A young woman named Ayana is dialing a number on her cell phone. She looks serious.

This month’s Compliance Case Study is a follow-up to last month’s post. When we last left Ayana, she had decided to call the VCUHelpline to report her supervisor’s behavior. Let’s listen in on the call to see what happened:

The People: 

Ayana – An employee in a department at the university

Call Center Agent – A representative for Convercent, the third-party company that takes the calls for VCUHelpline

The Setting:

Ayana’s apartment

The Event:

Once Ayana decided to report Dr. Curry’s behavior, she called the VCUHelpline.

(Ring. Ring.)

The first thing Ayana heard was a recording that said, “Thank you for calling VCU’s Helpline, administered by Convercent. Someone will be with you in a moment to hear your concerns.” Ayana wondered how long it would take for someone to pick up. She started feeling nervous and considered hanging up, but she thought about  Carlos and how his job might be at risk. After a few seconds, someone joined the call.

Call Center Agent: Thank you for calling Convercent. Are you making a new report or calling to check on an existing one?

Ayana: I’m making a new report.

Agent: Alright, please give me a second to open a new case. (A few seconds later.) Please listen while I review the services we offer…

Ayana listened as the agent explained that he would be taking notes to record what Ayana said as she spoke. He also told her that this was not an emergency hotline and if she was in distress, she needed to call 911. The agent asked if Ayana understood.

Ayana: Yes, I do.

Agent: There are several different types of reports. In order for me to categorize your report correctly, can you give me a brief overview of what happened?

Ayana: Well, my supervisor has been mistreating her staff, and now it seems that one of my teammates who stepped up to express a concern might lose his job.

Agent: Thank you. We will categorize this as an employee relations report. I will be typing as you say what you want to report. I may stop you to ask a question, if I need to clarify something, or if I fall behind. Are you ready to begin?

Ayana: Yes. (Deep breath.)

Ayana explained everything, from Carlos approaching Dr. Curry with his concerns about safety to Dr. Curry telling him she didn’t appreciate his negativity and telling him not to share his concerns with anyone else. Then she talked about the staff meeting where Dr. Curry threatened the team, and when she said she would be glad when Carlos was gone.

Agent: Does that complete your report?

Ayana: Yes.

Agent: You have three options for identifying yourself. You may identify yourself by name; you may remain anonymous to VCU, but reveal your identity to the Helpline; you may remain completely anonymous.

Ayana: Does “anonymous” guarantee that Dr. Curry will never learn that I made this call?

Agent: It means that your name won’t be associated with this report at all. Your employer can’t guarantee that, in the course of the investigation, no one will figure out who reported, especially if you’re reporting a specific interaction that only you witnessed. However, no one will receive your name related in any way to this report.

Ayana: Ok – I would like to remain anonymous.

Agent: Alright. Now, you need to pick a password and give me the answer to a security question that only you would know. You can use these if you call back for a status report, and still maintain your anonymity.

Ayana picked a password and gave him the answer to a security question.

Agent: Do I have your permission to file the report?

Ayana: Yes. Oh, wait. I have one more question. Can you please tell me what happens next?

Agent: Since we’re a third-party, we will send this report to the Integrity and Compliance Office and they will partner with the appropriate offices to begin an investigation. You can call back in a couple of days and provide us with your password and security question answer to get an update on any steps that have been taken to resolve the issue. Please allow me to give you an access number (He gives her a number.); you will give this to us so we can find your case when you call back. Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

Ayana: No, thank you. Good-bye.

Agent: Good-bye.

Ayana didn’t know what she had expected, but the process was much easier than she thought it would be. And the call center agent was an impartial person on the other end of the line, simply asking questions and taking notes. He didn’t react to her report, he didn’t make her feel like he was judging her or offering his opinion or advice; he simply recorded her side of the story.

Over the next few weeks Ayana did follow-up, but it took several attempts to learn what happened because investigations take time. Eventually, when she signed into the case with the access number she had been given, Ayana read an update posted by the Integrity and Compliance Office. It said that her concern had been shared with leadership for review and appropriate corrective action, if necessary, had been taken with Dr. Curry. They explained that anytime corrective actions are taken, those actions are personnel matters, so they are confidential.

The Takeaway:

It can be hard to make the decision to report something. But when you do, it can make a big difference; a difference in how you feel – you finally told someone what happened! – and a difference in how things will be going forward. Ayana found a way to report her concerns that worked for her, but there are several ways to report. To learn more, see this month’s Compliance Corner blog post. If you decide to utilize the Helpline, like Ayana, you can reach them online at VCUHelpline.com or by calling 1-888-242-6022.

This case study is based on an actual case investigated by our office, but the names and details have been changed to protect the identities of the people involved.

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