8.1.3 Staff Grievance Policy

8.1.3

Staff Grievance Policy

Proposed: June 1, 2016

Effective: July 1, 2016

Overview

Middle Georgia State University (MGA) is committed to providing a good working environment for its faculty and staff; however, conflicts and disagreements between employees and their supervisors are inevitable. It is the policy of MGA and the USG to resolve these disputes fairly, and at the lowest possible level with employees attempting to resolve the conflict through discussion with their supervisor.

This policy outlines the staff grievance process and is intended to provide an avenue for resolution of conflicts at the lowest possible level. Attempted resolution may be addressed through the grievance/disciplinary review process or the dispute resolution process.

A grievance or disciplinary review will be available to handle claims that a person has been harmed by any action that violated the policies of either the institution or the Board of Regents. A grievance will not be available to dispute:

  • Promotion and tenure decisions;
  • Performance evaluations;
  • Hiring decisions;
  • Classification appeals;
  • Challenges to grades or assessments;
  • Challenges to salary decisions;
  • Challenges to transfers or reassignments;
  • Termination or layoff because of lack of work or elimination of position;
  • Investigations or decisions reached under the institution’s Harassment Policy; and
  • Normal supervisory counseling

Circumstance under which grievances may be filed:

A classified employee (staff) may file a grievance only if:

  • The employee has been suspended; or
  • The employee has been discharged; or
  • The employee has been demoted, or their salary has been reduced.

An employee may not file a grievance, even in the above circumstances, if:

  • The discharge occurred during the 180 day provisional period;
  • They have been adversely affected by a reorganization, program modification or financial exigency (such employees may apply to the Board of Regent for review);
  • The issue underlying the grievance is a charge of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, religion or sexual discrimination. Such charges should be directed to the Affirmative Action/EEO Officer;
  • The issues being grieved have been previously heard by an administrative panel at the institution.

Grievance procedures are designed to promote accessibility, simplicity, speed and standards of fairness that will encourage employees to select the internal procedure route over an external route in seeking redress of perceived injustices.

There shall be no retaliatory action taken by any employee of MGA against any other employee of the institution as a result of an employee seeking redress under these procedures, cooperating in an investigation, or otherwise participating in any proceeding under these procedures. Such retaliatory action is prohibited and shall be regarded as a separate and distinct grievance under these procedures.

Grievance Procedures

In keeping with the spirit of collegiality, the goal is to resolve an employee dispute or grievance promptly and fairly if possible through communication between the parties directly involved in the dispute. This is consistent with our philosophy of building an environment that is fair and equitable and supports and values open communication at all levels. The grievance procedures consist of three parts: Informal Dispute Resolution Procedure (e.g., further discussion, conflict coaching), Alternative Dispute Resolution (e.g., mediation, facilitated discussion), and Formal Grievance Procedures (e.g., grievance hearing, administrative decision)

  1. Informal Dispute Resolution Procedures
    1. Immediate Supervisor – The staff employee should first address the grievance with their immediate supervisor.
    2. Next Level of Authority – If the grievance remains unresolved, the employee may address the grievance at the next level of authority. The Office of Human Resources is available to help resolve the grievance at both of these levels with conflict coaching or other assistance.
  2. Alternative Dispute Resolution
    1. Facilitated Discussion or Mediation – If the dispute cannot be resolved through the efforts outlined above, the parties may be referred to the Executive Director of Human Resources to discuss whether facilitated discussion or mediation is an appropriate means for resolving the dispute. Mediation is a process that helps people resolve disputes for themselves in a mutually acceptable way in which everyone involved in the dispute meets with one or more trained mediators. In a private setting, the mediator provides an orderly, simple process for the parties to discuss their dispute along with their feelings, perceptions and needs. The goal is to begin communication and move towards resolving the dispute in a manner agreeable to all.
  3. Formal Grievance Procedures– If the problem is still not resolved to the employee’s satisfaction, the employee may file a formal grievance.

Formal Grievance Policy

Definitions:

  • “Conflict” or “dispute” refers to any controversy or debate in the workplace that is serious enough in nature that some resolution is required in order to maintain efficiency and civility.
  • “Party” refers to a person directly involved in a conflict or dispute.
  • “Grievance Hearing Panel” consists of employees selected from the University Staff Council by the Executive Director of Human Resources to hear a specific case and make recommendations for action to the Executive Vice President.
  • “Formal Grievance” means the filing of a written grievance which results in the use of the Grievance Hearing Panel to resolve the dispute.

The Executive Director of Human Resources is charged with assisting employees with conflict at all levels of the institution. This “dispute resolution coordinator” keeps communication regarding conflicts confidential to the extent allowed by law.

Formal Grievance Procedures

All staff may pursue resolution of their grievance through a formal grievance process. (Faculty also have a Grievance Procedure located in the MGA Faculty Handbook.) The following procedures are in place to provide the framework and process to resolve formal grievances.

To file a formal grievance, the employee should submit in writing a notification to the Executive Director of Human Resources that he/she wishes to file a grievance. This notification must be made within 15 days of:

  • The alleged grievance incident; or
  • The date of the informal grievance decision outlined above.

If filed after that time, the grievance must be accompanied by a written explanation for the delay. The Executive Director of Human Resources will rule on whether the employee has good cause for filing the grievance late.

The grievance request notification should consist of a written letter or memorandum submitted either through email or regular mail and include the following:

  • The complainant’s name and job title;
  • The department/unit in which the complainant is employed;
  • The nature of the complaint and any supporting preliminary evidence to support the complainant’s case;
  • The communication that has taken place between the complainant and his/her department head, supervisor and/or second level supervisor concerning the matter;
  • The supervisors and/or superiors responsible, if applicable;
  • Preliminary actions that have failed to provide a solution;
  • The reason why the complainant disagrees with that response;
  • The complainant’s suggestions for proper resolution of the matter or remedy sought; and
  • Identification of any witnesses who may have relevant information regarding the dispute.

Upon submission of the grievance request notification, the complainant will be provided a copy of the formal grievance policy and other documents pertaining to grievance hearing procedures. The complainant shall be entitled to the procedural protections of a hearing before a Grievance Hearing Panel.

The Executive Director of Human Resources serves as the grievance coordinator and has the responsibility of managing the expeditious and fair resolution of grievance hearings. The main role of the Executive Director of Human Resources is to assist the parties, the grievance chairperson, and grievance panel in administering the procedures. If the grievance involves accusations or the appearance of discrimination, including but not limited to sexual harassment, the Executive Director of Human Resources will immediately contact the harassment prevention officer.

If the conflict involves human resources personnel, then another dispute resolution coordinator will be named by the Executive Vice President to facilitate the grievance process in the place of the Executive Director of Human Resources.

The Executive Director of Human Resources shall, within ten (10) working days of receipt of the grievance, select members of the University Staff Council to serve on the Grievance Hearing Panel and shall convene the first meeting, either in person or by telephone. The Executive Director of Human Resources shall take notes to document the activity of the panel. The business of the Panel’s first meeting shall consist of the following:

  • Selection of a Chair of the panel by the members;
  • Review the grievance and determine whether the grievance is eligible for review;
  • Instruct the Executive Director of Human Resources to communicate to the grievance parties the next steps; and
  • If the grievance is accepted for a hearing, select up to three dates and times for the hearing to be held.

If the grievance is not accepted for hearing, the Executive Director of Human Resources will inform the complainant in writing. At any time during the formal grievance process, the employee may choose to resolve the conflict through mediation. In this event, the grievance process will be suspended pending completion of the mediation process.

Establishment of the Grievance Hearing Panel

All member so the University Staff Council are eligible to serve on the Grievance Hearing Panel by means of their election to their posts. The Executive Director of Human Resources shall select three members to serve on each specific Grievance Hearing Panel ensuring that the members selected do not have a conflict of interest due to their working or personal relationship with the grievance parties. The Executive Director of Human Resources shall be a non-voting ex-officio member of the Grievance Hearing Panel.

A party to the grievance may present a request, in writing, at least three (3) working days in advance of any hearing, to the Executive Director of Human Resources, to remove any member of the grievance panel for reasonable cause, including but not limited to, conflicts of interest or apparent conflicts of interest.

If the Executive Director of Human Resources grants the request, he or she shall fill the vacancy from the remaining members of the University Staff Council. In addition, the grievance panel chair may, on his or her own motion, remove any member for reasonable cause and replace the member with an alternate member.

Members of the Grievance Hearing Panel may recuse themselves if they determine for any reason they will be unable to render impartial service on a Grievance Hearing Panel.

Procedures of the Grievance Hearing Panel

After the grievance hearing panel has been selected, written notice of the time and date set for the hearing shall be delivered via certified mail to the parties and to the members of the grievance hearing panel by the Executive Director of Human Resources no less than ten (10) working days before the scheduled date of the hearing.

Duties of the Grievance Panel Chair

The chair of each grievance panel shall not vote (except in the case of a tie) and shall be responsible for the conduct of the hearing and implementation of the grievance procedures. The chair’s duties include the following:

  • Assuring that all parties are familiar with the grievance procedures.
  • Consulting with the Executive Director of Human Resources or the Office of University Counsel to determine if the grievance should be heard by the grievance panel.
  • Assuring that the grievance has been submitted as outlined above.
  • Following all communication responsibilities in a timely manner as outlined in the review or grievance process.

Grievance Hearing Panel Procedures

The grievance hearing shall be conducted in a confidential setting and confidentiality of the hearing shall be preserved by the grievance hearing panel members.

The parties have the right to select one (1) person to attend as an observer. The advisor may be an attorney and participate in the hearing in an advisory capacity to his/her client only. The attorney may not address the other parties or grievance panel members. The Executive Director of Human Resources may assist the grievance hearing chair as needed.

The hearing shall be recorded. The Office of Human Resources shall supply the recording devices for the hearing. The recordings of the proceedings shall be kept within a secured area in the human resources office and will be available to the parties.

The parties have the right to question all witnesses who appear at the hearing. Should a witness be unable to appear because of illness or other cause acceptable to the grievance panel chair, a sworn statement or affidavit of the witness may be introduced into the record. The panel will not be bound by strict rules of legal evidence. It may receive any evidence deemed by the grievance hearing chair to be of value.

It shall be at the discretion of the grievance hearing chair to reconvene the hearing if another session is needed.

Within fifteen (15) working days following the conclusion of the hearing, the panel shall state its findings of fact and recommendations in writing based on the evidence introduced at the hearing.

The grievance hearing chair will report the findings of fact and recommendations in writing to the Executive Vice President. In event the dispute involves the Executive Vice President, the panel’s finding will be reported to the President.

Grievance Panel Recommendations to the Executive Vice President or President

Any findings of fact and recommendations made by the hearing panel shall be provided to all parties and to the Executive Vice President and are advisory only.

The Executive Vice President will render a final decision within ten (10) working days of receiving the panel’s recommendation. The Executive Vice President reserves the right to return the grievance to the grievance hearing panel for further discussion.

The Executive Vice President’s final decision may be appealed to the President in writing within twenty (20) days following the decision of the Executive Vice President. The President’s decision will be rendered within ten (10) working days and can be appealed to the Board of Regents by requesting a hearing with the Board of Regent in accordance with Board of Regent’s Bylaws and Policies.

Time Limits

The time limits as described in this formal grievance procedure (with the exception of time limits imposed by the Board of Regents Bylaws and Policies) may be waived or extended with the consent of both parties and/or the President or his/her designee, due to extenuating circumstances or to permit mediation or any other informal process.