In any employment situation, disagreements or differences between employees and management can occur. When they do, it is important that management responds quickly and effectively so that a minor issue does not grow into one which cannot be resolved easily. Grievances, complaints and the associated complaint processes are time consuming and can be potentially expensive. We encourage management to make every effort to resolve concerns informally. (Managing Change & Workplace Conflict offers additional guidance and recommendations.) If informal efforts to resolve a difference or dispute are not successful or the employee does not wish to resolve the issue informally, employees may file a complaint or grievance.
Complaints or Grievances Filed by Employees
Pursuant to University policies and collective bargaining agreements, employees must file formal grievances or complaints with Employee & Labor Relations (ELR). ELR is the locally designated campus office for receipt and processing of employee complaints and grievances. Generally, an employee must file the complaint or grievance within 30 calendar days after the date on which the employee knew or could reasonably be expected to have known of the event or action that gave rise to the complaint or grievance, or within 30 calendar days after the date of termination from University employment, whichever is earlier. As the date of filing can be a critical factor in this process, please contact Employee & Labor Relations immediately if an employee gives you a formal complaint or grievance form or a letter that appears to be a complaint or grievance.
Initial Review by Employee & Labor Relations
ELR is responsible for the initial review of the grievance or complaint and will determine whether a complaint or grievance is timely, whether its claims are within the scope of the applicable University policy or collective bargaining agreement, and whether all the required information is included as required for processing the complaint or grievance. If the complaint or grievance is determined to be properly filed, ELR will contact department management to discuss next steps.
Department Review & Response
Management’s first step in responding to a complaint or grievance will be to conduct a review of the allegation(s), with the assistance of ELR. Management is encouraged to respond quickly, fairly, and effectively to complaints and grievances so that a minor issue doesn't grow into one which cannot be resolved easily. During the review, management should try to see all sides of the issue and be willing to change the decision, if warranted, by any new information gained during the review process.
Grievance or Complaint Meeting
Depending upon the applicable policy or collective bargaining agreement, the first formal step in processing a complaint or grievance may be a meeting with all parties to discuss the allegations and concerns. ELR will coordinate scheduling of the date, time and location for any formal meetings. Employees have a right to representation and may have a representative present throughout the complaint or grievance process. ELR will serve as management’s representative in the meeting.
During the Meeting
During the meeting, management’s role is to listen for new information from the employee that could affect the final decision. To make an informed decision, management must know all the facts- adverse facts as well as favorable ones. Therefore, management should listen carefully and keep an open mind throughout the meeting. Other important factors for management to remember:
- Maintain a problem-solving approach. Your objective should be to work with the employee and the representative, if any, to resolve a specific problem.
- Avoid taking the situation personally. Grievances and Complaints are filed against management and the University, not against you as an individual. This is sometimes hard to remember, but will be important in maintaining a neutral, calm approach to the process.
- Stick to the subject. Avoid getting sidetracked into issues that do not relate specifically to the alleged violations of the applicable policy or collective bargaining agreement.
- Allow the representative some latitude. Remember, it is the union’s role to advocate on behalf of the employee. Although professionalism is expected, try not to take the representatives behavior towards you personally.
- You can always ask for a break in order to discuss something with your ELR representative during the meeting or for time to conduct further review after the meeting.
Following the meeting, management will most likely be asked to draft a written response. ELR will assist with formulating a response and a final decision on the complaint or grievance. ELR will coordinate sending the final written decision to the employee and their representative, if any.
Appeals, Hearings & Arbitration
Complaint and grievance procedures provide a precise structure for formally resolving issues in an orderly fashion. There are typically several ‘steps’ in the process. If an employee disagrees with management’s initial review and decision, they may appeal the decision to a higher level of authority as outlined in the applicable University policy or collective bargaining agreement. If efforts fail to resolve the disagreement or difference at each step of the procedure, certain issues can be submitted to arbitration or hearing, in which a third party makes a decision based on evidence and testimony provided at a formal hearing. ELR or, depending on circumstance, external counsel will represent the department and campus at every level of the complaint or grievance process. Costs for arbitration expenses and retaining external counsel are typically the responsibility of the department where the complaint or grievance was filed.
Under limited circumstances, a post-deprivation hearing may be required to satisfy constitutional due process in an employee personnel matter. For example, employees previously covered by a union contract that has expired may be entitled to a post-deprivation hearing relating to a demotion, suspension, medical termination, or termination. (Resignations & Involuntary Terminations provides for more information.) In those cases, an appeal to a hearing may only be made after the timely exhaustion of the grievance procedure.
If the decision of the designated University official at the final step of the grievance procedure does not resolve the complaint for those issues listed above, the employee may request a hearing with a University appointed hearing office. Such request shall be made in writing, signed by the employee and/or designated representative and received by ELR within twenty (20) calendar days of the date the final response was issued, or if not issued, was due. The request shall detail those issues in the original complaint not resolved at the previous levels of review.