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September 16, 2004

Pitt Sets up Hotline for Employee Complaints

Pitt employees who want to report financial discrepancies, inappropriate behavior, research compliance and other problems in the workplace can call a new toll free hotline, AlertLine.

Non-university personnel staff the hotline round the clock, seven days a week. The service is confidential.

AlertLine does not replace traditional channels for grievances such as human resources and other departments, said John Elliott, the University’s Internal Audit director.

The hotline is a result of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002. Described as the most sweeping financial reporting regulations since the Great Depression, SOX sets to safeguard against corporate fraud, among other things.

As a public institution, Pitt was not required to comply with SOX. But Pitt officials and trustees said the principles of SOX were a good idea, so they changed its audit committee charter to conform to the federal legislation, reported during the board’s June 25, 2004, meeting.

Other universities such as Drexel adopted the spirit of SOX as well.

“We thought the provisions of SOX were appropriate as far as best practices go and overall governance,” Elliot said. “And the hot line is a mechanism for employees to report concerns,” he said.

At first, officials wanted the hot line just for financial problems. But they changed their minds after considering the scope of employee concerns, according to Elliot.

All calls made to AlertLine are turned over to the appropriate University department for follow-up. Those departments include the Office of Human Resources, Department of Internal Audit, Office of Research Conduct and Compliance and the Office of the General Counsel.

According to Elliot, it’s not unusual for him to get anonymous messages suggesting that he look into a certain matter. That won’t change, he said, but with the hotline, employees will have the convenience of a 24-hour service and the comfort of confidentiality, if desired.

— Mary Ann Thomas

Filed under: Feature,Volume 37 Issue 2

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