-624-9547, or to CLA Human Resources at 612-624-9839.


Introduction

The University of Minnesota defines nepotism as “actions by a University member that directly or indirectly influence the University employment (e.g., hiring, promotion, supervision, evaluation, and determination of salary) or academic progress (e.g., grading and advising) of any other University member with whom he or she has a personal relationship.” This definition includes instances where there is no direct influence on employment or academics, but the relationship has a negative impact on the educational or work environment.

Policies & Procedures

Members of the University community who are in a personal relationship as defined by University policy, (any University faculty member, staff member, student, or other individual engaged in any University activity or program) should be familiar with the University's policies and procedures pertaining to nepotism and personal relationships.

  • A summary of the policies and procedures is given below, along with links to the policies and procedures online.
  • Members of the University community who are in a personal relationship as defined by University policy should be thoroughly familiar with the policies and procedures themselves.

Consultation

Unit. Consultation among the parties and the unit head and/or unit administrator should first occur within the unit. This consultation should focus on the nature of the personal relationship, the risk of nepotism, ways to minimize this risk, and steps which may be taken to comply with the Regents Policy on Nepotism and Personal Relationships. The parties and unit head are encouraged to pay particular attention to any questions and concerns that arise during this consultative process.

CLA Human Resources. Once consultation within the unit has taken place, the unit head and/or unit administrator should contact CLA Human Resources for further consultation. CLA Human Resources will assist the unit in identifying whether additional factors or questions should be considered, and in assessing whether a referral to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action for further consultation and the preparation of a nepotism agreement, as called for and/or required under University policy, is necessary.


Policy Summary

Regents Policy. The Regents Policy on Nepotism and Personal Relationships governs conflicts of interest that may arise due to personal relationships among members of the University of Minnesota (University) community. Nepotism is prohibited.

  • Nepotism shall mean actions by a University member that directly or indirectly influence the University employment (e.g., hiring, promotion, supervision, evaluation, and determination of salary) or academic progress (e.g., grading and advising) of any other University member with whom he or she has a personal relationship. This definition includes instances where there is no direct influence on employment or academics, but the relationship has a negative impact on the educational or work environment.
  • Personal relationship shall mean a marital or other committed relationship, significant familial relationship, or consensual sexual or romantic relationship.
  • Member of the University community (University member) shall mean any University faculty member, staff member, student, or other individual engaged in any University activity or program.

Administrative Policy. The purpose of the Administrative Policy on Nepotism and Personal Relationships is to implement the Regents Policy. The University is committed to the highest standard of professional conduct and integrity and expects all members of the university community to adhere to them. Members of the University community must take care to ensure that personal relationships within the community do not result in conflicts of interest and situations that might impair objective judgment or create a hostile work environment.

  • A University member who is or will be in a position to engage in a prohibited activity must consult with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) to determine whether or not the relationship violates this policy and to develop an appropriate nepotism agreement. Likewise, a supervisor or manager who becomes aware of a potential nepotism violation should report it to the EOAA Office as should any employee who believes that their employment is negatively affected by a personal relationship of their own or another's.
  • Exceptions to this policy may be granted when eliminating the prohibited activities would unreasonably disadvantage one or both of the University members in the personal relationship. In the case of an exception to the policy, a written agreement must be developed to ensure that employment and academic decisions are made impartially. Likewise, even if the relationship does not have a direct influence on employment or academic progress, but it has a negative impact on the work environment, a written agreement may be necessary. The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action will review and approve all written agreements.

Administrative Procedure. When an administrator or supervisor learns of a possible personal relationship involving one or more employees in the unit, the administrator or supervisor must either contact EOAA or consult as follows:

  1. Discuss the employment or academic relationship and the related prohibited activities. In most circumstances, consult with each individual in the relationship, either separately or together.
  2. Discuss and determine the appropriate steps to take to eliminate and avoid prohibited activities. The actions must not unreasonably disadvantage either University member. If eliminating the prohibited activities would unreasonably disadvantage one or both members, contact EOAA. Schedule periodic review of the situation.
  3. When a power disparity exists in the employment or academic association of the individuals in the personal relationship, protect the employment or academic interests of the subordinate.
  4. Discuss privacy concerns and appropriate confidentiality, including whether it is necessary to inform anyone else of any changes made to the employment or academic relationship.
  5. Contact EOAA before implementation to discuss all aspects of the consultation. Discuss the situation with EOAA without revealing the specific identities of the individuals in the relationship.
  6. All consultations should be documented with the:
    • information received from the individuals,
    • prohibited activities and potential conflicts which were discussed,
    • steps taken to avoid and eliminate the prohibited activities,
    • method and frequency with which the action will be reviewed,
    • any necessary and appropriate disclosures which were made to other administrators.
  7. Keep all documentation secure and separate from any official file on the individuals involved in the relationship. Forward the documentation to EOAA for proper retention.

Prior to implementation, units are expected to inform their CLA human resources consultant of the consultation with EOAA and the implementation plan. Units are expected to forward a copy of the documentation to their CLA human resources consultant.


Best Practices Recommendations

  • Elections. Members of the University community who are in personal relationships as defined by University policy may not vote for each other in elections for chair/director or other administrative positions, or in elections for governance bodies. This is because such voting can be viewed as nepotism as defined by University policy (i.e., an action directly or indirectly influencing the employment of another University member with whom he or she has a personal relationship).
  • Committee Service.  Members of the University community who are in personal relationships as defined by University policy should not serve on the same committees or other governing and advisory bodies. This applies to merit and other review committees, promotion committees, executive committees, mentoring committees, search committees, CLA Assembly and other collegiate committees, etc.
  • Performance and Merit.  A member of the University community may not participate in the performance and/or merit review of another University member with whom he or she has a personal relationship, as defined by University policy. Such individual should not have access to review materials for the University member with whom he or she has a personal relationship, and should be recused from any discussion or meeting concerning the review.
  • Promotion and Tenure.  A member of the University community may not participate in the review for promotion and/or tenure of another University member with whom he or she has a personal relationship, as defined by University policy. Such individual should not have access to review materials for the University member with whom he or she has a personal relationship, and should be recused from any discussion or meeting concerning the review.
  • Awards, Grants, Honors, Leaves.   A member of the University community may not participate in the review of materials pertaining to any awards, grants, honors, leaves, etc, for another University member with whom he or she has a personal relationship, as defined by University policy. Such individual should not have access to review materials for the University member with whom he or she has a personal relationship, and should be recused from any discussion or meeting concerning the review. Examples of awards, grants, honors, and leaves include teaching awards, outstanding service awards, funding requests, single semester leaves, sabbatical supplements, professional development leaves, course release requests, etc).
  • Periodic Review.  Units should periodically review situations which may involve nepotism and/or personal relationships. Changes in roles, responsibilities, and affiliations may require new or additional consultation concerning nepotism and personal relationships, as well as the creation or modification of nepotism agreements.
  • Constitutions and Administrative Procedures.  Unit constitutions and administrative procedures must be written in a manner consistent with the Regents Policy on Nepotism and Personal Relationships.
  • Conflict Resolution. Units should identify a neutral party to help resolve conflicts that could arise as a result of the relationship or between the parties. The college can assist in helping to identify an appropriate neutral third party.

Effective Spring 2011