Posted: September 3rd, 2015
RESPONDING TO A COMPLAINT LETTER
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RESPONDING TO A COMPLAINT LETTER
Three months ago, you began working as Assistant Director of Online Programs for a small, for-profit education company called Colonial Health Sciences Online.Colonial employs 40 people and offers online continuing education courses to health care professionals (nurses, medical assistants, x-ray techs, pharmacy techs, medical transcriptionists, etc.). Many health care professionals are required by their states and professional associations to complete mandatory continuing education at regular intervals to retain the state licenses and professional credentials needed to continue practicing. To offer continuing education to health care professionals, a company must be accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Colonial is accredited by the National Continuing Education Council (NCEC), which is recognized by the Department of Education. The NCEC requires that Colonial meet certain educational standards, including maintaining high academic standards mandated by NCECand providing customers/students with contracts outlining their obligations and the company’s obligations.
Colonial has been in existence for 10 years and faces great competition from other online education providers. However, the company is moderately successful, with a stable customer base and an aggressive marketing plan to acquire new customers. Some of the company’s customers pay for their courses out of their own pocket. Others work for large health care companies that pay for the courses for their employees. Other customers receive federal funding (vocational rehabilitation, loans, etc.) to pay for their courses. All courses are led by online instructors with the appropriate health care degrees and credentials. For each course, customers sign a contract that lists the cost of their course and the requirements for completing the course,including the deadline by which the course must be completed.
At Colonial, you report to Mary Wallace, Director of Online Programs, who is responsible for course planning and development as well as managing the company’s day-to-day operations. Wallace reports to the company’s Executive Director, Arthur Evans, who reports to the owners of Colonial. The company’s owners own a number of other educational companies, many of them larger, more successful, and more profitable than Colonial.
One morning, Mary Wallacecalls you into her office. She tells you that, last week, Mr. Evans received a letter of complaint from Alicia Nelson, a medical transcriptionist who was disenrolled from an online course last year (2012) for failing to complete the course by the deadline indicated in her course contract. (You will find Alicia Nelson’s letter on the last page of this document). Nelson claims that she was wrongly disenrolled from the online course, in part because she was not given accommodations due to her under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In her letter, Nelson writes that she requested these accommodations, which she states were initially granted but which, Alicia suggests,were then not honored at the end of the course. Alicia states that, ultimately, she was disenrolled and received no credit for the course. Mary Wallace asks you to draft a letter that responds to Alicia Nelson.The letter will be in Mary Wallace’s name, and Mary Wallace will sign it. She also informs you that she and Arthur Evans have talked about the situation and that Mr. Evans told her he wants “nothing more to do with this student” and that the company “will give her nothing.” Mary also informs you that your letter will be reviewed by the company’s lawyer, David Parker, but that the lawyer wants you to draft a full letter, which he will then review.
After leaving Mary’s office, you first decide to review Alicia Nelson’s file, which is kept in a secure, internal Content Management System. You review Alicia’s file knowing that your company underwent a substantial change from one Content Management System to another Content Management System during the year (2012) that Alicia was disenrolled.
You read Alicia Nelson’s recent letter of complaint to the company. You also reviewolder emails she exchanged with counselors who advise customers as they complete their courses. You notice that Alicia did request that she be allowed to have more time for online tests due to “severe test anxiety.”In an email, Alicia’s counselor told her that the company could grant this requestif Alicia sent documentation to confirm the anxiety. The emails indicate that Alicia sent paperwork to document her ADA request,but you discover that no one knows where the documentation is. Alicia was given more time for three of the course’s four online exams. However, on July 1, 2012, Alicia requested an extension for her fourth exam for work reasons. Her counselor gave her a one-week extension, until July 8, 2012. Alicia did not take the course’s fourth exam before the new deadline and was, in keeping with company policy for all customers, immediately disenrolled.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
• What other information do you need before you can draft your letter?
• Who else should you talk to?
• What research do you need to do?
• Do you know the U.S. government’s ADA requirements? Where can you find these?
• Your boss and the Executive Director of the company have said to give this customer “nothing.” What will you do, especially IF you discover that the company is obligated by ADA to make accommodations?
I hope you can help me. In 2012, I enrolled in a class offered by your school, Medical Transcription and the Changing Health Care System. I currently work as a transcriptionist in Windsor County, Michigan and I must complete continuing education course every year to continue my employment with Windsor County Hospital System. Although I enjoyed the course and looked forward to completing it, I was wrongfully disenrolled by your staff and have now been told that I can receive no credit for the course and, if I want the credit, must take and pay for the course again.
Please let me tell you more about what happened and I hope you will agree that I was wrongfully disenrolled and be able to resolve this matter.After I enrolled in the course, I contacted the course counselor and told her that I have severe test anxiety that makes it necessary to have more time to complete tests. As an ADA student, I asked for more time to complete the online tests for the medical transcripting course. My counselor explained that I needed to send in a signed letter from my doctor stating that I have severe anxiety and that I should receive more time for tests. I sent in this letter and was given more time for three of my online tests. I passed these tests. However, I did not receive enough time for my fourth and final test. You see, I knew I would not be able to log on to the course until after the course deadline due to work reasons. So, I asked for more time to complete the course. My counselor gave me a one week extension. A few days later, when I went to log on to the course to complete the fourth exam and finish the course, I could not log on.The system was down. I waited a day or two and then tried again. This time, a message came up on my screen that said my course had expired and I should contact a counselor if I wanted more information. I contacted my counselor and she told me that the reason I was disenrolled was because I did not take the fourth test by the new course deadline of one week later. She also told me that if I wanted to complete the course, I would have to enroll again, take all the tests again, and pay the full tuition.
I do not believe that these are fair requirements. As you know, your customers are busy people with busy work and personal lives. Your brochures and catalogs say that you will help us to complete our courses even with a busy schedule! As you know, Colonial has lots of competition from other companies where we can take online continuing education but I chose Colonial because your materials promise to work around our schedules. Now, I ask you, is it fair to market to us this way and then to impose deadlines on us once we enroll?I would like your school to honor its original agreement with me and to fulfill my original request and give me more time for my fourth test so I can finish the course and receive the credit that I paid and studied for.
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