Workplace policies

Equal employment opportunity policy
Bluffton University is an equal employment opportunity employer, and recognizes under its mission the importance of including within its teaching faculty, administration, staff and student body a diversity of persons. Employment decisions are based on merit and university needs, and not on race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, disability, marital status, or any other status protected by law. Bluffton will not discriminate against any qualified employee or job applicant who with or without reasonable accommodation can perform the essential functions of the job held or applied for, with respect to terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. Bluffton will make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless to do so would be an undue hardship on the university.

Because of its historical and continuing ties with Mennonite Church USA, Bluffton University claims exemptions to federal law requiring nondiscrimination according to religion, and reserves the right to give preference in appointing faculty and staff who share a commitment to Christian faith which is consistent with the Mennonite/Anabaptist beliefs of the university’s founding and supporting church.

Equal employment opportunity notices are posted near employee gathering places as required by law. These notices summarize the rights of employees to equal opportunity in employment and list the names and addresses of the various government agencies that may be contacted in the event that any person believes he or she has been discriminated against. Employees will not be retaliated against for reporting, in good faith, discriminatory conduct.

Bluffton’s administration is primarily responsible for seeing that the university's equal employment opportunity policies are implemented and apply uniformly to everyone. However, all members of the staff are responsible for assuring that these policies are followed. Any employee, including supervisors, involved in discriminatory practices will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination.

Harassment and intimidation policy
Bluffton University is committed to provide a work and campus environment that is pleasant, professional, and free from intimidation, hostility or other offensive behavior. Harassment, violence and intimidation of any sort – verbal, physical, visual – will not be tolerated. Harassment can exist whether or not it is directed at a particular individual and whether or not it is associated with unlawful discrimination. Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on a person’s protected status, such as race, color, creed, gender, religion, age, disability, or ethnic or national origin. Harassment includes conduct that demeans or shows hostility or aversion to an individual because of his or her protected status. In particular, no form of sexual harassment is condoned, including unwelcome behaviors ranging from verbal comments, to leering, to actual physical contact, or conduct that creates an intimidating, abusive or hostile work environment.

All Bluffton employees, and particularly supervisors, have a responsibility for keeping our work environment free of harassment, violence and intimidation. Any such incidents must be immediately reported to the Director of Human Resources or the Vice President of Fiscal Affairs. All reports will be promptly investigated with due regard for the privacy of everyone involved, however, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. Any employee found to have violated Bluffton’s policy prohibiting harassment, violence or intimidation of a Bluffton student, fellow employee or subordinate will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.  Bluffton University will also take any additional action necessary to appropriately remedy the situation.

Retaliation of any sort will not be permitted against any employee who makes a good faith report of alleged harassment or cooperates with investigation of a harassment complaint. However, knowingly making a false report of sexual harassment is also a violation of this policy.

Drug-free workplace policy
It is the intention of Bluffton University to provide a drug-free workplace and campus environment for all employees, students and visitors. Tobacco use is prohibited on Bluffton University’s campus except for two designated areas. Smoking in all university-owned vehicles is prohibited at all times. The possession, use, or distribution of alcohol is prohibited on university property, along with the intoxication of employees, students or visitors to campus. The unlawful possession, use or distribution of illicit drugs on university property is prohibited.

For violation of these tobacco, alcohol and drug standards of conduct, Bluffton will impose disciplinary sanctions on employees ranging from educational and rehabilitation efforts up to and including termination of employment and referral for prosecution, as circumstances warrant. Employees are required to notify the human resource office, in writing and within five days of the violation, of any criminal drug statute conviction they receive. If an employee receives such a conviction, Bluffton will take appropriate personnel action against the employee, up to and including termination.

Bluffton desires to help all employees be active in the implementation of this tobacco, alcohol and drug-free standard. Information about counseling, rehabilitation and assistance programs can be obtained from the human resources office.

Possession of weapons policy
Bluffton University prohibits all persons who enter university property from carrying a handgun, firearm, knife, or other prohibited weapon of any kind regardless of whether the person is licensed to carry the weapon or not. The only exception to this policy will be police officers or other persons who have been given written consent by Bluffton University to carry a weapon on the property. Any employee disregarding this policy will be subject to discipline up to immediate termination.

Computers, electronic mail, and voice mail usage policy
Electronic data transmission capability is a great tool for enhanced work productivity, and because of that Bluffton invests heavily in providing such systems for its employees. However, this capability also raises specific issues regarding ownership, use, access to and disclosure of electronically transmitted data. This policy addresses such issues related to computer-stored information, voice mail messages and electronic mail messages created, sent or received by Bluffton University's employees with the use of Bluffton University's equipment.

Bluffton University property, including computers, electronic mail and voice mail, should only be used for conducting university business. Incidental and occasional personal use of university computers and our voice mail and electronic mail systems is permitted, but information and messages stored in these systems will be treated no differently from other business-related information and messages, as described below.

The university’s electronic mail system may not be used to solicit for commercial ventures, outside organizations, or other non-job related solicitations. Furthermore, the electronic mail system is not to be used to create any offensive or disruptive messages, or to send or receive proprietary information or materials in violation of copyright laws.

Although Bluffton University provides certain pass codes to restrict access to computers, voice mail and electronic mail, and to protect these systems against external parties or entities obtaining unauthorized access, employees should understand that these systems are intended for university business use, and that all computer information, voice mail and electronic mail messages on these systems are to be considered as university records. All messages should be treated as confidential by other employees and accessed only by the intended recipient.

Bluffton also needs to be able to respond to proper requests resulting from legal proceedings that call for electronically-stored evidence. Therefore, the university must, and does, maintain the right and the ability to enter into any of these systems and to inspect and review any and all data recorded in those systems. Because Bluffton University reserves the right to obtain access to all voice mail and electronic mail messages left on or transmitted over these systems, employees should not assume that such messages are private and confidential or that Bluffton University or its designated representatives will not have a need to access and review this information. Individuals using Bluffton University's business equipment should also have no expectation that any information stored on their computer – whether the information is contained on a computer hard drive, computer disks or in any other manner – will be private.

The university recommends, as a guide, the following statement on software and intellectual copyright distributed jointly by the Information Technology Association of North America and by EDUCAUSE, the non-profit consortium of colleges and universities committed to the use and management of information technology in higher education:

“Respect for intellectual labor and creativity is vital to academic discourse and enterprise. This principle applies to work of all authors and publishers in all media. It encompasses respect for the right to acknowledgement, right to privacy, and right to determine the form, manner, and terms of publication and distribution. Because electronic information is volatile and easily reproduced, respect for the work and personal expression of others is especially critical in computer environments. Violations of authorial integrity, including plagiarism, invasion of privacy, unauthorized access, and trade secrets and copyright violations, may be grounds for sanctions against members of the academic community.”

Any employee who violates this policy or uses the electronic communication systems for improper purposes may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination. 

Computer software (unauthorized copying) policy
Bluffton University does not condone the illegal duplication of software. The copyright law is clear. The copyright holder is given certain exclusive rights, including the right to make and distribute copies. Title 17 of the U.S. Code provides that it is illegal to make or distribute copies of copyrighted material without authorization. There are limited exceptions to this rule, including the users' right to make a backup copy for archival purposes (Section 117). The law protects the exclusive rights of the copyright holder and does not give users the right to copy software unless a backup copy is not provided by the manufacturer. Unauthorized duplication of software is a federal crime. Penalties include fines up to and including $250,000, and jail terms of up to five years.

It is Bluffton’s practice to license the use of computer software from a variety of outside companies. Bluffton does not own this software or its related documentation and, unless authorized by the software manufacturer, does not have the right to reproduce it. Employees should use the software on local area networks or on multiple machines only in accordance with the software publisher's license agreement. Employees learning of any misuse of software or related documentation within the university must notify their supervisor immediately. According to the U.S. copyright law, illegal reproduction of software can be subject to civil damages and criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Bluffton University employees who make, acquire or use unauthorized copies of computer software shall be disciplined as appropriate under the circumstances. Such discipline may include termination.

Confidential information policy
Employment at Bluffton University assumes an obligation for all employees to maintain confidentiality of private information, even after leaving Bluffton’s employment. Our students, parents, alumni, donors and employees entrust the university with important personal information that we have both a moral and legal obligation to safeguard. Unauthorized disclosure, copying or removal of confidential information could lead to discipline up to and including termination, as well as other possible legal action.

Communication standards policy
Bluffton works hard to maintain high and consistent standards for all business-related communications. These standards apply to all forms of written employee communication and the use of logos that represent Bluffton University or one of its offices or programs to either internal or external audiences.

The public relations office has developed a brand standards manual for the purpose of maintaining consistency of institutional communication and graphic standards. The guide is available on-line at www.bluffton.edu/audience/campus/facresources/. Please contact the public relations office for assistance in using and applying Bluffton’s brand standards.

Employees are expected to support university communication standards and should refrain from attaching personal statements, quotations, favorite sayings or verses, etc., to work-related letters, memos, or e-mails, and such communication should be distributed and printed using university approved fonts. Letters to the editor, or similar forms of communication expressing personal opinions, should not include reference to Bluffton employment or the author’s university job title (unless permission to do so has been sought and received) so as to avoid any confusion or misrepresentation regarding an official university position on a particular issue. Only the director of public relations or a member of the President’s Cabinet is authorized to make such statements, or approve the statements of others, on behalf of the university.

Personal appearance policy
All Bluffton employees (including student workers) are expected to dress and maintain a personal appearance that is appropriate to their job function and responsibilities, in accordance with accepted social, professional and business standards.

Departmental budget management guidelines
When spending university funds, we should keep in mind that the primary source of institutional revenue is tuition, fees and room/board charges paid by students and their families and from donations to the university. Bluffton endeavors to practice good stewardship of these investments in all aspects of our program, including departmental expenditures. Toward this end, and to help ensure consistency and fairness across the institution, the following department budget management guidelines have been developed:

 Recognition of employee and personal events

            Employment anniversaries and retirements.  The annual Employee Recognition Dinner provides a special opportunity to recognize all faculty and staff service milestones (five year anniversaries). The President’s Office coordinates the event and the “official” service recognitions and/or gifts provided on behalf of the university. Recognition for faculty/staff retirements, whether that be a reception, meal and/or gift, is coordinated by the appropriate vice president. Faculty/staff friends and colleagues wishing to give additional gifts/cards or recognitions are asked to use personal funds rather than university funds for such purposes.

            Personal recognitions.  As members of a Bluffton community, we celebrate friendships and personal milestones in many different ways. This care and recognition of significant life events of friends and colleagues is an important part of our community life. In situations where some might choose to give gifts and cards to individual faculty, staff or students (perhaps for events such as graduations, birthdays, Christmas or other holidays, births in the family, administrative professional days, etc.), it is appropriate to use personal rather than institutional funds for such purposes.

            Funerals and memorials.  Upon the death of an employee or an immediate family member, the President’s Office sends a floral arrangement which is identified as coming from “the Bluffton University community.” It is appropriate to use personal rather than institutional funds if individuals or groups of employees wish to convey additional expressions of sympathy and support during this time.

Food and refreshments
 Bluffton values and recognizes the importance of community-building events and activities involving employees and students, and recognizes the difficulty of establishing “one-size-fits-all” guidelines in the area of food and refreshments expenditures. The following general principals should be kept in mind as institutional funds are spent on food and refreshments:

            Refreshments at events.  If budget allows, and to help celebrate our community spirit, the university maintains the tradition of providing light refreshments from time-to-time for open-invitation lectures or large gatherings such as faculty meetings or administrative reporting (i.e., Cabinet Reports). Other than for events as described above, employees and students are expected to pay for their own food and beverages (e.g., coffee, bottled water and snacks). 

            Meals at work sessions.  On occasion, Bluffton provides a meal for employees (e.g., the faculty/staff welcome picnic, the Employee Recognition Dinner and when extending hospitality to an off-campus guest). Normally, however, employees are expected to pay for their own meals while “on the job." Thus, for example, groups/committees that choose to meet at the breakfast, lunch or dinner hour should pay for meals with personal funds. This applies whether the meetings are on or off campus. It is understood that on rare occasions a particularly special departmental purpose or goal might suggest that university funds should be used to pay for the meal. To help determine this, requests should be cleared in advance with the appropriate vice president.

Purchasing reminders

            Office furnishings and supplies.  Bluffton University provides the furniture, office equipment and supplies that are necessary to create a functional work environment for employees. Those who wish to enhance their space with decorations, air fresheners, plants, etc. should pay for these items with personal funds.

            Price quotes.  It is important to make sure that good value is achieved when purchasing items on behalf of the university. While it is comfortable to purchase items from the same vendor every time, it is important to check around to make sure that university funds are being used prudently. It would be appropriate in most cases to get quotes from at least three vendors for significant expenditures. When deciding between two similar quotes, preference should be given to the vendor who is local and/or has a relationship with the university.

            Sales tax exemption.  Bluffton University is a tax exempt organization and, as such, does not pay state sales tax. When making a purchase, make sure that the vendor is aware of Bluffton’s tax exempt status. If required, complete the Tax Exempt Form and provide it to the vendor. In accordance with accepted auditing standards, employees who request reimbursement for authorized job-related expenses must submit a signed expense report (obtained from the Business Office – contact Janean Shannon to add a link to your desktop), accompanied by receipts as required. The reimbursement request must be approved by the employee’s supervisor prior to submission to the business office cashier in the lower level of College Hall.

Expense reimbursement policy for employee travel
From time to time, employees may be required to travel to conduct university business or further the mission of Bluffton University. Bluffton will reimburse employees for meals, lodging and travel expenses that are directly associated with the required travel. It is the employee’s responsibility to be cost conscious and to spend the university’s money prudently, keeping in mind that the majority of Bluffton’s funds come from current students and their families and from donors to the university. As such, determinations of where to stay, how to travel and where to eat should be made through the lens of stewardship.  

Reimbursement procedure
In accordance with accepted auditing standards, employees who request reimbursement for authorized job-related expenses must submit a signed expense report (obtained from the Business Office – contact Janean Shannon to add a link to your desktop), accompanied by receipts as required. The reimbursement request must be approved by the employee’s supervisor prior to submission to the business office (lower level of College Hall) as soon as possible after the travel is completed. In order for the university to keep records and accounting accurate and current, expense reports or vouchers more than three months old may not be honored. Expense reports that total less than $100 should be taken to the cashier to receive cash. Reports totaling more than $100 should be submitted via campus mail and will reimbursed via check or direct deposit.

            Personal meals.  If personal meals must be eaten away from home due to work-related travel, they will be reimbursed. While the university does not have a per diem policy with regard to meals, it is understood that the employee should keep expenses to a minimum. Please note that IRS regulations require restaurant receipts to show the individual items purchased (rather than only the total amount charged to a credit card) for any meal expense reimbursement. Meal expenses will not be reimbursed without an itemized receipt. While the university will cover the cost of meals, it is understood that the cost of snacks will be covered by the individual. Further, Bluffton University funds should not be used to purchase alcoholic beverages.

            Airfare and lodging.  Reasonable airfare (coach) and lodging expenses will be reimbursed. Employees should seek out the most economical airfare and lodging options available – this will usually require purchasing airline tickets and reserving lodging well in advance of travel. When selecting a hotel, convenience, cost and proximity should be considered. When possible, mid-range hotels should be selected. When making a hotel reservation, make sure that the hotel staff is aware of Bluffton’s tax exempt status. If required, complete the Tax Exempt Form and provide it to the hotel at check-in.

            Mileage reimbursement.   Employees who are asked to conduct university business using personal vehicles will be reimbursed at the per-mile rate of 42 cents (subject to periodic revision). In the event that business-related travel is conducted on the way to or from campus, IRS regulations require that mileage reimbursement be determined by the shorter of the distance from the employee’s home to the destination or from campus to the destination.

Vehicle use policy
Any employee operating a Bluffton University owned, rented or leased vehicle in the course of assigned work, or if operating their own vehicle in performing their job, must adhere to the university’s rules and regulations regarding vehicle usage. For detailed information concerning Bluffton University’s vehicle use policy please contact the business office.