If someone in an organization files a complaint against someone else, let's say a superior (but even a colleague), is that person prohibited from further communication with the complainant?

Edited to remove identifying/personal information


2 Answers 2


An employer is likely to advise an employee to not communicate with an individual, if the employee has no legal obligation to communicate with the individual, and the employer believe that there is a risk of the individual suing the employer.


So, from a legal perspective, would faculty be prohibited or advised against communicating with a student if that student brought some type of allegation against them such as triggering their anxiety?

I've seen this sort of thing play out before, not in an academic situation admittedly (it was a workplace) but the initial allegations were of a similar nature and one of the very first things HR and legal advised was not to communicate with the person making them. In your scenario communications between a member of the faculty and yourself were even the inciting incident, were there to be further allegations arising out of subsequent communications the university would not only be opening itself up to any liability for those allegations but for having failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the situation recurring.

Even if the university didn't take the allegation seriously (i.e. they saw that these were perfectly professional emails), at the time I, I was upset and accusing her of inflicting an emotional injury. That has to factor into all of this

There's a distinction between not taking an allegation seriously and deeming an allegation unfounded. Communicating with an individual with a track record of taking unnremarkable communications and using them as a basis for unfounded allegations of a serious nature, is only going to provide more opportunities for a repeat. That an allegation has been deemed unfounded or retracted doesn't make it as though it never happened, and nor should it - it just means that the allegation is not being treated as true.

Anyway, on the one hand, I've been told by their legal dept. that this wasn't considered a grievance, and that it wasn't "taken seriously," etc. However, if that was the case, I don't understand why I couldn't talk to the professor afterwards to apologize. The easiest way for the university to reassure me that she was not "harmed" would have been for her to have told me so herself. It would have required no more than a few minute conversation (or a short email since she was living out of state), plus admin. (and the prof.) knew that I was suffering from a disability that predisposes me to worry.

The chair also stopped communicating with me at that point, for what it's worth. However, when I brought this up to the temp. asst. gen. counsel, he said that "faculty are not obligated to respond to student emails." This was the same response I was given when I wanted to apologize to the professor.

This touches on the crux of the matter - even if there were no advice or prohibition specifically against communicating with you that wouldn't mean they were obligated to communicate with you. As I understand the situation you are no longer a student at the university, and the professor is no longer an employee there which will further reduce any possible obligations to communicate, so from the information you have provided you are reliant on them choosing to communicate with you. And, frankly, why would they?

  • @Gemini To your first comment - while I can understand how you might see that as callous really it appears very much as though they are taking only eminently sensible precautions. As to your second, I'm not really sure what you mean by "advise communicating with an individual"? Sep 21, 2020 at 17:26
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    @Gemini That makes sense - unfortunately I can't answer that for you. Personally I'd probably say if that were the case but I can't speak for anyone else. Ultimately though it doesn't matter whether they are not permitted to communicate with you or they don't want to, the end result is the same. Sep 22, 2020 at 10:36

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