Ombuds Charter

To support our commitment to the HFES Code of Ethics and our Statement of Appropriate Conduct at HFES meetings, HFES has decided to provide organizational ombuds services in connection with its live, in-person meetings.  Our goal is to have meetings that are as inclusive and accessible as possible for attendees, regardless of gender, sexual orientation/identity, race/ethnicity, religion, employment status, or status in the field.  In addition, HFES desires to improve the conduct and climate at future meetings with aggregate data and non-confidential feedback on trends and recommendations from the ombuds. 

The HFES Ombuds Program is designed to be an independent, impartial, off-the-record, and confidential channel for meeting attendees to discuss any issues they may have concerning their meeting related experiences or observations.  The ombuds selected to provide these services ("Meeting Ombuds" or "Ombuds") will be available to provide information confidentially and will provide a safe place for people to discuss such issues as safety, actions from overly-friendliness to harassment, micro-aggressions, free speech, integrity, privacy, conflicts of interest ( including accessibility, lodging, and food), alcohol consumption and meeting cliques.  The Ombuds is a resource to informally discuss any of these or other meeting-related concerns and help inquirers develop options, problem-solve, create paths for self-advocacy, and make informed choices about the best path forward.

This Charter sets forth the operating principles under which the HFES Ombuds Program will operate and reflects our commitment to the meeting Ombuds and the role of this position. 

Standards of Operation

The HFES Ombuds shall be provided membership in the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) and shall adhere to IOA's Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice in performing ombuds services for the HFES.  These tenets require organizational ombuds programs to be independent, neutral, informal, and confidential:

  • Independence - The Ombuds functions outside existing administrative and management structures within HFES
  • Impartiality - The Ombuds provides impartial assessments of concerns. As a neutral third party, the Ombuds is a resource for equitable and fair process, and the fair administration of process. The Ombuds does not, however, provide legal or other kinds of advocacy or enforce the HFES standards of conduct or ethics.  The Ombuds does not render services or become involved in any matter that would be a conflict of interest for them to do so. 
  • Informality - The Ombuds provides a means for off-the-record discussions of concern. The Ombuds is empowered to provide only informal assistance and does not conduct investigations, make or override decisions, determine policy, testify or participate in formal or administrative proceedings with respect to confidential communications, provide legal advice, or accept legal notice of claims against HFES or any other organization, entity, or person. For those wishing to assert claims or have on-the-record communications, the Ombuds can identify resources for individuals to make informed choices about which process they decide is best for them to pursue. For example, the HFES Ombuds may inform a meeting attendee about the Statement of Appropriate Conduct at HFES meetings and the Incident Report form.
  • Confidentiality - Communications with the Ombuds are confidential to the maximum extent permitted by law.  This principle of confidentiality helps the Ombuds provide a safe place for meeting attendees to voice concerns, evaluate issues, and identify options for possible further action. The Ombuds is a purely voluntary resource. No one is required to use it, but those who do will be deemed to have agreed to respect and abide by the above principles on which it was created and not to call the Ombuds to testify or produce documents related to confidential communications in any administrative or legal proceeding.   

Consistent with the International Ombudsman Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, the only exceptions to this confidentiality principle are:  (a) when, during the course of communications with the meeting Ombuds, an inquirer gives the Ombuds permission to make a disclosure and the Ombuds agrees it is appropriate to do so, or (b) when the Ombuds determines that there is an imminent threat of serious harm. 

Scope of Services

The Ombuds will be available to consult with meeting attendees concerning any meeting-related issues identified above.  The Ombuds will be available on-site at the meeting attendees will be advised how to contact the Ombuds. 

As a neutral third party, the Ombuds is an advocate for fair and equitable process.  The Ombuds does not, however, provide legal or other kinds of advocacy or enforce the HFES Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics.

Accountability and Reporting

The HFES Ombuds reports to the HFES Executive Director.  The Ombuds may also meet with and alert senior leadership of HFES regarding any systemic issues or trends the Ombuds believes may help the HFES address identified or potential issues, improve the climate for membership or future meetings, or improve its policies and practices. Even when reporting issues to senior leadership, the Ombuds will do their best to protect the confidentiality of those using the Ombuds' services.

Record Keeping

The Ombuds provides only informal assistance, and although informal notes may be temporarily created only as needed, the Ombuds does not retain permanent records containing personally identifiable information or confidential communications.  Any post-meeting reporting to senior leadership will contain only aggregate data and the Ombuds’ insights and observations on the types of issues raised and any organizational recommendations.