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Frequently Asked Questions

EMPLOYMENT u LIABILITY u PRIVACY u PUBLIC RECORDS/OPEN MEETINGS u USE OF UNIVERSITY EQUIPMENT AND/OR FACILITIES
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UNIVERSITY COMPLIANCE LINE


EMPLOYMENT

Question: If I wish to participate as an investigator in a clinical trial, may I sign the contracts the drug company sent me?

Answer: No. Only certain senior administrators with delegated signature authority may sign a contract or agreement on behalf of the University. Please contact any of the University Counsels for additional information or legal review and referral for signature of a contract.

 

Question: May I enter into consulting arrangements?

Answer: A qualified yes. Employees who are exempt from the State Personnel Act (faculty and EPA non-faculty) are subject to the Board of Governors’ Policy Statement on External Professional Activities of Faculty and other Professional Staff. Consulting must be done in accordance with that policy. If you have additional questions please contact David Parker at 962-7246 or at david_m_parker@unc.edu. Employees who are subject to the State Personnel Act (SPA employees) must follow the state’s guidelines on secondary employment. Please contact the Senior Director, Human Resources Administration, at 962-3897 for additional information.

 

Question: May I donate my consulting fees to the University?

Answer: Yes. However, there are personal tax consequences associated with receiving the income. Additionally, if you decide to make a gift, the funds must be deposited into a trust fund over which you have no direct or indirect control over disbursement. Please contact any of the University Counsels if you have additional questions.

 

Question: A vendor has contacted me about donating some excess product inventory to my department. How do I accept this gift?

Answer: Proposed gifts of tangible personal property should be reported to the Planned Giving Office. For more information contact any of the University Counsels for assistance.

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LIABILITY

Question: Am I liable if I’m sued for something arising out of my employment at the University?

Answer: You could be, but the State offers the following protections. The North Carolina Defense of State Employees Act provides that an employee may request legal representation by the Attorney General if he or she is sued for matters arising within the course and scope of University employment. If the Attorney General consents to representation, the University is responsible for the first $500,000 of any judgment and, unless covered by an exclusion, the Excess Liability Policy carried by the State at no charge to you would cover judgments up to $5,000,000 per employee, $5,000,000 per occurrence, and $10,000,000 per annual aggregate. If you receive a notice that you are an individual defendant, please contact any of the University Counsels for assistance.

 

Question: Do I have to hire my own attorney if I’m sued for something arising out of my employment at the University?

Answer: Probably not. The North Carolina Defense of State Employees Act provides that an employee may request legal representation by the Attorney General if he or she is sued for matters arising within the course and scope of University employment. However, the Attorney General could decline to represent you if he or she determines that:

(1) The act or omission was not within the scope and course of your employment; or

(2) You acted or failed to act because of actual fraud, corruption, or actual malice; or

(3) The defense of the action or proceeding by the State would create a conflict of interest between the State and you; or

(4) The defense of the action or proceeding would not be in the best interests of the State.

Under certain circumstances, the University may reimburse you for the costs of outside counsel if the Attorney General declines representation. If you receive a notice that you are an individual defendant, please contact any of the University Counsels for assistance.

Question: If someone who is not an employee is hurt on University property can he or she get reimbursed for medical expenses?

Answer: The University is not permitted to carry general liability insurance to cover this kind of circumstance. However, the University may be sued for negligence for an amount not to exceed $1,000,000.00. The procedure for filing such a suit is called the Tort Claims process. Please contact Stephen Keadey at CB#9105, 843-3620 or at keadey@unc.edu to obtain a claim form.

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PRIVACY

Question: Does the University monitor my email?

Answer: Generally no. As a general practice, the University offices charged with overseeing the email systems on campus do not routinely monitor individual accounts of employees or students. However, the University reserves the right to access information about an employee’s or student’s account if there is reasonable belief that the State-owned equipment is being used for an unlawful or unauthorized purpose. Please consult the University's Policy of Electronic Information.

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PUBLIC RECORDS/OPEN MEETINGS

Question: I have just received a subpoena requesting information for a court case. What should I do?

Answer: Sometimes offices or employees on campus will receive a subpoena requiring that the University produce certain information or witnesses for a court case either in North Carolina or in another state. If you receive such a request in a lawsuit, you should note the date on which the information is required to be produced and then fax the request immediately to the Office of University Counsel at fax number 843-1617.

 

Question: What personnel file information is considered to be public information and, thus, required to be disclosed?

Answer: Most personnel file information is confidential and may not be disclosed except under certain circumstances, such as the employee’s written consent to its release. However, specific items of information about a public employee are public information under North Carolina law and must be provided to any member of the public who requests them.  To find out more about public and confidential personnel information, please visit the Office of Human Resources website at http://hr.unc.edu/policies-procedures-guidelines/employee-records/CCM3_021828.  If you receive a request for personnel file information, please forward it to the Employee Records Department, Office of Human Resources, CB #1045, 104 Airport Dr., 962-2894.  If you have questions about personnel records, please contact the Office of University Counsel at (919) 962-1219.

 

Question: I am the Chair of a Committee/Task Force here. How do I know if my meeting is subject to the Open Meetings requirements?

Answer: Because the University is a public institution, a number of its bodies may be subject to the State’s Open Meetings law. This law generally requires that public business be conducted in public, with notification requirements prior to the meeting so that people may attend. For more detailed information, see The Guidelines on Defining "Public Body" within the Meaning of the Open Meetings Act in the UNC Policy Manual. If you still have questions, please contact any of the attorneys in the Office of University Counsel.

Question: I am a University instructor. Does a student have the right to see my personal notes about him/her?

Answer: A student does not have the right to see your personal notes about him/her if the notes meet all the following conditions:

    • The notes are kept in your sole possession --You use the notes only as a personal memory aid;
    • The notes are not accessible to anyone but you (except a person who is acting as your temporary substitute); and
    • You do not show the notes to anyone else (except your temporary substitute)

However, if the notes do not meet these requirements, they will be considered part of the student's "education records" as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the student can inspect them. For more information about FERPA, please contact Kara Simmons at 843-8361 or at kara_simmons@unc.edu.

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USE OF UNIVERSITY EQUIPMENT AND/OR FACILITIES

Question: May my Teaching Assistant drive a State car?

Answer: Yes, if the use of the car is within the scope of the student’s duties as a Teaching Assistant. Only University employees (including temporary student employees) may drive state-owned automobiles. Please see the University Business Manual, Rules for Using State Cars and Automobile Insurance policy statement for more information.

 

Question: My department is hosting a reception on campus to thank major donors for their contributions to the University. May I buy and serve alcohol at this event?

Answer: Under limited circumstances yes. Please see the Chancellor’s Memorandum dated July 10, 2000, entitled Guidelines for Serving Alcohol at University-Sponsored Events for the procedures that must be followed. No sales of alcohol (including "cash bars") may be held on campus except in the legally authorized venues (Carolina Inn and Carolina Club).

 

Question: May I use my University computer for personal use?

Answer: Yes, provided the use complies with the University’s Personal Use Policy. The use must be for non-commercial personal matters, the extent of the use must be incidental, and the use must not interfere with the employee’s work responsibilities.

Departments must have an established sign-out procedure for removing University equipment from campus. See also the University Business Manual, Asset Management and Surplus Property, University Equipment On and Off Campus Policy.

 

Question: I am the president of a recognized student group and we wish to reserve Polk Place for an information rally. How do I reserve Polk Place for my event?

Answer: Under the Policy on Use of University Facilities for Non-commercial and Commercial Purposes, the exterior area of campus may be scheduled by making a written request to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Services at CB #1000, 300 South Building, provided your proposed use is otherwise consistent with the policy. Please contact Kara Simmons at 843-8361 or at kara_simmons@unc.edu for more information.

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ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY'S COMPLIANCE LINE

1.      What is the University’s Compliance Line?

The Compliance Line is an option for making a confidential report using either the internet or a telephone line to help the campus community identify and address compliance concerns about financial, research, HIPAA or Environment, Health and Safety (“EHS”) matters on campus in a positive, constructive environment.  

This internet and telephone reporting service is not maintained on the University’s systems and is not maintained by University employees.  Reports can be filed anonymously and the reports are held securely and confidentially on the external systems.

EthicsPoint, based in Portland, Oregon, is the commercial service provider for the University’s Compliance Line.  This commercial service provider was chosen for the quality and security of its service after careful review of several vendors’ proposals.

University Compliance Line internet access: https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/en/report_company.asp
(Click on "File a New Report or Follow-up on a Report")

University Compliance Line telephone access: 1-866-294-8688.

 

2.      Why do we need a tool like this Compliance Line?

It is University policy that all employees have a personal obligation to assist the University in maintaining integrity and ethical behavior in the University’s work.  Although direct discussion with one’s supervisor is the preferred mode, in some circumstances a campus employee may feel the need for a more confidential, sometimes anonymous ability to express good faith concerns about noncompliance.

Recently revised federal guidelines for compliance programs include establishment of a channel of communication that permits anonymous reporting of potential regulatory compliance problems and concerns. 

 

3.      Why do we need this Compliance Line - don’t we have other channels of communication about these compliance concerns?

Yes.  There are a variety of campus channels of communication for expressing financial, EHS, HIPAA and research compliance concerns and resolving them.  Direct communication among the involved persons is generally preferred, but when an employee feels that such a direct conversation is not a constructive option, this is an additional method of registering good faith compliance concerns.

 

4.       What’s different about this Compliance Line from other “hotlines” like the State Auditor’s hotline?

The University has an obligation for its own ethical performance, and this Compliance Line is structured to help members of the campus community knowledgeable about campus activities to work together to identify and respond to specific campus compliance issues in the areas of Research, Finance, HIPAA and EHS. 

 

5.      Won’t this tool just encourage individuals to gripe or to make wild charges about others?

This professional reporting system provides a clear channel of communication for good faith concerns, and it is also structured to focus the report on specific, defined University compliance problems or concerns in the areas of University financial transactions, HIPAA, research or EHS matters. 

It is important to note that this Compliance Line does not cover Human Resources, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs or Public Safety issues.

 

6.      Is there any monetary reward for these reports?

No.  The reason for making a report is a genuine concern for the integrity of the University’s work.  Although there have been various newspaper accounts of large monetary payments to whistleblowers (“Qui Tam relators”) who have reported violations of the federal False Claims Act, individuals do not receive money for relating federal False Claims Act violations by state agencies.

 

7.      Why is this Compliance Line limited to financial compliance, research compliance, HIPAA compliance and Environment, Health and Safety compliance?

The federal compliance program guidelines that prescribe an anonymous reporting tool apply to certain heavily regulated activities within each of these topical areas.  The University will evaluate its experience with the Compliance Line over time to determine its potential utility for other topics.

 

8.      What if an individual is not sure what she or he has observed or heard is a violation of regulations or university policy, but it just does not look right to that person. What should he or she do?

The individual should file a report. The Compliance Line structure will help the individual prepare and file a report so it can be properly understood.  We'd rather be alerted to a situation that turned out to be harmless than let violations go unchecked because of uncertainty.

 

9.      What about reprisal or retaliation for making the report?

University policy and state law prohibit retaliation or reprisal against an individual for reporting in good faith a violation of state or federal law, rule or regulation.

 

How does it work?

 

10.  May reports be filed through the Compliance Line using either the internet or the telephone?

Yes.  By giving both choices, the Compliance Line helps ensure that campus employees can file a report anonymously and in the manner most comfortable or convenient to them. 

 

11.  Can a person file a report without access to the internet?

If a person does not have access to the internet or prefers to use a telephone, the individual can call the Compliance Line toll-free at 866-294-8688, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

 

12.  Where do these reports go?  Who can access them?

Reports through the Compliance Line are entered directly on the EthicsPoint secure server to prevent any possible breach in security.  EthicsPoint makes these reports available on the EthicsPoint system only to specific individuals at the University who are charged with evaluating the type of problem and location of the incident, and who understand the importance of maintaining confidentiality.   The EthicsPoint system and staff are trained and committed to ensure that no report is shared with implicated parties, their peers, or subordinates.

 

13.   What happens after a report is filed?

The individual who has filed a concern report through the Compliance Line website or phone number receives a unique user name and chooses a password.  Through these, the individual has the ability to return to the Compliance Line for a University response to the concern report after a specified later date.  Meanwhile, EthicsPoint notifies the appropriate designated University administrator that there is a report posted to a secure access site on the EthicsPoint system.  The University administrator reviews the report and begins the process of determining the facts and any appropriate action.

 

14.  What if a reporter’s boss or other managers are involved in a problem?  Won’t they get the report and start a cover-up?

The Compliance Line report distribution process is designed so that a report is not shared with implicated parties or their subordinates. If a University administrator is implicated, the report is available only to certain other University administrators.

 

15.  What if an individual remembers something important about the incident after filing the report? Or what if the University has further questions concerning the report?

When an individual files a report at the Compliance Line Web site or via the Compliance Line toll-free number, he or she receives a unique user name and is asked to choose a password. The individual can return to the Compliance Line again either by internet or telephone and access the original report to answer questions posed by a University recipient and add further information that will help resolve open issues.  We strongly suggest that individuals who have filed reports return to the site in the time specified to answer any follow-up University questions. The reporter and the University can enter into an “anonymous dialogue” where situations are not only identified but can be resolved.  

 

What about information security and confidentiality?

 

16.   Are anonymity and confidentiality guaranteed? 

We cannot guarantee either anonymity or confidentiality but we have established this Compliance Line to provide maximum potential for both. 

 

17.  It is my understanding that any report sent from a University computer generates a server log that shows every web-site that my PC connects with, and won’t this log identify the Compliance Line report originator?

EthicsPoint itself does not generate or maintain any internal connection logs with IP addresses, so no information linking a PC to EthicsPoint is available through EthicsPoint.  However, information about your web access to EthicsPoint can typically also be found both on the computer you use to contact EthicsPoint and also in various network logs used for network performance.  If an individual wants to make certain that no University systems include a record of the computer connection to the EthicsPoint website, the individual may want to file a web-based report through a computer that is not on the University network, such as a computer at a public library.

 

18.  Can a report be filed from home and still remain anonymous?

EthicsPoint’s experience has been that fewer than 12% of reports are generated during business hours.  Most people prefer to report from the comfort of their home after hours and on the weekend.

A person can file a Compliance Line report from any computer that can access the internet. This includes home computers.  An internet portal never identifies a visitor by screen name and the EthicsPoint system strips away internet addresses so that anonymity is totally maintained.  Plus, EthicsPoint is contractually committed not to pursue a reporter’s identity. 

 

19.  Is the toll-free telephone line confidential and anonymous too? It is my understanding that University telephone logs show the phone numbers accessed through University telephones.

The toll free telephone Compliance Line reporting service is also operated by EthicsPoint and is available toll-free at 866-294-8688, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The caller will be asked to provide the same information that he or she would provide in an internet-based report and an interviewer will type the responses into the Compliance Line web site. EthicsPoint safeguards reports received through the telephone just as it does those received through the internet. 

University telephone system logs do show telephone numbers accessed through University telephones.  An individual who wishes to maintain maximum anonymity in using the telephone Compliance Line service should make the toll-free telephone call using a nonUniversity telephone.

 

20.  Are follow-up reports as secure as the first one?

All Compliance Line correspondences are held in the same strict confidence as the initial report.         

 

21.  What about concern that the information the reporter provides through the Compliance Line will ultimately reveal the reporter’s identity.

The EthicsPoint system is designed to protect the reporter’s anonymity. However, the reporting party needs to ensure that the body of the report does not reveal the reporter’s identity by accident, for example, “From my cube next to Jan Smith…” or “In my 33 years…”.  If the reporter is the only individual who could possibly know the reported facts, there may be an unintended deductive disclosure of the reporter’s identity.  The University will honor and protect the reporter’s request for confidentiality to the extent possible as it fulfills its obligations in responding to the report.

 

22.  What if the reporter wants to be identified with the report?

There is a section in the report for the reporter to identify himself or herself, if he or she wishes.

 

23.  What if I have other questions about this Compliance Line?

You may call the Office of University Counsel at (919) 962-1219 with any questions about this Compliance Line.

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