Policy Information

Date Established: 2/17/2015
Date Last Updated:
Category:
Human Resources
Responsible Office:
Human Resources - Employee Relations
Responsible Executive:
Vice President for Finance and Administration

Policy Contents

Printing Tip

Be sure to disable the "shrink to fit" feature on your Internet browser's print dialog box.

Nepotism Policy

Summary

University representatives must make decisions regarding employment, academic, research, and procurement situations free from the appearance of favoritism or impropriety that can result from family, personal, and/or romantic relationships. Where an employee cannot reasonably be perceived to be neutral in an employment, academic, research, or procurement decision, he/she must disclose the situation in order to allow the university to make appropriate alternative arrangements.

Policy Statement

The University at Buffalo (UB, university) is committed to maintaining an environment in which employment, academic, research, and procurement decisions are made with the highest degree of integrity, and to promoting a positive academic and work environment free from the appearance of favoritism or impropriety. Accordingly, employment, academic, research, and procurement decisions will be based upon merit and qualifications.

Family, personal, and/or romantic relationships will not preclude a qualified individual’s hire, promotion, admission, or advancement, nor will they prohibit contracting with a qualified vendor. However, university employees may not make employment, academic, research, or procurement decisions related to an individual with whom there is a family, personal, and/or romantic relationship.

Members of the university community may not influence, either directly or through others, the university employment or academic progress of a person with whom he/she has a family, personal, and/or romantic relationship; nor may employees award contracts to someone with whom they have such a relationship. Individuals with authority to make decisions must make efforts to ensure that no preference is given to applicants, employees, or vendors who are personally related to university employees, except as necessary to promote legitimate university objectives (e.g., partner accommodation).

Family, personal, and/or romantic relationships may exist between an applicant/employee and someone higher in the department’s chain of command. Individuals who are higher in a department’s or area’s chain of command (e.g., manager, vice president) must disclose when family, personal, and/or romantic relationships exist with others who are subordinate to them in the department or area, and take appropriate action to avoid conflicts of interest.

Disclosure

Nepotism can create situations such as favoritism and conflicts of interest, which violate equal opportunity laws in the workforce and student body. Even where a family, personal, and/or romantic relationship has no direct influence on employment, academics, research, or procurement, action may be required to eliminate perceived favoritism when the relationship may have a negative impact on the educational or work environment. University employees must exercise good judgment to identify and report situations where a family, personal, and/or romantic relationship may call into question the integrity of a decision affecting terms and conditions of employment, academic progress, research, or procurement. Employees are urged to disclose the facts if there is any doubt rather than fail to disclose in cases where a relationship exists, or existed in the past.

Exceptions

Exceptions to this policy may be granted in rare circumstances when eliminating the perceived conflict would unreasonably disadvantage one or both of the university members in the family, personal, and/or romantic relationship, or where an individual’s appointment or promotion is required by applicable laws, regulations, or sponsor requirements. In the case of an exception, written alternative arrangements must be developed to ensure that employment and academic decisions are made impartially.   

Background

Certain relationships in the work and educational setting have the potential to compromise, or appear to compromise, the fairness and objectivity of employment, procurement, research, and educational decisions. Members of the university community must take care to ensure that family, personal, and/or romantic relationships do not result in conflicts of interest or situations that might impair objective judgment or create a hostile work environment.

New York State Public Officers Law §73 prohibits state employees from participating in any decision to hire, promote, discipline, or discharge a relative; awarding contracts to a relative; or investing public funds in any security in which a relative has a financial interest. Public Officers Law §74 requires state employees to avoid conduct that could create the impression that they are affected by the kinship, and pursue a course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public that the employee is engaged in acts that are in violation of the public trust.  

This policy reinforces these laws, as well as the State University of New York Research Foundation Nepotism Policy and the UB Faculty Code of Conduct.

Applicability

This policy applies to pre-existing family, personal, and/or romantic relationships, as well as those that commence during the course of employment-related or academic supervision. This policy does not prohibit socializing or friendships that may occur in the context of a work or academic relationship, unless the extent of the relationship may call into question the objectivity of a supervisor, manager, or instructor in determining the terms and conditions of employment, academic advancement, research, or procurement decisions.

This policy:

  • applies to all members of the university community, including faculty, staff, students and those doing business with the university (e.g., vendors, contractors)
  • applies to all job classifications, titles, and all types of appointments under university jurisdiction, whether full-time, part-time, or volunteers
  • applies to all university organizational units
  • governs all employment, academic, research, and procurement practices and actions
  • governs all university actions including but not limited to recruitment, hire, rate of pay or other compensation, advancement, upgrading, promotion, demotion, renewal, non-renewal, tenure consideration, termination, transfer, layoff, leave, training, grading, housing, contract awards, and all employee and student benefits.

Definitions

Alternative Arrangements

The shifting of responsibility for academic, employment, or other decisions in order to eliminate the appearance of impropriety that can result from nepotism.  This may include, but is not limited to, recusal from an evaluative process and/or an alternative means of reporting, assessment, and evaluation.  Alternative arrangements must be in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, policies, and collective bargaining agreements.

Close Personal Friendship

A relationship that reasonable persons would agree to have the potential to create a real or perceived conflict of interest comparable to those associated with relatives or household members.   

Conflict of Interest

Any relationship or activity that has the potential to compromise or bias, or appears to compromise or bias, a person’s professional judgment  or ability to make objective and fair employment,  academic, and/or procurement decisions.  A conflict of interest may exist when an independent observer might reasonably question whether an individual’s professional actions or decisions are determined by considerations of family, personal, and/or romantic relationships.

Family Relationship

A connection between two individuals by virtue of being a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, parent, child, legal guardian, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, first cousin, or any similar connection by marriage (e.g., father-in-law, grandparent-in-law) or domestic partnership.  Family relationships include such connections whether they are biological, by adoption, or through other formal means (e.g., foster parent/child, step family); this may also include past relationships where parties cannot be neutral (e.g., ex-husband, ex-wife).

Nepotism

Favoritism shown on the basis of family, personal, and/or romantic relationships. This includes research and procurement decisions as well as actions by a University employee that directly or indirectly influence the employment terms and conditions (e.g., appointment, promotion, supervision, evaluation, determination of salary), academic progress (e.g., grading, advising) of any other University member with whom they have a family or personal relationship.  This definition also includes instances where there is no direct influence on employment, academics, or procurement, but the relationship has a negative impact on the educational or work environment.  It also includes actions that do not involve direct supervision, but where a benefit related to University employment, academic progress, (e.g., research funding, consideration for tenure), or procurement contracts may be conferred or denied.

Personal Relationship

A marital or other committed relationship; a family relationship as defined above; consensual sexual or romantic relationship; a close personal friendship; or a significant business relationship.  This may also include past relationships where parties cannot be neutral (e.g., former business partner, ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend).

Romantic Relationship

An affinity characterized by mutual attraction and intimacy.

Responsibility

President, provost, vice presidents, deans, directors, department heads, managers, and supervisors

  • Notify the Office of Employee Relations of situations where nepotism may require alternative arrangements.
  • Refer individuals in their units to this policy, when applicable.
  • Refer persons with nepotism-related inquiries to the Office of Employee Relations.  

Department heads, managers, supervisors, instructors, and others with authority to make decisions on behalf of the university

  • Disclose to their supervisors any family, personal, and romantic relationships that could constitute nepotism in accordance with the procedure described in this policy.
  • Report potential violations of this policy to the Office of Employee Relations.
  • Disclose to the search committee chair any family, personal, and romantic relationships with employment applicants when serving on a search committee.   

Director of Employee Relations

  • Consult with individuals and departments regarding nepotism and alternative arrangements.
  • Assist in developing a formal written agreement regarding alternative arrangements.
  • Determine employment actions to be taken when alternative arrangements are not feasible to eliminate a violation of this policy.

Members of the University Community

  • Disclose to their supervisor any family, personal, and/or romantic relationship that could impact their compliance with this policy.
  • Cooperate in the process for making alternative arrangements, when applicable.

Procedure

Disclosure

Individuals must disclose to their supervisor (e.g., dean, chair, manager, direct supervisor) any family, personal, and/or romantic relationship in the workplace that could impact their compliance with this policy. When possible, the employment, academic, and/or procurement decision-making responsibility should be moved to another individual, to eliminate conflict. When this is not possible, the supervisor must consult with the Office of Employee Relations to evaluate whether a potential violation of the policy may exist and initiate the process for making alternative arrangements. All parties have a duty to cooperate in the process for making alternative arrangements.

Employment

Applicants and Candidates

A supervisor, manager or other university employee is prohibited from using his or her position to influence, either directly or indirectly, a hire of someone with whom there is a family, personal, and/or romantic relationship. This prohibition does not preclude those with family, personal and/or romantic relationships with UB employees from applying to open positions at the university. In these instances, the supervisor, manager, or other university employee may not participate in or attempt to influence the selection process as it relates to that applicant. Members of a search committee must disclose any family, personal, and/or romantic relationships with applicants to the search committee chair, and must make arrangements to recuse themselves from any interviews, discussions, or other consideration of the applicants.

Where the hire of a qualified candidate for a position will result in a conflict of interest, the supervisor or department head will consult with the Office of Employee Relations to identify alternative arrangements for reporting, evaluation, assessment, and supervision. An Alternative Arrangement Agreement will be developed with the input of the affected parties and will be approved by the Office of Employee Relations. When the conflict of interest for a position cannot be eliminated through alternative arrangements, the hire will not be approved unless mandated by law, regulation, or policy (e.g., New York State Civil Service Law).

Current Employees

When a potential violation of this policy is identified for current employees, the supervisor or department head will consult with the Office of Employee Relations to identify alternative arrangements for reporting, evaluation, assessment, and supervision. Alternative Arrangement Agreement will be developed with the input of the affected parties and will be approved by the Office of Employee Relations. This agreement will be maintained in the departmental personnel files of the affected parties.

Procurement

An employee who is responsible for making procurement decisions must disclose to his/her supervisor any situation that could be, or appear to be, a conflict of interest for him/her under this policy. The supervisor will arrange for an alternative decision-maker.

Faculty Code of Conduct

Situations involving a potential violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct should be reported to the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs. Any situation which could involve sexual coercion, discrimination, or favoritism should also be reported to the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and may be investigated separately under the Discrimination and Harassment Policy.

Contact Information

Office of Employee Relations
120 Crofts Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
Phone:  716-645-7777

Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
563 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
Phone:  716-645-3594
http://www.provost.buffalo.edu/facultyaffairs/

Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
406 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
Phone:  716-645-2266
http://equity.buffalo.edu/

Related Information

University Links

Related Links

Presidential Approval

Signed by President Satish K. Tripathi

Satish K. Tripathi, President

2/17/2015

Date