FAQs

These FAQs have been developed by attorneys in our office and provide helpful information based on our many collective years of experience. The information also guides our faculty and staff on the procedures for addressing certain types of legal issues. These resources are provided as a courtesy to our faculty and staff. They are not intended to be a substitute for, and do not constitute, legal advice.

Office of University Compliance & Integrity

The Office of University Compliance & Integrity is responsible for coordinating and supporting a system wide approach to promote a culture of ethical and compliant behavior by providing effective tools, resources and guidance that supports our commitment to comply with applicable laws, regulations and FIU’s policies so that public trust is maintained.

Compliance & Ethics:

Compliance at FIU begins with each of us! The Office of University Compliance & Integrity is here to help you do the right thing. By promoting a culture that encourages ethical conduct and by demonstrating a commitment to compliance with laws, we help advance FIU’s vision as a leading urban public research university focused on student learning, innovation and collaboration. Below are a few resources that our office provides:

  • Education and training on compliance-related topics
  • Assistance with developing university-wide policies
  • Help you understand the policy development process
  • Explain your responsibilities and obligations as a public employee
  • Clarify or interpret University policies, procedures or regulations

Your role:

You can contribute by asking questions or raising concerns if you see something that you think may not be right. Speak with your immediate supervisor, instructor, or adviser first, or click on the Compliance Directory to identify compliance personnel for your areas of concern. Remember, by helping to identify problems early, you not only keep them from getting bigger, you also help advance the compliance initiative and solidify its foundation.

Make your commitment to our institutional values and the Compliance and Ethics Program at FIU today. It’s the right thing to do!

Mission Statement:

The Office of University Compliance & Integrity maintains, fortifies, and continuously improves upon, the Florida International University Compliance and Ethics Program in support of the University’s academic, research, and community service activities.

Goals:

The goals of the Compliance and Ethics Program are:

  • To facilitate system-wide compliance with applicable laws, regulations and policies.
  • To proactively promote a culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with laws.
  • To identify, and mitigate significant risks.
  • To manage reporting mechanisms which allow employees to report suspected violations of FIU policies or regulatory obligations.
  • To support transparency by reporting high priority and sensitive compliance matters to Senior Leadership and Board of Trustees.

Contract Review Process

The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) must approve the legal terms of any contract entered into by the University, either through an actual review of the contract or by policy.  Please read below to determine what level of review, if any, your contract requires.

Common contracts FIU regularly enters into include: affiliation agreements, contractual services agreements, research agreements, collaboration agreements with other universities and educational entities, software license agreements, material transfer agreements, lease agreements, hotel/conference room rental agreements, exchange agreements, independent contractor agreements, and consulting agreements. Please see Contract Forms for templates of University contracts.

Contract documents should be legible and must be read by the individual who submits them to ensure that their content comports with the agreed upon business terms.  Submitting editable electronic versions of the documents, as well as copies of prior contracts with the same vendor, will serve to expedite the review and negotiation process and should be submitted whenever possible. Some contracts, such as international exchange agreements, must also be reviewed and approved by other offices such as Academic Planning & Accountability in addition to the college or school participating in the exchange.

Once the University attorney has reviewed and approved the contract, and all other university approvals have been provided, it should then be sent to the other party for signature.  Once the other party signs the agreement, the agreement should be signed by FIU.  However, only individuals designated by the President in writing via a Delegation of Signature Authority are authorized to sign contracts on behalf of the University.  Any contract signed by an FIU employee without the requisite signature delegation shall not be considered an FIU contract and may open the FIU employee to liability.

Procurement Contracts

In regards to Procurement Contracts  they should be submitted in Total Contract Manager (TCM) for processing by the trained Contract Manager for that unit/department.  If you would like to gain access to TCM, please complete the TCM Access Request Form and register for an upcoming TCM training session via the FIU Professional Development site under Office of the Controller.  You must complete TCM training before you can gain access to TCM.

Supplementary resources for processing Procurement Contracts include the TCM User Handbook, a checklist for drafting procurement contracts, and the procurement contracts training presentation, all of which be found on the procurement website along with other resources. If you have any questions regarding access or a TCM system question, please contact the Financial Systems and Support Services (FSSS) Help Desk at controller@fiu.edu or call 305-348-7200. If you have any procurement contract questions please contact contracts@fiu.edu.

Academic Contracts

Please send all Academic Contracts to generalcounsel@fiu.edu for review and approval.

Signature Authority / Making Commitments to Other Parties

This guideline is focused on signature authority for making commitments to other parties. Signature authority means the authority to bind FIU to an obligation or promise to another party. Signature authority is an important sub-set of the broader concept of delegated authority. Delegated authority is the legal power to act on behalf of FIU.

Examples of signature authority are:

  •  the authority to sign a contract with a vendor,
  • the authority to sign and submit a grant application, and
  • the authority to sign a trademark application.

Examples of the broader delegated authority are:

  • authority to make personnel decisions,
  • authority to sign a report regarding financial aid to the federal government, and
  • the authority to speak on behalf of FIU regarding a particular matter.

Employees should have an understanding of their authority to act or sign on behalf of FIU and take care to ensure that their actions are within their course and scope of employment. Notably, employees determined to be acting outside the course and scope of their employment can be subject to personnel actions and can find themselves not covered by FIU’s insurance. FIU is not bound by any promise or obligation made by an unauthorized person.

Delegated authority is contemplated by, or generally inferable in, an individual’s job description. Today, many delegations of authority are established through the University’s ERP system, PantherSoft. Any questions regarding the scope of your general authority to act on behalf of FIU should be directed to your immediate supervisor.

As more fully explained below, signature authority is established by the President. If after reviewing this guideline or the delegations of signature authority, you have questions regarding the scope of your signature authority or in identifying the appropriate person to sign a document, please contact your immediate supervisor for guidance on the particular question. You may also find FIU’s Contract Review Policy of assistance when signature authority questions arise. Lastly, the Office of the General Counsel maintains all signature delegations and is available to provide advice regarding signature authority to the University community.

The President’s Signature Authority

The FIU Board of Trustees derives its authority from the Florida Board of Governors, primarily pursuant to Board of Governors’ Regulation 1.001. The President, as FIU’s chief executive officer, is responsible for FIU’s administration and operation and has been delegated substantial authority, including signature authority, through various board resolutions pursuant to Board of Governors Regulation 1.001 (2)(e). The President is authorized to sign all documents on behalf of FIU consistently with law and applicable FIU policies and board resolutions and to further delegate signature authority.

Delegations of Signature Authority From the President

Only persons with a written delegation of signature authority from the President are authorized to sign agreements making commitments to other parties and then only consistently with the conditions established by the President. The President has delegated signature authority to his direct reports for various purposes.   For a list of FIU employees authorized to sign agreements or other documents making commitments to third parties, please see Signature Authority.

Sub-delegations of Presidential Signature Authority

The President may, in signature delegations to his direct reports, authorize a direct report to sub-delegate contract signature authority to their direct reports.   The following principles guide those sub-delegations of authority:

  1.  The President’s delegation of signature authority must expressly authorize the authority to sub-delegate.
  2. Signature authority may only be sub-delegated consistently with the authority granted in the President’s delegation. The President may impose conditions on sub-delegation authority, including dollar limits, time limits and the like.
  3. Sub-delegations of authority must be documented in writing, on the FIU approved form, and provided to the Office of the General Counsel for recording in the University’s records. Sub-delegations are not effective until a copy of the sub-delegation has been provided to the Office of General Counsel.
  4. Those sub-delegating signature authority are accountable at all times for signature authority they sub-delegate and are responsible for appropriate monitoring of sub-delegated authority.

Implied Representations By All Signatories

Employees signing documents on behalf of FIU through a Presidential delegation of signature authority are making the following implied representations to FIU:

  1.  The signer is acting within his or her delegated authority.
  2. The signer, after appropriate investigation and inquiry, is satisfied that the obligations or promises within the document conform to FIU policy.
  3. The signer, after appropriate investigation and inquiry, is satisfied that the substance of the document’s promises and obligations meet valid purposes of FIU’s mission, including appropriate business purposes.
  4. The signer, after appropriate investigation and inquiry, is satisfied that the information is accurate and that there has been adequate disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest.
  5. The signer, if necessary to satisfy the obligation to appropriately investigate and inquire, has consulted other specialized personnel within FIU (e.g., Risk Management, the Controller’s Office or the Office of the General Counsel).

Code of Ethics for University Officers and Employees

FIU employees are subject to the State of Florida Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees (“Code of Ethics”) Chapter 112 (Part III) of the Florida Statutes.

The Code of Ethics strives to ensure that public employees conduct themselves independently and impartially, not using their offices for private gain. The Code of Ethics requirements generally consist of two types of provisions:  1) those prohibiting certain actions or conduct; and 2) those requiring that certain disclosures be made.

The actions that are prohibited center on:

  1. Acceptance and solicitation of gifts;
  2. Misuse of official position;
  3. Doing business with one’s agency; and
  4. Holding positions or entering into contracts that create or constitute a conflict between one’s personal interests and public duties.

University employees cannot solicit or accept personal gifts or benefits (loans, services, discounts) if: based solely on the understanding that it will influence their official action, or the employee knows or has reason to know that it is being given to influence his or her official action.  Further, procurement employees and those designated by the University as a “reporting individual” cannot accept gifts greater than $100 or solicit any gifts for themselves or immediate family members from University vendors.

The Code of Ethics also prohibits disclosure of sensitive or confidential information acquired as part of the employee’s official duties for personal gain or for the benefit of any other person or business entity.  The Code also prohibits employees to corruptly use or attempt to use their official positions.

Further, employees cannot do business with the University in their private capacity or through a business entity in which the employee, his or her spouse, or child owns more than a 5% interest except:

  • When the awards is through a bid process that includes procedural safeguards;
  • When an emergency purchase must be made (health, safety, or welfare concern must be documented);
  • When the business entity is the sole source and there is full disclosure; and
  • When the transactions do not exceed $500 in a calendar year.

Except for narrow exceptions, a University employee may not be employed or do business with any entity that does business with the University.  Additionally, a University employee may not have or hold any employment or contractual relationship that would create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between the employee’s private interests and the performance of his or her duties, or would impede the full and faithful discharge of the employee’s obligations to the University.  These possible conflicts of interests’ relationships are addressed by the University through the required disclosure of outside activities.

Additional information is available at the University Compliance & Integrity and University Policies and Procedures Library websites.

The University Compliance Office and the Office of the General Counsel are available to respond to any employees’ ethical concerns and provide guidance.

Confidentiality of Students’ Education Records

Florida International University (FIU) maintains Student education records in a confidential and secure manner in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) codified in 20 U.S.C. section 1232g, and sections 1002.225 and 1006.52, Florida Statutes.  The University will not release or permit access to education records or personally identifiable information maintained on a student except as otherwise permitted by law and FIU Regulation 108 – Access to Student Education Records. Please visit the Registrar’s Office website for additional information.

Education records may be disclosed pursuant to a lawfully served and issued subpoena following notification to the student.  Subpoenas for student records will need to be properly issued and served on our office.

Moodle course entitled, “FERPA basics”, provides more detailed information concerning the confidentiality of students’ education records, the responsibilities of University employees to maintain such confidentiality,  and the students’ right of access.

FIU Establishment and Legal Authority

The full legal name under which Florida International University performs its functions as a university is “The Florida International University Board of Trustees.”  The Florida International University Board of Trustees is a public body corporate and is constituted as a public instrumentality of the State of Florida pursuant to Florida Constitution, Article IX, Section 7(d); Florida Statute 1001.72.  Florida International University is an arm of the State of Florida and therefore does not have articles of incorporation or other similar types of documents.  In all suits against a board of trustees, service of process shall be made on the chair of the board of trustees or, in the absence of the chair, on the corporate secretary or designee Carlos B. Castillo, General Counsel.

The Constitution of the State of Florida established the public education system of Florida which provides for the State University System, comprised of all public universities, and a Board of Governors as the governing body that oversees all of the public universities. Florida International University is a state university existing under the constitution and the laws of Florida.  It was founded in 1965 and its existence is currently codified in Section 1000.21, Florida Statutes.

Guidance Relating to Raffles, Gambling-Type Events, and other Games of Chance

Our office frequently receives requests from student groups or employees with an interest in conducting fund-raisers and other similar-type events in support of FIU, which often include a “gambling”-type component (such as a raffle) as part of the program for the event. This guidance sets forth the requirements that must be followed in order to conduct raffles, office pools, charity poker events or other “gambling”-type activities at the University. This guidance deals only with legal requirements. Accordingly, you should consult with your supervisor or Student Affairs, as applicable, to obtain the appropriate approvals.

It is important to adhere to these guidelines because in Florida, raffles, gambling activities, or other games of chance (such as office pools), may only be conducted under very limited circumstances and individual criminal liability may exist for those who conduct or participate in any such activities falling outside these guidelines.

If your department or group wishes to conduct a gambling-type activity not addressed in this guidance or if you have any questions about these matters, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

Charity Raffles and other Drawings

Florida law generally prohibits lotteries or other drawings of chance. However, Florida law expressly permits certain specified §501(c) organizations (such as the FIU Foundation, Inc.) to conduct drawings by chance subject to the notice requirements and limitations set forth below 1. On-campus raffles or drawings must be conducted by or on behalf of a §501(c) organization and must comply with ALL of the following:

  1. All brochures, advertisements, notices, tickets, or entry blanks used in connection with the drawing by chance must conspicuously disclose:
        1. The rules governing the conduct and operation of the drawing (e.g., a random drawing at a specified time).
        2. That no purchase or contribution is necessary.
        3. The full name of the organization and its principal place of business.
        4. The source of the funds used to award cash prizes or to purchase prizes (e.g., in-kind contributions from a specified sponsor).
        5. The date, hour, and place where the winner will be chosen and the prizes will be awarded, unless the brochures, advertisements, notices, tickets, or entry blanks are not offered to the public more than 3 days prior to the drawing.
  2. In addition to the requirements for the event materials, the following conditions apply:
        1. Winners may not be “rigged” or predetermined.
        2. No entry fee, donation, substantial consideration, payment, proof of purchase or contribution may be required as a condition for entering the drawing or being selected to win a prize. (However, suggested minimum donations are expressly permitted.)
        3. The drawing may not be conditioned on distribution of a minimum number of tickets or receipt of a minimum of contributions.
        4. The sponsors of the event may not arbitrarily reject, remove or disqualify any entry or discriminate in any manner between entrants who gave contributions and those who do not.
        5. The winner must be promptly notified, at the address set forth on the entry blank or in person at the event, of the fact that the person won.
        6. All prizes offered must be actually awarded in the manner and at the stated time.
        7. Materials or advertisements in connection with the drawing may not contain false, deceptive or misleading information.
        8. Once drawing tickets have been issued at the event, the drawing cannot be cancelled.
        9. Receipt of the prizes may not be conditioned on the winner making a donation or contribution.
        10. The number of tickets distributed to each drawing entrant may be limited.

Games of Chance (such as office pools, charity poker events, etc)

As a general matter, Florida law makes it a criminal offense to play or engage in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value.

University units or student organization wishing to conduct a game of chance (such as an office pool, charitable poker event or other similar activity) must comply with ALL of the following:

There must be no entrance fee, but players may make a donation (which cannot be made a condition to play the game).

  1. Participants may not play for cash winnings or any tangible thing of value (e.g., for any item with a retail or resale value).
  2. A nominal award such as a certificate or trophy in recognition of each participant’s level of achievement is acceptable.

Charity Casino-Themed Activities

Casino-themed events for charity raise unique problems. While Florida law does not ban such events, Florida law generally bans the possession of gambling equipment commonly used for the operation of gambling, such as roulette wheels or tables, crap tables or layouts, bolita balls, chips with house markings, etc., and only licensed vendors may possess such equipment. However, ordinary dice and playing cards are exempt from this prohibition.

Accordingly, in order to conduct a charity casino-themed event, the following requirements apply:

  1. The event must be conducted solely for a charitable purpose.
  2. There must be no entrance fee. Donations are permissible, but cannot be made a condition to play.
  3. A reputable vendor licensed to provide the casino equipment must be used (particularly for a major fund-raising event).
  4. Participants may not play for cash winnings or any tangible thing of value (e.g., for any item with a retail or resale value).
  5. A nominal award such as a certificate or trophy in recognition of each participant’s level of achievement is acceptable.

Special Rules for Games of Chance Within University Housing Facilities

Florida law provides a limited exception for certain games of chance to take place within a residential dwelling, including a university dormitory. Specifically, games such as poker, pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta, hearts, dominoes, or mah-jongg are permitted within dormitory rooms or the common recreational areas of university dormitories provided that:

  1. the winnings of any player in a single round, hand or game do not exceed $10 in value;
  2. no person receives any payment for permitting the game to take place;
  3. no admission or other fee is charged for participation in the game;
  4. no advertising of the game takes place; and
  5. all participants are over 18 years of age.

Bingo Activities

As a general matter, organizations engaged in charitable, civic, community, benevolent, religious, or scholastic works or other similar endeavors may conduct bingo games or instant bingo, provided the entire proceeds derived from the conduct of such games (less expenses for holding the bingo event), are donated by such organizations to the endeavors mentioned above. For additional rules for the conduct of bingo games, see Fla. Stat. §849.0931.

1 Although the University, as a public body corporate of the State of Florida, is exempt from taxation under the Internal Revenue Code, the University is not a 501(c) organization and therefore does not qualify to conduct a drawing of chance pursuant to the limited exception under Florida law for qualified 501(c) organizations. If you wish to conduct a raffle or other drawing of chance to raise funds on behalf of the University, contact the FIU Foundation office.

Garnishments

Below are frequently asked questions and answers regarding garnishments.  This should not be relied upon as legal advice.  Legal questions should be answered and/or addressed to your legal advisor.  If you have any specific questions regarding your garnishment, you should contact the creditor, the court, or your attorney.  If you have further questions regarding the university’s involvement in the garnishment, please contact the Payroll Department at (305) 348-2181 or email them at payroll@fiu.edu.  In addition, you may contact the Office of Employee Assistance (OEA), which is the faculty/staff employee assistance program of Florida International University.  The OEA provides free and confidential professional assistance to help employees and their families resolve personal problems that affect their personal lives or job performance, including financial hardships.  For a confidential consultation at either the Modesto Maidique or Biscayne Bay campus, please call (305) 348-2469 or visit the Office of Employee Assistance.

What is a garnishment?

A wage garnishment is any legal order commanding that a portion of a person’s earnings to be withheld by the person’s employer for the payment of a debt.  Garnishments are used to recover various types of debts including unpaid taxes, non-tax debts owed to the state or federal government, court-ordered child or spousal support, past due student loan payments, or judgments for money.

Wage garnishments do not include voluntary wage assignments—that is, situations in which employees voluntarily agree their employers may turn over some specified amount of their earnings to a creditor or creditors.  Under Florida Statutes Section 516.17, wage assignments to secure a loan are not valid against government employees in the State of Florida.

What is a Levy?

The words “Levy,” “Earnings Withholding Order,” “Wage Assignment,” or “Chapter 13 Withholding Order” are also terms for a garnishment.

Does the university recognize voluntary wage assignments?

No, FIU does not recognize voluntary wage assignments, pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 516.17.

Where garnishments should be served?

All garnishments must be served at the Office of General Counsel at 11200 SW 8th Street, Primera Casa (PC) 511, Miami, Florida, 33199.

Who can garnish my FIU income?

Any creditor granted permission by a court, other legal authority or governmental agency is permitted to garnish your wages such as Social Security Administration, IRS, U.S. Department of Education, Florida Department of Education, etc.

What is the university’s role in a garnishment?

The university, as an employer, is legally obligated to respond to and/or abide by a Writ of Garnishment issued by a court or other authorized agency.  When applicable, the university will send the court an Answer to the Writ of Garnishment containing information about your FIU wages.  You will receive a copy of the Answer at your last known address.  The university will begin immediately withholding a portion of your wages.  Withholdings from your wages will continue until further notice from the court or other authorized agency.

How much can you take from my checks?

The law sets the maximum amount that may be garnished in any workweek or pay period, regardless of the number of garnishment orders received by the employer.  For ordinary garnishments (i.e., those not for child support, bankruptcy, or any state or federal tax), the weekly amount may not exceed the lesser of two figures: 25 percent of the employee’s disposable earnings, or the amount by which an employee’s disposable earnings are greater than 30 times the federal minimum wage.

What are the restrictions on child support and alimony?

Specific restrictions apply to court orders for child support or alimony.  The garnishment law allows up to 50 percent of a worker’s disposable earnings to be garnished for these purposes if the worker is supporting another spouse or child, or up to 60 percent if the worker is not.  An additional 5 percent may be garnished for support payments more than 12 weeks in arrears.

Can FIU reduce the amount withheld?

No, this matter is between you and the creditor.

Can I skip a deduction?

No, the university is required to withhold the court-ordered amount until directed by the court to do something different.

Will the garnishment amount be deducted from my net pay?

It depends upon the type of garnishment.  For example, a Federal Levy will exempt a predetermined amount of your net pay from levy.  Otherwise, the deduction is taken from your “Disposable earnings.”

What are disposable earnings?

Disposable earnings are equal to the employee’s earnings less deductions required by federal and/or state law.  Required deductions include: federal income tax withholding, Social Security, Medicare, state withholding, state unemployment, and local taxes.

Do I have to pay any fee for my garnishment?

Yes, the university charges an administration fee totaling $5.00 for the first deduction and $2.00 for each subsequent deduction.

How can I have the garnishment stopped?

You should contact the creditor, the court, or your attorney to stop the garnishment.  FIU is under a legal obligation to continue garnishing your wages according to the specifications of the Order of Garnishment or until the university receives notification from the court or other authorized agency stating otherwise.

Immigration / Visas / Hiring Foreign Nationals

The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) addresses legal questions pertaining to immigration issues.  The processing of visas are handled by three other offices:  the Department of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), the Office of the Provost, and the Division of Human Resources.

The Office of International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) administers the sponsoring of exchange visitors, also known as “visiting scholars” and exchange students.  Departments and other units of the University wishing to sponsor an exchange visitor must contact ISSS to request a J-1 visa.  J-1 visas are issued for exchange visitors in five different categories: professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, specialist, and student.  See the ISSS webpage for further information concerning J-1 visas.

The Office of the Provost | Planning and Finance is responsible for processing visa applications to employ foreign nationals in academic positions other than visiting scholars or others in the J-1 visa category.

The Division of Human Resources is responsible for processing visas for non-academic employees. Further information can be found in the Human Resources Immigration Process webpage.

The following University policies address the hiring of foreign nationals:

Questions concerning immigration issues of a legal nature may be addressed to the OGC.

Intellectual Property:  Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents

Intellectual property is one of the University’s valuable assets. Copyrights, trademarks and patents (including know how) are the main types of intellectual property the University seeks to protect through the legal frameworks for registration.

The copyright law is a federal law that protects any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium such as a writing, photograph, or choreography. The copyright owner has exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, display, and perform the work. Copyrights may be registered with the United States Copyright Office.  Such registration, however, is not required to have the work protected.  Registration is required for purposes of litigation. For more information concerning the copyright law, including permitted uses of copyrighted materials in and outside the classroom, please visit FIU Libraries, Copyright.

The federal trademark act defines a trademark as “any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination thereof adopted and used… to identity and distinguish… goods… and to indicated the source of the goods…” (visit the University Trademark Policy “FIU External Relations, Strategic Communications and Marketing Trademark Policy #1510.005” for more information). Federal trademarks are issued by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), an agency of the United States Department of Commerce. Trademarks may also be registered with the State of Florida for protection only within the state. Our office advises units of the University interested in filing for trademark protection. We may be reached via email at generalcounsel@fiu.edu or at the telephone number provided below.

A patent is a right granted by the U.S. Constitution which authorizes the patent holder to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for the number of years applicable to the particular patent. After those years, the patent expires and the invention is dedicated to the public. The PTO is the governmental office responsible for issuing patents.

The University has adopted an Inventions and Patents policy which applies to non-bargaining unit faculty, staff and students. For the in-unit faculty policy, visit University in unit faculty/United Faculty of Florida.

The Office of Technology Management and Commercialization within the Office of Research and Economic Development is responsible for the University’s technology transfer initiatives, including the evaluation and management of inventions, invention disclosures and the overall patenting process for FIU innovations.

Questions concerning patents and copyrights with potential for commercialization or other questions regarding our technology transfer/commercialization efforts should be addressed to that office. For further information see the Office of Research and Economic Development, Technology Management and Commercialization.

If you have any questions regarding any of the University’s intellectual property policies, you may contact the University Compliance Office at (305) 348-2216. If you have any other questions regarding copyright or trademark matters, please contact our office at (305) 348-2103.

Political Activity

What do you need to know about political activities as an FIU employee?

FIU encourages its employees to be engaged in civic activities. An informed and engaged citizenry is a key underpinning of a democratic society. For the same reason that FIU encourages its employees to be civically engaged, FIU itself is frequently involved in civic activities, such as hosting debates and inviting elected officials to campus to speak.

Distinguishing between acceptable civic engagement for FIU and its employees and purely political activity, which is not permissible for FIU and employees to engage in in the course and scope employment, is essential to avoid implicating state and federal election laws prohibiting state universities from becoming overly entangled in political activity. Following are the general rules:

University employees are free to engage in political activities, for example, political campaigns, as they may choose on their own time.  As with all other personal activities, employees should not use university resources, including work time and university information technology resources, when engaged in these purely personal activities.

FIU is permitted to engage in civic activities the general purpose of which is to provide non-partisan educational, community engagement and academic research endeavors.

While FIU encourages its employees to engage in civic activities, neither FIU nor its employees, on behalf of FIU, may engage in purely political activity and FIU employees may not be required by their supervisors to participate in purely political activity.

Lastly, state law prohibits the making or soliciting of campaign contributions (whether monetary or otherwise) on FIU property.

For detailed guidance regarding activities of this nature, you may want to visit the University Compliance & Integrity website which provides general dos and don’ts to guide university employees in this area.

If, after reviewing these materials, you continue to have questions, please contact our office or the Office of Governmental Relations for guidance.

Public Records

At any time, an individual has the right to inspect and/or copy public records and FIU is committed to comply with the Florida Public Records Law. Please refer to Chapter 119 in the Florida Statutes for additional information on fees that may be applicable to public records requests. If you have a public records request, please contact the FIU Custodian of Public Records at:

E-mail: generalc@fiu.edu

Mailing Address:
Florida International University
Attn: Office of the General Counsel
c/o Custodian of Public Records
Modesto A. Maidique Campus
11200 Southwest 8th Street, PC 511
Miami, FL 33199

Phone: (305) 348-2103
Fax: (305) 348-3272

Public Records Law

What is the Public Records Law?

Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes is known as the Florida Public Records Act.

Types of Records

What records are subject to disclosure under Florida’s Public Records Law?

Florida law defines “public records” as “All documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software of other material, regardless of physical form, or characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance, or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency.”

Almost any document created, received or maintained by FIU, its employees or by its representatives acting in their official capacities is considered a public record and is subject to inspection by the public. This includes all e-mails received by the University from the public.

Are letters/memoranda marked or stamped “Confidential” subject to disclosure?

How a document is named, marked or titled will not determine whether it is a public record. The content of the document is what matters. Only a specific statutory exemption makes a document confidential and not subject to disclosure.

Are e-mail messages public records?

Yes, as indicated above, e-mail messages made or received by FIU employees in connection with official business are public records and subject to disclosure. E-mails must not be destroyed except as provided for under the University’s records retention schedule as explained below.

Transitory messages including transitory emails may be destroyed by the recipient when the message or email are either obsolete, superseded, or the administrative value is lost to the recipient. However, any record that exists at the time a request for public records is made must be disclosed if within the scope of the request made.

What are “transitory messages”?

Transitory messages are:

  • Records created primarily for the communication of information that are not for the perpetuation of knowledge; and
  • Records that do not set policy, establish guidelines or procedures, certify a transaction, or become a receipt.
What are some examples of “transitory messages”?

Some common examples include:

  • e-mail messages with short-lived or no administrative value;
  • voice-mails;
  • self-sticking notes; and
  • telephone messages.
How much of an FIU employee’s work is a public record?

Most of it! The limited exemptions for “personal” records include:

  • Personal notes which are neither distributed to others nor filed as a permanent record;
  • Personal notes which are kept solely for the purpose of refreshing your memory; and
  • Drafts you prepare but are not circulated.
Is there an exception for “working drafts?”

No. While portions of your “personal” work may be exempt, please understand the following:

  • Once “personal” work is circulated for “review” or “comment” by others, it becomes a public record; and
  • Once circulated, “preliminary” or “working drafts” are considered to “perpetuate, communicate, or formalize knowledge” about University business and are subject to disclosure.
What are some common confidential records that are exempt from disclosure?

The most common confidential records that are exempt from public disclosure include:

  • Social security numbers;
  • Certain medical information;
  • Academic evaluations of employee performance (visit Fla. Stat. 1012.91, Florida Statutes);
  • Disciplinary records while discipline is in progress; and
  • Student records under FERPA, except for “directory information.”

Directory information includes Student’s name, major and minor fields of study, student classification, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and/or awards, most recent previous educational institution attended, and student’s photographic image. (Visit FIU Regulation 108, Access to Student Education Records).

  • Research data and other kinds of research records, including proprietary information or potentially patentable information; and
  • Records of the FIU Foundation, Inc. or other direct-support organizations of the University.

Processing a Public Records Request

What is the requestor entitled to?

The requestor can inspect and/or copy any public record which is not exempt from disclosure.

Does the requestor need to state a reason to inspect the public records?

No. A requestor’s motive is irrelevant and the requestor does not have to tell you why he or she wants the records.

How long does the University have to respond to a public records request?

The appropriate records custodian of the University is required to provide access to any public record within a “reasonable” time of the request. There is no set time within which the University must respond.  A reasonable period of time will be determined based on the facts and circumstances of each request.  Extensive/voluminous requests, request with exempt information requiring redaction, and requests made during or immediately before University holiday periods will require additional time for response.

What is not required when responding to a public records request?

There is no requirement under Florida law for the University to do any of the following when responding to a request:

  • Create a new record;
  • Provide the records in the format requested;
  • Meet the requestor’s “timetable”;
  • Provide information not in the records; or
  • Explain the records.
May the University charge its costs for responding to a public records request?

Yes. The University may charge for duplication costs as follows:

  • $0.15 per page;
  • $0.20 per double-sided copies; or
  • the actual cost of duplication if an unusual size or document.

The University may also impose a $1 per copy for a certified copy of a public record.

In addition to the duplication costs above, if the nature or volume of the public records to be copied requires extensive use of information technology resources or clerical or supervisory assistance, the University may add a reasonable “special service charge.” The “special service charge” will be calculated based on the labor costs of the personnel involved in gathering and duplicating the records and/or any other actual costs. An estimation of the charges will be given to the requestor.  The University may require prepayment of the special service charge if the costs are high.

See Memorandum: Adoption of Cost Recovery Plan.

May the University impose any requirements for disclosure of public records?

The only requirement the University may impose for disclosure of public records is prepayment of the special service charge if the costs associated with responding to a request are high.

See Memorandum: Adoption of Cost Recovery Plan.

What should I consider first when I receive a public records request on behalf of the University?

Some important questions to consider include:

  • Is it clear what the requestor wants? Do I need to ask the requestor to clarify the request?
  • Do any exemptions apply to the records request?
  • Will there be a need to remove any records or redact confidential information from the records to be produced? “Redact” means to “mark through” or “white out” confidential information before disclosure.
  • Do I need to call the Office of the General Counsel for advice?
What do I do when I receive a public records request?

Public records requests are generally handled by the department that maintains the record requested. For simple public records requests received by those who regularly handle such requests, the records custodian of the respective University department may directly respond to the request.

The Office of General Counsel is available to assist University departments with:

  • Extensive or confusing requests that may need further clarification;
  • Requests where records may be exempt or need to be redacted;
  • Requests involving medical information; and
  • Any other requests where the records custodian of the University may require additional assistance.

Please contact Lizvette Torres, Paralegal at 305-348-2103 or lizvtorr@fiu.edu.

Should OGC’s assistance be requested, please forward a complete copy of the public records request to the contact indicated above and OGC will advise on next steps after its review. If the request is voluminous or requires extensive clerical or supervisory staff, a Charge Procedure Form used by the University will be provided to the requestor prior to gathering and/or duplicating the records. When the requestor has paid the estimated cost of the special service charge, the request will be processed accordingly.

How long do I have to retain public records?

As a state university, the retention/destruction is subject to schedules promulgated by the State of Florida-Department of State- Division of Library and Information Services. More detailed information regarding records management and document retention is available at University’s Records Management website (http://recordsmanagement.fiu.edu/).

Are there any protocols that must be followed for destroying public records?

Yes. The University has established procedures for the destruction of records when records retention requirements expire. Additional information and instructions regarding records disposition is available at: http://recordsmanagement.fiu.edu/.

Are there any penalties for violating the Public Records Law?

Yes, the penalties for intentionally failing to comply with the public records law are:

  • For the University: Attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party if a lawsuit is filed.
  • For University employees: Potential criminal conviction, including up to $1,000.00 fine and serving up to 1 year in jail.
Suggested language to be included in emails produced by University employees

Language for employees:

Florida International University (FIU) is subject to the State of Florida’s public records law under Chapter 119, F.S., which provides that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection, unless specifically exempted by the Florida Statutes and/or other applicable federal laws.

Language for employees of the direct support organizations:

Florida International University (FIU) is subject to the State of Florida’s public records law under Chapter 119, F.S., which provides that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection, unless specifically exempted by the Florida Statutes and/or other applicable federal laws.  Certain business records of FIU’s various direct support organizations (including the FIU Foundation, Inc., the FIU Athletics Finance Corporation and the FIU Research Foundation) are confidential and exempt from the State of Florida’s public records law pursuant to Florida Statute, Section 1004.28(5).

Non-Responsive Requestors

If a requesting party fails to respond to inquiries for clarification, cost estimates, or any other communication from the Office of the General Counsel for 30 days, the request will be closed.  A non-responsive request may be resubmitted and will be processed as a new request.

Retaining Outside Counsel

As needed, the University may retain outside counsel to assist in a particular matter. Only the Office of the General Counsel is authorized to retain legal counsel to represent the University. If you are a University employee believing you may require legal assistance, please contact our office for assistance at 305-348-2103 or generalc@fiu.edu. We are here to assist you in handling the University’s legal matters.

Risk Management & Insurance Coverage

The focus of Florida International University’s (FIU) Risk Management Office is to minimize FIU’s exposure to loss while also mitigating effects of realized losses. A few of the functions of the office include:

  • Evaluating and identifying risks
  • Coordinating all aspects of FIU’s insurance program
  • Educating and advising the FIU community on reducing risk
  • Reviewing contracts to ensure appropriate insurance and protective clauses are included therein

Please contact Alexander Fals, Associate Director of Insurance & Loss Control, at 305-348-6970 or, via email, at Alexander.Fals@fiu.edu for all risk management and insurance related questions.

Summonses, Court Orders, Subpoenas and other Written Requests

The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) provides legal services and advice in responding to summonses, court orders, and subpoenas requiring either the personal appearance of a University employee for testimony relating to University business or the production of University documents or records. Process of court orders, summonses, subpoenas or any other legal process should be served upon the OGC, Modesto Maidique Campus, 11200 SW 8 Street, PC 511, Miami, Florida 33199 (305) 348-2103. When a process server attempts to serve you with official court documents, please refer them to the OGC. Should you or someone in your department accidentally accept service on behalf of the University, promptly follow the procedures as outlined below. Given that these documents frequently have deadlines with which FIU must comply, it is important to follow these steps as quickly as possible to avoid the imposition of penalties.

If process is not served on the OGC, the following procedures are applicable:

  • Court Orders/Summonses – University employees receiving a court order, summons or notification that a lawsuit has been filed against them (for actions taken in the course and within the scope of their job) or the University must immediately forward either the original or a copy of the court order, summons or notification to the OGC with the date received by the department indicated on the document.
  • Subpoenas – Subpoenas should be immediately forwarded to the OGC, with the date received by the department indicated on the document.
  • Subpoenas for Medical Records for the HCN Faculty Group Practice and Neighborhood Health Program ONLY – Subpoenas should be served on Val Aubourg, Associate General Counsel, at AHC4 212.

WHEN TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE, PLEASE HAND-DELIVER OR TRANSMIT THE DOCUMENT TO THE OGC VIA FACSIMILE (305) 348-3272 AND CALL (305) 348-2103 TO CONFIRM RECEIPT.

Please note that the University is bound to follow privacy and confidentiality safeguards imposed by federal and state laws in certain instances prior to the release or disclosure of any records.

  • Written Communications – The recipient of letters, correspondence or other communications from lawyers or court officials should acknowledge receipt and indicate that the letter will be forwarded to the OGC for a response. The recipient should forward the letter (with the date received by the department indicated on the document) to the OGC immediately and call (305) 348-2103 to confirm receipt.

Department’s Role in Responding to a Subpoena

When the OGC faxes/emails a subpoena to a department for records, departments are to:

  1. Read the subpoena and note the date of production (date attorney is requesting the records by).
  2. If there are records responsive to the subpoena, make a photocopy of what you will be producing (never submit originals) and submit to Lizvette Torres in MMC, PC 511 or via email at lizvtorr@fiu.edu. It is important to respond as soon as possible to ensure compliance with the subpoena’s due date.
  3. If there are no records to produce, please advise Lizvette Torres via email at lizvtorr@fiu.edu.

HIV, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, Psychological or Psychiatric records:

Note that records pertaining to HIV, alcohol/substance abuse or mental health have special treatment under the law. The OGC cannot confirm or deny the existence of any such records because a subpoena does not authorize the release of such records. In order for such records to be released, the subpoena must be accompanied by a court order authorizing the disclosure or a valid consent from the patient. See HIV, Alcohol or Substance Abuse, or Psychological– Authorization for the Release of Records.

If you have questions, call an OGC attorney at extension 7-2103. Please do not contact an outside attorney unless instructed to do so by the OGC. If an outside attorney calls you directly, please ask them to call the OGC.

Open Meetings Law

Generally

What is Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law?

Florida’s “Government-in-the Sunshine Law,” also known as the “Sunshine Law” has two primary areas:

  • Public records law, Chapter 119, F.S., providing the public the right to access, inspect and copy public records. (Please see separate Frequently Asked Questions on public records.)
  • Public meetings law, Section 286.011, F.S., providing the public a right to have prior notice regarding and to attend “meetings of any board or commission of any state agency.” The Sunshine Law requirements apply to all state universities in the State of Florida.
What constitutes a Sunshine meeting?

Any time that two (2) or more members of a Sunshine committee or board communicate about a matter that is or may come before that committee or board for consideration or action, the meeting must be held in the Sunshine and is subject to Sunshine Law requirements.

“Meetings” include any workshops, telephone conversations, written electronic communications (such as emailing or texting), social gatherings, or other interactions where information related to matters that are or may come before the committee is exchanged.

Open Meetings at FIU

Are all meetings held at FIU subject to the Sunshine Law?

Most meetings at FIU are not subject to the Sunshine Law. (The law does not ordinarily apply to staff committees or meetings.)

It is the nature of the acts performed by the committee (not the make-up of the committee) that determines whether a meeting must be conducted in the Sunshine.

What are examples of meetings that are subject to the Sunshine Law at FIU?

Examples of meetings that must be conducted in the Sunshine include:

  • Meetings of the FIU Board of Trustees and its committees;
  • Meetings of the Board of Directors of the FIU Foundation, Inc., and the University’s other direct-support organizations, and meetings of their respective committees;
  • Meetings of the FIU faculty practice plan;
  • Meetings of Employment Search and Screen Committees engaged in the hiring process;
  • Meetings of Purchasing Evaluation Committees; and
  • Collective bargaining negotiations conducted on behalf of the Board of Trustees.
Are faculty, department and/or staff meetings subject to the Sunshine Law?

Meetings of faculty or staff are generally not subject to the Sunshine law. Florida courts and the Florida Attorney General’s Office have repeatedly concluded that the Sunshine Law does not apply to staff meetings that only involve fact-gathering, reporting or general consultation functions. The majority of meetings that FIU faculty or staff attends in performance of their job duties fall within this category.

Courts have recognized that “[i]t would be unrealistic, indeed intolerable, to require of [staff] that every meeting, every contact, and every discussion with anyone from whom they would seek counsel or consultation to assist in acquiring the necessary information, data, or intelligence needed to advise or guide . . . be a public meeting within the disciplines of the Sunshine Law.”

Occasionally, representatives of the media or the general public may ask to attend meetings which are not Sunshine meetings and are therefore not open to the public. In such cases, FIU’s Offices of Media Relations and/or General Counsel should be notified to permit coordination of an appropriate response to the requestor.

Are fact-finding committees subject to the Sunshine Law?

If a committee is charged only with a fact-finding role of gathering, reporting or exchanging information and is not exercising delegated decision-making authority from a Sunshine body, then such a committee is not subject to the Sunshine Law. However, if at any point in time a fact-finding or information-gathering committee is charged with delegated authority or decision-making authority, then such a committee will be subject to the Sunshine Law.

Open Meeting Procedures

What are the requirements for a Sunshine meeting?

When scheduling a covered meeting, please note the following requirements:

  • Reasonable prior notice of the public meeting must be provided and posted.
  • The meeting must be open to the public.
  • The meeting must be held in a location accessible to the public.
  • Minutes must be taken to reflect what occurred at the meeting.
What are reasonable notice requirements?

Notice must be sufficient to provide the public and/or media advance notice of the information to be discussed. Except in the cases of emergency or special meetings, a general rule of thumb is that the notice should be posted at least seven (7) calendar days before the meeting. Emergency sessions should be afforded the most appropriate and effective notice under the circumstances. At least 24 hours reasonable notice to the public is a good rule of thumb for special meetings.

The “type” of notice that must be given varies depending upon the facts of the situation. In some circumstances, posting the notice on bulletin boards or other generally viewed areas (e.g., website) is sufficient. In others, posting the notice in a newspaper may be appropriate. A sample Sunshine meeting notice form can be found on the OGC webpage.

Does the public have a right to participate in a Sunshine meeting?

Historically in Florida, the public did not have the right to participate in Sunshine meetings. Florida law changed in 2013 and individuals now have a right to be heard on propositions before a board, consistent with the procedure of the board on such matters.

The body’s Chair, at his/her discretion, may permit members of the public to address the body even if not required. If the Chair allows public comment, s/he may limit the number of those that may address the body and place time limits on how long a member of the public may speak.

Do any special procedures apply to Sunshine meetings?

Some special procedures include the following:

  • Minutes must be taken;
  • The minutes must reflect the outcome of the voting.
  • No secret ballots may be used. Voting may be accomplished by a show of hands, by expressing “yea” or “nay” or by a role call;
  • All Committee members must vote unless the person declares a conflict of interest recognized under the Florida Code of Ethics.
Must Sunshine meetings be taped?

No, there is only an obligation to maintain accurate minutes of open meetings.

Are there any other Sunshine meeting issues to consider?
  • The Sunshine law does not prohibit interactions by members of a Sunshine body from interacting outside of the Sunshine meetings.
  • For example, two or more members of a Sunshine body may meet socially or be involved in other civic or volunteer activities.
  • In these cases, the Sunshine law is only violated if the members of the Sunshine body discuss information on matters on which the covered entity may take action on in the future.
Are there any penalties for non-compliance with the Sunshine Law requirements?

Yes, possible penalties include the following:

  • Second degree misdemeanor for a knowing violation of the Sunshine Law;
  • Removal from position;
  • Fines of up to $500;
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees;
  • Declaratory and injunctive relief; and
  • Any action taken by a Committee at a non-compliant meeting may be declared invalid.
What if I have more questions regarding Florida's Sunshine Law?

Please contact FIU’s Office of the General Counsel at (305) 348-2103.