Lantz Biles, director of Public Safety, was suspended without pay for one calendar month effective on Monday, Nov. 15, until Tuesday, Dec. 14, by APSU President Tim Hall based on recommendations from an appointed Grievance Panel from the University Grievance Committee, according to a memo dated Monday, Nov. 1, sent to Biles from Hall.
The panel also required attendance and participation in an intensive personal training about sexual harassment from Bashman and Associates or other providers.
Biles received memos from Hall on Sept. 13 and 14, stating he accepted a report from Sheila Bryant, director of Affirmative Action, concluding that his actions did violate APSU Policy prohibiting sexual harassment.
Hall also accepts that previous incidences of similar behavior reflect a major or substantive violation of university policy and appropriate corrective action, ranging from probation to termination, should be implemented.
For the present case, it was determined corrective action was suspension without pay for one calendar month, Sept. 20 to Oct. 19, and attendance and participation in sexual harassment training. Due to the recommendation, Biles had the right to request an institutional hearing. A memo was sent from Biles to Hall on Sept. 17, requesting the hearing.
Biles provided a pre-hearing statement on Oct. 11, citing four grievance items when action taken was not in accordance with institution policy.
Grievance item one states, “Disciplinary action taken regarding (name blacked out in report) was initiated without a complaint in response to a grievance.” Tennessee Board of Regent’s procedure for discrimination and harassment, P-080, says complaints made anonymously or by a third party will still be investigated. The committee accepts the verbal complaint from June 14, filed by the person who was blacked out of the report.
Grievance item two states, “The investigation [regarding (name blacked out in report)] found none of the criteria to establish harassment.” Biles defends this by outlining APSU Policy 5:003, which explains the definition of sexual harassment.
The committee cited an alleged sexual harassment claim report dated Aug. 24, concerning comments that Biles denies making, regarding attire, behavior and physical relationships and build. The comments were made in June 2010 and November 2009. The committee felt this fell “under the umbrella of behavior that may constitute sexual harassment.”
The committee also cited another alleged sexual harassment claim report dated Aug. 26, showing a disagreement between Biles and the person blacked out of the report, saying that he ran his fingers up and down her back on July 15. The committee felt this fell within the parameters of APSU Policy 5:003.
Grievance item three states, “No attempt was made for alternative resolution when both parties [Mr. Biles and (person blacked out of the report)] agreed to such.” Biles claims TBR P-080 says the investigator may meet with both the complainant and the respondent independently to resolve the complaint informally. The committee says the policy does not require it, so the university did not violate the policy.
The last grievance item states, “This action is not keeping with the institution’s progressive or graduated discipline practice.” Biles believes TBR P-080 requires progressive discipline for employees. The committee says the policy does not require progressive discipline and the range of discipline is “dismissal, expulsion or termination, or other appropriate sanction.” The committee found the recommended corrective action kept with policy.
Hall confirmed with the panel’s findings and discipline previously communicated and adjusted the timing to the present.
Over the summer, Biles received a memo from Mitch Robinson, vice president of Finance and Administration, dated June 30, stating Biles was being suspended for five days without pay, required to attend additional training, and six months probation. The reason was for “comments made by [Biles] that might be considered inappropriate for the work place.” The discipline was effective July 1.
Biles filed an employee grievance/complaint form on July 28, and said, “I acknowledged that I made those comments that might be considered inappropriate as it’s justification. I disagreed with that characterization and further related that the action is not in keeping with the institutions disciplinary and/or affirmative action policies.” He requested a disinterested party review the issue because his supervisor, Robinson, did not discuss the issue with him.
Biles followed up with Legal Affairs and Strategic Planning on July 21 and received a reply saying APSU policy was not followed. He also added a revised explanation of grievance/complaint on Aug. 1. Robinson sent a memo to Biles the next day, Aug. 2, stating that after a conference with university council and Hall, the disciplinary action was rescinded. The disciplinary action was removed from Biles’ file, his pay compensated, remedial training was not required and the probation was removed.
APSU and Biles currently face three federal lawsuits brought forth by Leonard Fulcher, former police officer, Susana Milton, police officer and Charlie Struckel, assistant director of Public Safety.
Fulcher is suing for retaliation harassment and hostile work environment. Milton is suing for retaliation, harassment, gender discrimination, sexual harassment and hostile work environment. Struckel is suing for subsequent retaliation, retaliatory harassment and hostile work environment.