Frequent Questions

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The following are questions or situations that may arise within a department or unit and answers for addressing those situations.


What to do if a lawsuit has been served on you:

If you are served with a lawsuit which involves you as an employee of the University (as opposed to a personal matter), please do the following:

1.  Immediately e-mail, fax or bring a copy of the papers to the Office of General Counsel (3550 Beardshear, Fax: 4-1799) together with a short description indicating who served them and how and when you received them.

2.  Make sure that your supervisor (Director, Dean or Vice President is informed.

If you are named as a defendant in the lawsuit, please make an appointment to meet with an attorney in the Office of General Counsel. We will help you understand the process of litigation.

What to do if General Counsel sends you a notice to preserve records or electronic materials:

The Office of General Counsel may notify you or your department of the need to preserve records, both paper and electronic, in the event of actual or anticipated litigation involving the University or University employees. This obligation to preserve records is extremely important and overrides any records retention schedule that you or your department may have in place. Please do not destroy, modify, or delete any records or documents that are covered by the preservation notice.

General Counsel will work with individual employees as well as IT personnel to secure and preserve electronic materials as well as paper copies. Even though IT staff will be involved, it is important that you also preserve such electronic records on your computers (files, documents, databases, metadata, digital images), phones (voice, text), or other electronic equipment - even personal equipment on which you store work-related materials. The easiest way to preserve electronic materials is to create a separate folder, or print the materials out and put them in a paper folder. Do not electronically forward e-mails to General Counsel as a way to preserve these messages - please print or save in their native format. Please also remember to print/preserve attachments to e-mail messages.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of General Counsel at 515-294-5352. For technical help, you can also contact your local IT staff or the Office of the Chief Information Officer at 515-294-0323.

What to do if you receive a subpoena:

A subpoena is an order for you or a University employee to testify or disclose documents about a matter of litigation or a matter under investigation. The Office of General Counsel advises when the information sought relates to university business, rather than information you have independent of your employment.  Special care should be exercised in releasing the following types of information:

  • Records about students
  • Personnel records
  • Medical or counseling records

Please contact us to be sure that the subpoena is valid, and that the records may be produced under the law. Attorneys and agencies often use subpoenas which are not valid.  It will help if you do the following:

1.  E-mail or bring the subpoena to the Office of General Counsel (3550 Beardshear, Fax: 4-1799) together with a short description of how and when you received it. Include a copy of any checks or attachments. Please retain the original unless we request it.

2.  Set a time to discuss the subpoena with one of our staff. Most often, a phone conference is sufficient.

What to do if you receive a bankruptcy notice:

1.  Immediately e-mail, fax or send a copy of the papers to the Office of General Counsel (3550 Beardshear, Fax 4-1799), together with a description of any debt or contract you have with the person or firm filing for bankruptcy.
2.  STOP ALL COLLECTION EFFORTS.  It may be a violation of bankruptcy law to continue collection efforts against the debtor or a co-debtor after you have been notified of the initiation of bankruptcy proceedings.
3.  Please assess how much the debtor owes your unit so that a Proof of Claim can be filed.
4.  Schedule an appointment with the Office of General Counsel if the bankruptcy will be a hardship for your unit.

What to do if you receive a public records request:

Guidance concerning public records requests can be obtained from ISU's Public Records Officer.

What to do if a Professional & Scientific grievance is filed:

Professional & Scientific employees are encouraged to use informal channels to resolve problems.  However, the formal grievance procedure is available to a non-exempt P&S employee if he/she chooses to use it.  Please refer to the P&S Dispute Resolution Policy.  Such grievances are to be submitted on the Professional & Scientific Grievance Form which is available to download through the Policy Library or in University Human Resources Service Office.

The University Human Resource Services Office is available to both management personnel and the grievant to explain the grievance procedure and alternate dispute resolution procedures.  For assistance, please call HRS at 294-6458.  Supervisors and administrators with legal questions relating to P&S grievances may call the Office of University Counsel at 294-5352.

What to do if a Union or Merit grievance is filed:

The majority of blue collar and clerical employees at Iowa State are covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the State of Iowa and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 61, AFL-CIO.  Actions which the union deems to be violations of the agreement may be grieved.  Grievances are submitted on an AFSCME Grievance Form.  Supervisors of blue collar and clerical employees should refer to Article IV of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  If you need a copy of the Agreement, please call University Human Resource Services at 294-6458.  The Organized Merit (AFSCME) Grievance Process is further detailed on the University Human Resource Services' website.

Certain merit employees are not within the Collective Bargaining Units. These employees are classified as Supervisory and Confidential employees (Non-Organized Merit). Grievances by Supervisory and Confidential employees may be brought under rules established by the Board of Regents. See Iowa Administrative Code 681-3.129(8A). Copies may be obtained from the Office of University Counsel, at 4-5352. The S&C Grievance Process is further detailed at the University Human Resource Services website.

If you receive a grievance and feel that you need assistance, please call either University Human Resources (4-0148) or, if there is a legal issue, the Office of University Counsel (4-5352).

Executive Order 85 and ISU settlements:

In 2014, Governor Branstad issued Executive Order 85 (EO85) to increase accountability, openness and transparency in state government. The Order requires that state personnel settlements, including ISU personnel settlements, be posted in a location easily available to the public. Additionally, no personnel settlement agreements shall contain any confidentiality provision. All ISU employee settlements covered by EO85 will be subject to review by the Office of General Counsel, University Human Resources, the President, the Iowa Attorney General and the Board of Regents. EO85 includes settlements where a severance or monetary payment is made in connection with litigation, resignation, external agency complaints, formal disciplinary procedures, AFSCME grievances (settled beyond step 1), GRIP settlements, or internal discrimination complaints. EO85 does not cover non-settlements (e.g. performance evaluations, actions plans, etc.) nor does it apply to Worker's Comp settlements or retirement agreements under incentive programs. To discuss how EO85 could affect ISU settlements, contact the Office of General Counsel.

What to do if your department would like to hire at attorney:

If for some reason the Office of General Counsel is unable to provided legal assistance to your department, we will assist in securing outside counsel.  The Regents Policy Manual §2.6A(ii) requires that the Board Office approve hiring of attorneys advising or representing Regents Institutions. The University Policy on Legal Counsel requires the Office of General Counsel to be notified when units wish to secure outside legal services. We therefore request that you notify us as early as possible so that the appropriate approvals are received in a timely manner.

What to do if you have a personal legal problem:

The Office of General Counsel does not provide personal legal advice.

Students needing personal legal advice should consult with Student Legal Services in 0367 Memorial Union, (515) 294-0978.

Employees and members of the general public needing personal legal advice may contact the Iowa State Bar Association (515-280-7429 in Des Moines or 800-532-1108 outside of Des Moines).  Legal Aid of Story County also provides legal assistance for those who qualify.  They are located at 937 Sixth Street, Nevada, Iowa (515-382-2471).