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The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations-A Legal Guide


Authors: Charles L. Howard

An essential resource for ombudsmen, dispute resolution professionals, in-house counsel, corporate executives, university administrators, compliance officers, and human resources personnel, this book provides a history of the evolution of the role of an organizational ombudsman, as it developed in universities, businesses, and the government since the 1960's. It explains why such a function is important for organizations in light of the demographic, technological, and globalization changes that have occurred in the past 40 years, and the pressures on organizations from developments in criminal law, employment law, and corporate governance and regulation.

The book provides:

-A detailed rationale for the creation of ombudsman offices, including a review of demographic data and workplace/societal changes in technology and globalization that have influenced how we work and interact in large organizations.
Suggestions for structuring and documenting an ombudsman program and how to address issues that arise in litigation.
-A comprehensive presentation of various legal issues associated with organizational ombudsman programs, including collecting cases that deal with imputed notice and confidentiality.
-Topics of interest to ombudsmen and to those with whom they work, including discovery tools, arbitration and mediation, the federal sentencing guidelines, the Cleary Act, constitutional limitations on claims of privilege, and the European Union Data Privacy Directive.
-Numerous examples of how ombudsmen function in their organizations to illustrate how they are effective in addressing issues that people would not otherwise raise.

To order this book, please visit the American Bar Association Web Store.

 Comments and Testimonials About The Organizational Ombudsman

Comments and Reviews:

Superlative -- the definitive guide to establishing the ombudsman role, and why every organization needs one.

-Ralph Hasson; Co-author, Controlling the Costs of Conflict: How to Design a System for Your Organization


The Organizational Ombudsman is a comprehensive and seminal work on the organizational ombudsman profession. Chuck Howard’s research is thorough and his analysis profound. The book not only outlines why the Ombuds role should be an essential asset for institutions but also how to establish one to ensure its effectiveness. Chuck’s experience and expertise make him eminently qualified to provide insight for decision makers, legal professionals, formal channels and ombudsmen within corporate, academic and public institutions.”

-Ellen (Randy) Williams; Previously Senior Vice President of line and staff units and then Corporate Ombudsperson, American Express Company; Currently, Managing Director, Redmond, Williams & Associates, LLC 


“Chuck Howard has provided a scholarly and well referenced guide to the ombuds community. He traces the history of the ombudsman from its origin to the current day organizational innovation of ombudsman services. With his deep knowledge of legal issues faced by ombudsman programs in corporate and university settings, Chuck provides the ombuds practitioner with knowledge and tools to handle practice issues such as confidentiality and ombuds privilege. The legal research and organizational approaches make this a ‘must read’ book for organizational leaders who may be contemplating the establishment of an ombuds Office. “

– Anu Rao, M.D. Anderson Ombuds Office, Houston, TX 


“Doctors have the Physician’s Desk Reference and Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Psychiatrists have the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the Mental Health Desk Reference. Now there is an indispensable reference book for the Organizational Ombudsman – Charles Howard’s wonderfully comprehensive legal guide, The Organizational Ombudsman: origins, roles and operations. Mr. Howard, an attorney in private practice who has consulted with ombudsmen in universities, corporations and other organizations for almost two decades has written a reference book that combines his thorough understanding of legal principles with his first hand familiarity with the day to day activities and dilemmas of the practicing ombudsman.

The book is both scholarly and accessible – he manages to make relevant legal matters understandable to readers who lack legal training without oversimplifying important legal principles. But this book is not an abstract discourse about legal principles; the entire book is grounded in a subtle consideration of the historical, social and economic factors that have contributed to the emergence of the ombudsman function. After a chapter that surveys the history of the ombudsman role and identifies its essential characteristics he offers the most thorough discussion of why organizations should create ombudsman programs that I have seen in over 28 years of being an ombuds, including at one of the nation's largest public universities and in the federal government.

In the next chapter Mr. Howard dives right into a consideration of one of the cornerstones of the ombudsman role – confidentiality. The title of this chapter “How Can Ombudsman’ Confidentiality Be Protected?” illustrates the book’s fundamental orientation: discussions are built around the concerns of practicing Ombudsman. But my favorite section of the book is the Chapter titled “What Else Would Be Helpful for an Organizational Ombudsman to Know?” In this Chapter Howard brings some coherence to a range of topics that might otherwise seem to be a bit of a hodgepodge: litigation discovery tools, federal statutes; confidentiality exceptions, federal sentencing guidelines and numerous others.

The book also includes a set of 14 appendixes – a variety of useful reference documents from the ABA and ombudsman associations. Overall, this is the sort of book one has to describe as “indispensable.” It belongs on the desk of every practicing ombudsman.”

-Howard Gadlin 


The Organizational Ombudsman textbook/manual offers valuable information for the beginner Ombuds to the most experienced Ombuds. I have been a practicing Ombuds for 12 years. My recommendation would be that every Ombuds office should purchase this vibrant book to serve as a resource, as it offers viable solutions and new techniques to many daunting challenges in the Ombuds profession. Chuck’s expertise is well sought after at the IOA’s conference and workshops and his sessions are always well attended. Chuck’s legal expertise and wealth of information on the Ombuds profession is now shared in this book.

-R. Gordon Halfacre, Ph.D; University Ombudsman for Faculty and Graduate Students, Clemson University


"Chuck Howard has written the definitive work on the Organizational Ombudsman. Chuck's thorough review of the history, purpose, potential as well as the difficulties in managing an effective Ombudsman program makes a compelling case for its establishment. Organizations and Corporations, because of Chuck's work, now have strong evidence that an Ombudsman program can foster a sound open communication for all of its stakeholders."

-Pat Gnazzo, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Computer Associates


The presence of an Organizational Ombudsman is one of the most powerful governance tools at the disposal of a corporate board today. Chuck Howard, with "The Organizational Ombudsman - Origins, Roles and Operations," makes it crystal clear why.

The presence of an Organizational Ombudsman helps foster a culture of trust, candor and accountability by providing a safe mechanism for individuals to surface contentious issues and resolve problems early. This early warning system allows management and boards to tap into “dangerous silence,” that pool of awareness of what’s really going on that employees at every level of the organization are often otherwise reluctant to reveal. This allows management and boards to manage financial and reputational risks more effectively while strengthening governance and oversight responsibilities. Chuck Howard has crafted a masterful verbal tapestry that communicates the history, evolution and nuances of this powerful function. I applaud the ABA for including this fine book among its publications.

-Jon McBride, President, McBride Associates, Inc., Washington DC


"Charles Howard has written a masterful authoritative work on the organizational ombudsman that should be regarded as the leading source of information on ombuds for many years to come. Early on, Howard makes important distinctions between a "classical" ombuds, an "advocate ombuds" and an "organizational ombuds"... "The Organizational Ombudsman" is a terrific resource. It belongs on the shelf of the office of every ombuds-person. Those who want to become ombuds must read it, as should corporate officers and legal counsel, managers and staff who are seeking to establish an ombuds office."

-James G. Knoll, Vice President, American Arbitration Association, Cincinnati, OH


Book Reviews:

Book Review by James McRitchie,; Corporate Governance: December 13, 2011

Book Review by Stefan B. Kalina, New York Dispute Resolution Lawyer: Volume 3, Number 2, Fall 2010

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Ombuds, James G. Knoll, Vice President, American Arbitration Association, Dispute Resolution Journal: May-October 2010

Book Review by Tom Kosakowski, Journal of the International Ombudsman Association: Volume 3, Number 1, 2010



The Corporate Ombudsman: A Strategy To Detect and Stop Corporate Wrongdoing - National Association of Corporate Directors, Silicon Valley Chapter, Inc - Hosted by: Dan Siciliano, Associate Dean, Stanford Law School

An Informal Approach To Solving Problems: ‘Ombuds’ Help Organizations Deal with Conflicts, Complaints - Connecticut Law Tribune

Q&A with Charles A. Howard - Jeff Thompson

Interview with the Hartford Business Journal



On The Evolving Corporate Ombudsman - Andrew Singer


If you would like to forward a comment to Chuck about his book, please click here.

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