MCW Ombuds Office

About Us

The role of an Ombuds is to serve as a confidential, independent, informal and neutral resource for faculty, staff physicians, postdoctoral fellows and staff. The Ombuds Office is a safe place where such Medical College of Wisconsin individuals can come and talk in confidence about any workplace issue, problem or dispute.

We assist people with interpersonal misunderstandings or disputes as well as those with concerns about administrative issues. We attempt to help individuals resolve their concerns equitably and, if possible, informally.

The Ombuds Office provides information on institutional policies and practices, assists in identifying and examining alternatives and solutions and identifies proper resources to help resolve situations. The Ombuds is a designated neutral and, as such, does not advocate for any individual or point of view.  The Ombuds Office does not conduct formal investigations, adjudicate, arbitrate, or serve as witnesses in any administrative or legal proceedings.

The Ombuds Office is independent from other MCW entities or authorities. The Ombuds Office reports to the President for administrative purposes only and does not report on the substance of individual cases or concerns.

The Ombuds Office brings systemic issues and patterns to the attention of the responsible change agents in a manner that ensures confidentiality.  The Ombuds Office also issues Annual Reports (PDF) to provide general data on the volume and characteristics of the visitors to the Ombuds office, as well as information on the types of issues raised.

While the term “Ombudsman” may be more familiar, we have chosen to use the gender-neutral term “Ombuds” to reflect the Medical College of Wisconsin’s cultural sensitivity.

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  Our Principles

Four key principles guide our exercise of integrity and ethical behavior: confidentiality, independence, informality and neutrality. The Ombuds fosters respect for all members of the Medical College of Wisconsin community and promotes fairness in the content and administration of College practices, processes and policies.

We are confidential
We will not identify you or discuss your concerns with anyone without your permission. The only exceptions to this pledge of confidentiality are when the Ombuds determines that there is an imminent threat of harm or in the rare instance that the Ombuds is legally compelled to report the situation.

We are independent
We are independent of central administration and are not aligned with any campus department or group. We work hard to merit the trust others place in us.

We are informal
Any communication with us is “off the record” and does not put MCW on formal notice.

We are neutral
We do not take sides. We consider the rights and interests of all parties. We are advocates for good communication and fair process.


  Standards of Practice

The Medical College of Wisconsin Ombuds Office functions according to the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice (PDF) and the core values of independence, impartiality/neutrality, confidentiality and informality.

These Standards of Practice are based upon and derived from the ethical principles stated in the IOA Code of Ethics (PDF) and govern the way in which our office receives complaints, works to resolve issues and makes recommendations for the general improvement of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

  The Ombuds Office Does:
  • Listen and discuss workplace questions, concerns and complaints
  • Offer a SAFE place to discuss your concerns
  • Open channels of workplace communication; facilitate conversations
  • Informally investigates complaints
  • Help evaluate various options to address workplace concerns
  • Answer questions concerning appropriate channels
  • Explain Medical College of Wisconsin policies and procedures
  • Facilitate communication between people
  • Advise individuals about steps to resolve problems informally
  • Advise individuals about formal and administrative options
  • Assist with problems that have not been resolved by other offices
  • Make appropriate referrals when informal options don't work
  • Discuss patterns of problems/complaints with administrators
  • Recommend changes to Medical College of Wisconsin policy, rules or procedures that are outdated, unclear or ineffective
  The Ombuds Office Does Not:
  • Participate in formal grievance processes
  • Conduct formal investigations
  • Make administrative decisions for Medical College of Wisconsin administrators
  • Determine "guilt" or "innocence"
  • Assign sanctions to individuals
  • Serve as witness in any administrative or legal proceedings, except in rare instances when compelled to do so
  • Receive official "notice" for the Medical College about issues
    • Offices authorized to accept formal notice include but are not limited to Human Resources, the Office of the General Counsel, Title IX Coordinators, and/or the Compliance Office
  • Maintain records that identify visitors to the office
  How Might an Ombuds Help?
  • By helping to surface information when people are afraid to come forward in the workplace
  • By helping to clarify and resolve a workplace conflict
  • By helping to develop and evaluate options or courses of action, and assisting visitors in knowing how to pursue an option
  • By identifying dispute resolution alternatives for people who seek options and by referring individuals to appropriate services
  • By looking into a problem informally (with permission) and, when appropriate, presenting recommendations to the visitor or others
  • By assisting in dispute resolution by bringing together the parties involved in order to assist them in reaching their own settlement
  • By recommending systems change to appropriate individuals
  • By coaching visitors about how an issue or concern may be presented more effectively
  When Might You Contact The Ombuds Office?
  • To discuss a workplace situation "off the record" with someone knowledgeable about MCW and its policies so that you can decide whether to take action and, if so, what to do
  • To request information about management decisions, policies or rights and responsibilities of all parties
  • To explore alternatives for resolving a workplace problem
  • To learn the process for filing a formal complaint or appeal
  • To request a “reality check”
  • To try to resolve a workplace conflict in an informal way
  • To learn how to resolve a workplace conflict on one’s own
  • To learn what other resources may be available
  • To ask for a confidential channel to surface information
  Common Issues

For many individuals, the Office of the Ombuds is often a safe first step in addressing a problem. For others, contacting the office may occur later in the evolution of a concern. Speaking with the Ombuds should help increase your awareness of available alternatives for resolving work-related problems and will enhance your ability to deal more effectively on your own with troubling situations.
Common issues brought to the Office of the Ombuds include:

  • Academic integrity
  • Advisor-advisee or supervisor-supervisee relations
  • Authorship
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Disciplinary action
  • Educational integrity
  • Ethics / Whistle-blowing
  • Favoritism
  • Fear of coming forward or of acting to stop unacceptable behavior
  • Fear of retaliation or actual retaliation
  • Harassment, discrimination, abuse of power, bullying, unfair treatment
  • Help in writing a reference, evaluation, commendation, a letter of concern, or help in writing responses
  • Intellectual property disputes
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • bull; Performance appraisals
  • Personality conflicts
  • Policy issues
  • Racism or other forms of discrimination
  • Research-related issues
  • Safety issues
  • Scientific misconduct
  • Suggestions for improvement at the Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Working conditions
  Research Issues

Research-related concerns are a common reason to consult with the Office of the Ombuds. Individuals may pursue these informal inquires for numerous reasons: they may try to gather information; determine whether their perception has any validity; reflect on their respective situations; seek and discuss interpretations of school policies; brainstorm approaches to discuss these topics with a decision-maker; or learn about procedures if a formal complaint were to be made by or against them.

Queries in this category may include:

  • animal care and use
  • authorship (order and inclusion)
  • attribution of credit
  • disposition of research products (what is mine and what can I take with me when I leave)
  • human research protection
  • integrity in science issues (e.g., conflict of interest, professional misconduct, misrepresentation of data, protocol errors, plagiarism, etc.)

You can contact the Office of the Ombuds for individualized appointments tailored to your specific concerns.

  What Will Happen If You Call?

To contact the Office, call us any time at (414) 266-8776. You may provide information and also tell us how to reach you – or you may choose to remain anonymous. You may make a telephone appointment or you may meet with us in person. If you would like an appointment, and we are not immediately available, leave a message and we will contact you as soon as possible. We also try to schedule appointments as quickly as possible, depending on the schedule of the visitor.

We will listen to your workplace concerns or suggestions and will try to brainstorm issues, options and possible outcomes with you. You may decide that you would like just to think things over. You may decide to handle a concern on your own or you might ask us to make an informal telephone call about the issue of concern. If we agree to make a phone call, we would discuss with you whether this seems like an effective option. The Ombuds and his staff will not answer questions about people with whom they may have spoken, nor disclose an individual’s name or specific issue, with anyone outside of the Ombuds Office – unless during discussions with a visitor they are given permission to do so for the purpose of informal conflict resolution, and if the Ombuds also agrees to attempt informal resolution. The exceptions to this pledge of confidentiality are described above.

We can help you bring information to the attention of appropriate individuals. We would be happy to talk with you about Medical College policies, to refer you to relevant line and staff managers and to discuss formal options for resolving complaints.

The Ombuds does not conduct formal investigations, adjudicate, arbitrate or serve as a witness voluntarily in any administrative or legal proceedings either at the Medical College or elsewhere. Since the Office is made available to faculty, staff and administrators as a purely voluntary and “alternate” channel of communication, those people who use the program also will be considered to have agreed to abide by these principles of confidentiality.

  Informal Process

The Ombuds will provide you with a safe forum to voice your workplace concerns, evaluate your situation, organize your thoughts, assess your feelings and decide what is important and relevant according to your specific circumstances.

Working together, we will generate and explore options for you to consider. Options can range from simply talking about your problem to pursuing a formal grievance internally or externally. You choose the options you prefer. Keep in mind that timelines contained in policies and procedures, such as the Staff Conflict Resolution Policy and the Faculty Grievance Procedure, are not waived or extended while informal options are explored.

Your privacy will be respected, as conversations will ordinarily remain confidential. Notes are not kept. In very unusual circumstances, such as a court order or where there is a potential threat to safety, and all other options appear to have been exhausted, information may need to be shared. Please let us know if you have particular concerns about confidentiality.

  Internal Formal Process

If you choose not to use informal processes or attempts at resolving the situation informally have failed, you may choose a more formal grievance process. The Ombuds will discuss how to access the formal process appropriate to your circumstances but does not participate in any formal proceedings.

  Annual Reports

1st Annual Report to Faculty and Staff (PDF)
(November 15, 2011 - December 31, 2012)

2nd Annual Report to Faculty and Staff (PDF)
(January 1, 2013 - December 31, 2013)

3rd Annual Report to Faculty and Staff (PDF)
(January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014)

4th Annual Report to Faculty and Staff (PDF)
(January 1, 2015 - December 31, 2015)
Addendum - 2015 Data: International Ombudsman Association Reporting Categories (PDF)

5th Annual Report to Faculty and Staff (PDF)
(January 1, 2016 - December 31, 2016)
Addendum - Five-Year Comparison Data: International Ombudsman Association Reporting Categories (PDF)

Contact Us

Natalie C. Fleury, JD

Katie Geis
Assistant to the Ombuds

Michelle Shasha, PhD

Ombuds Office
Medical College of Wisconsin
Curative Building, Room 2512
8701 Watertown Plank Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226
(414) 266-8776 (confidential line - please dial 7-digit number; dialing ext. 8776 will transfer you to the wrong department) (Note that confidentiality may not be assured when communicating via email.)

Directions to the Ombuds Office

The Ombuds Office is interested in your feedback about our services. Please consider completing an anonymous and confidential Ombuds Office Visitor Experience survey.

Due to our confidential, neutral, informal and independent role, a consultation with the Ombuds office is not official notice to MCW and does not satisfy or trigger any reporting obligations or deadlines used for more formal complaint mechanisms. The Ombuds Office is not authorized to act as an agent for or accept notice on behalf of MCW. Offices authorized to accept formal notice include but are not limited to Human Resources, the Office of the General Counsel, Title IX Coordinators, and/or the Compliance Office.