Printed on: 10/20/2020. Please go to http://policy.umn.edu for the most current version of the Policy or related document.
University of Minnisota  Administrative Policy

Managing Nepotism and Personal Relationships

Responsible University Officer(s):
  • Vice President, Office for Equity and Diversity
Policy Owner(s):
  • Director and Title IX Coordinator, Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
Policy contact(s):
  • Tina Marisam
Date Revised:
Aug 20, 2020
Effective Date:
Mar 1, 1999

Policy Statement

This policy supports the University’s commitment to employment and academic practices that are fair, equitable, and free from actual, potential, and perceived conflicts of interest arising out of personal relationships.

Prohibition on Nepotism

Nepotism is a prohibited conflict of interest that occurs when:

  • a University member directly influences the University employment (e.g., hiring, promotion, supervision, evaluation, and determination of salary) or academic progress (e.g., grading and advising) of a University member with whom they have a personal relationship (e.g., a relative, romantic or business partner, or close personal friend); or
  • a personal relationship between University members has a negative impact on the University educational or work environment.

The following are examples of nepotism:

  • when an employee directly supervises an individual with whom the employee has a personal relationship;
  • when an instructor grades the work of an individual with whom the instructor has a personal relationship;
  • when an employee makes or influences a hiring decision for an individual with whom the employee has a personal relationship;
  • when a faculty member votes on the promotion or tenure of an individual with whom the faculty member has a personal relationship;
  • when an employee favors an individual with whom the employee has a personal relationship by prioritizing, funding, or allocating resources to the individual’s work areas or assignments;
  • when colleagues in a romantic relationship engage in repeated public displays of affection toward one another, or engage in conflict related to their romantic relationship with one another, in the workplace and this conduct has a substantial negative impact on the educational or work environment for other University members.

A non-competitive appointment of a spouse or partner of another employee that is otherwise authorized by University policy or procedures does not constitute nepotism under this policy. (See Administrative Procedure: Hiring Without a Search.)  However, once the spouse or partner begins work at the University, the actions and interactions of the spouses or partners are subject to this policy and Board of Regents Policy: Nepotism and Personal Relationships

Potential Nepotism Situations

Potential nepotism situations occur when University members in a personal relationship interact in their University roles in a manner that does not constitute nepotism, but that gives rise to a reasonable possibility or perception that nepotism may occur. Examples of potential nepotism situations include:

  • when two employees in a personal relationship are peers in the same unit and do not directly influence one another’s employment, but reasonably could do so in the future; or
  • when a parent faculty member and child student are members of the same academic department and: 1) the parent faculty member does not currently advise, instruct, or evaluate the child student, but reasonably could do so in the future; or 2) the parent faculty member’s status or relationships with other department members are reasonably likely to influence, or be perceived to influence, those department members to provide favorable treatment to the child student.

These and other potential nepotism situations do not constitute a prohibited conflict of interest. However, to prevent prohibited conflicts of interest from occurring in the future, and to prevent the perception that a prohibited conflict of interest exists, potential nepotism situations must be addressed in the same manner as nepotism. In the sections below, situations involving potential nepotism or nepotism are referred to collectively as “nepotism situations.”

Responsibility to Report Nepotism Situations

When a nepotism situation exists, both parties in the personal relationship must report the situation to an appropriate responsible administrator. Other University members are encouraged to report nepotism situations about which they are aware to an appropriate responsible administrator.

Obligations of Responsible Administrators and Senior Administrators to Respond to Nepotism Situations

Responsible administrators and senior administrators who become aware that a nepotism situation may exist must take effective responsive action, as set forth in Administrative Procedure: Responding to Nepotism Situations.

Romantic or Sexual Relationships

University members should consider the potential impact of any power differentials related to their University roles when engaging in a romantic or sexual relationship with one another. In some cases where one individual in a romantic or sexual relationship holds power over the other at the University, the subordinate individual may submit to or participate in sexual conduct because they fear potential negative repercussions to their employment or academic progress if they refuse, and not because they welcome the conduct. In these situations, the fact that sexual conduct is unwelcome to the subordinate individual may be less apparent to the individual who holds a relatively higher position of power at the University. For this reason, among others, faculty members and others in instructional roles are discouraged from having romantic or sexual relationships with students.

Retaliation

No member of the University community may retaliate against an individual because of the individual’s good faith participation in:

  • reporting or otherwise expressing opposition to, suspected or alleged misconduct;
  • participating in any process designed to review or investigate suspected or alleged misconduct or non-compliance with applicable policies, rules, and laws; or
  • accessing the Office for Conflict Resolution (OCR) services.

A causal relationship between the good faith participation in one of these activities and an adverse action is needed to demonstrate that retaliation has occurred.

Reporting Retaliation Concerns

Individuals who believe that retaliation is occurring or has occurred, as a result of their good faith participation in one of the above referenced activities, should follow the reporting options available to them in Administrative Policy: Reporting Suspected Misconduct.

Reports of retaliation will be reviewed and investigated in the same manner in which other concerns of misconduct are handled. Any University member who engages in retaliation may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or expulsion.

Intentionally False Reports/Information

Individuals who knowingly or intentionally file a false report or provide false or misleading information in connection with an investigation may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment, or expulsion.

Failure to comply with this policy

Failure to comply with this policy, including a failure of parties in a personal relationship to report a nepotism situation as required by this policy, may result in disciplinary action. When parties to a nepotism situation fail to participate in the processes described herein, the matter will be reported to the senior administrator and disciplinary action may be imposed. 

Non-compliance with this policy may also be reported to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, the Vice President of Human Resources, and/or UReport (which accepts anonymous reports).

Reason for Policy

To implement Board of Regents Policy: Nepotism and Personal Relationships, and to support the University’s commitment to employment and academic practices that are fair, equitable, and free from actual, potential, and perceived conflicts of interest arising out of personal relationships.

Procedures

Forms/Instructions

Appendices

Frequently Asked Questions

Contacts

SubjectContactPhoneEmail
Primary Contact(s) Tina Marisam 612-626-9357 marisam@umn.edu

Definitions

Nepotism
Nepotism is a prohibited conflict of interest that occurs when:
  • a University member directly influences the University employment (e.g., hiring, promotion, supervision, evaluation, and determination of salary) or academic progress (e.g., grading and advising) of a University member with whom they have a personal relationship (e.g., a relative, romantic or business partner, or close personal friend); or
  • a personal relationship between University members has a negative impact on the University educational or work environment.
Personal Relationship
A personal relationship includes the following: marital or other committed relationship; significant familial relationship, including relationships by blood, adoption, marriage, or domestic partnership; a family member including a partner, parent, grandparent, child, sibling, first cousin, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, spouse, brother- or sister-in-law, father- or mother-in-law, son- or daughter-in-law, step-parent or step-child; consensual sexual or romantic relationship; a close personal friendship; or a significant business relationship.
Responsible Administrator
The supervisor(s) of the parties to a nepotism situation, or the supervisor(s)’s designee. 
Senior Administrator
The vice president(s), dean(s), or vice chancellor(s) who oversee the unit(s) in which the parties work.
University Community Member
Any employee, student, or other individual engaged in any University activity or program.
University Employment
For purposes of this policy, University employment covers the work of the following individuals for the University: 
  1. all individuals defined as employees by Board of Regents Policy: Employee Group Definitions, including:
    1. faculty
    2. academic professionals
    3. academic administrators
    4. professionals in training (including postdoctoral associates)
    5. civil service staff
    6. union-represented staff
    7. graduate assistants
    8. student employees
  2. fellows;
  3. temporary employees;
  4. volunteers; and
  5. interns

Responsibilities

Human Resources Professionals (e.g., HR Leads and Office of Human Resources representatives)
Provide consultation and support to the responsible administrator. May serve as the designee of the responsible administrator.
Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
Provide consultation. May serve as the designee of the responsible administrator in particularly complex nepotism situations.
Responsible Administrator
Receive reports of nepotism situations. Respond to nepotism situations by eliminating the nepotism situation or effectively mitigating the nepotism situation in ways that allow both parties in the personal relationship to remain in their current University positions. If this is not possible, forward the matter to the senior administrator to determine whether to grant an exception to this policy. Draft and monitor management plans as appropriate.
Senior Administrator
Where a nepotism situation cannot be eliminated or effectively mitigated, determine whether to grant an exception to this policy. 
University Community Member
Report nepotism situations to the appropriate responsible administrator. Parties to a nepotism situation should additionally take appropriate steps to eliminate or effectively mitigate the prohibited or potential conflict of interest caused by their personal relationship.

Related Information

History

Amended:
August 2020 -
  1. Clarify roles:  The policy more clearly identifies the individuals who are responsible for addressing a nepotism situation.
  2. Clarify responsibilities:  The policy more clearly describes situations in which the nepotism policy would apply, and in which responsible individuals must act.
  3. Clarify required actions:  The policy states more clearly what steps responsible individuals should take when they learn about an occurrence of nepotism or potential nepotism.
Amended:
July 2014 - Comprehensive Review, Minor Revision. 1. The core University paragraph on retaliation was added. 2. Minor changes were made to the policy to make it consistent with other administrative policies.
Amended:
July 2008 - Statement, Exclusions, Definitions, Responsibilities and Procedure clarified and updated. Added new appendix: Template for Nepotism Agreement.
Amended:
June 2006 - Title of Policy changed from "Managing Consensual Relationships in the Workplace" to "Managing Nepotism and Personal Relationships" and the procedure title "Responding to Consensual Relationships" changed to: "Responding to Nepotism and Personal Relationships".
Amended:
June 2002 - Title of Policy changed from "Managing Personal Relationships in the Workplace" to "Managing Nepotism and Consensual Relationships" and the procedure title "Responding to Personal Relationships" changed to: "Responding to Nepotism and Consensual Relationships". This change was made to make this policy and procedure easier to find.
Amended:
May 1999 - Added FAQ section.
Effective:
March 1999 - The Regents policy on Nepotism and Consensual Relations was passed on December 11, 1998, modifying the previous policy on Nepotism. This policy establishes the first procedures.

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