11.1.1  Staff Grievance Procedure

Objective/Purpose

It is the policy of the University of Arkansas to encourage fair, efficient, and equitable solutions for problems arising out of the employment relationship. Therefore, this policy has been adopted to provide an avenue of resolving grievances for all staff employees. Different grievance policies exist for individuals appointed as faculty.

The staff grievance procedure is distinct from the university’s complaint procedures for employees.  Matters that fall under these review procedures and/or any disciplinary action that occurs as a result, may not be reviewed under the grievance procedure.

  • Matters involving allegations of unlawful harassment, discrimination, pay inequities, reasonable accommodations for disabilities, and/or retaliation should be reported to the University's Compliance Officer with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance.  For more information or to report allegations of discrimination, contact:  Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance, Phone:  479-575-4019, TDD: 479-575-3649 or titlevii@uark.edu.
  • Matters involving sexual and/or gender-based harassment (including, but not limited to, sexual assault/misconduct, sexual harassment, domestic/dating violence, stalking, and discrimination based on pregnancy), should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator, Phone: 479-575-7111, TDD: 479-575-3649 or titleix@uark.edu.
  • Matters involving workplace violence should be reported to the Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment Team (BIT-TAT) via the File A Report Form.

The grievance process described in this policy is an internal process, intended to encourage informal dispute resolution and, when necessary, allow for structured, but non-adversarial resolution of disagreements.  Accordingly, staff who utilize the grievance process are free to consult with legal counsel at their own expense, but attorneys and other representatives are not permitted to attend or participate in the grievance process.

 All participants in the grievance process are expected to maintain the confidentiality of these personnel matters, provided that disclosure is permitted to university personnel with official responsibility or need to know or otherwise as may be required by law or university policy.

 

Definitions

Grievance:  

Unless excluded below, a grievance is defined to include the following:

  1. an alleged misinterpretation, misapplication, or violation of a specific provision of university policy that materially affects the Grievant’s terms and conditions of employment; and/or,
  2. bullying: includes, but not limited to, repeated and ongoing acts of intimidation, humiliation, or ridicule either written, verbal, electronic, or physical, against the Grievant that materially interferes with the work environment; and/or
  3. terminations which are deemed to be “terminations-for-cause” as defined in Section 10.4 of the Staff Handbook.

 Excluded from the grievance process are: 

  1. issues related to wages, salary or benefits matters involving reappointment, performance evaluation, reassignment of duties, or demotions or promotions, that do not concern a claimed failure by the university to follow established policy;
  2. alternative work arrangements or scheduling;
  3. classification of positions;
  4. separation of employment (whether voluntary or involuntary) except “terminations for cause”;
  5. retrenchment of employees pursuant to Board Policy 405.5;
  6. falsification of application materials; and/or
  7. personality disputes. 

When a question of whether allegations constitute a “grievance” as defined in this policy, the Grievance Officer will determine whether or not an issue may be addressed through the grievance process. If the Grievance Officer determines that a matter is not subject to the grievance process, the decision may be appealed to the Compliance Officer, who shall make a final determination on that issue.  

If the final determination is that the issue does not fall within the scope of the definition of a grievance under this policy, the Grievant will be encouraged to pursue further informal discussions to address any concerns or be advised of other possible policies available to address the issue. The Grievance Officer may assist with such discussions. 

Grievant: All appointed employees of the university who are not otherwise eligible to utilize the faculty grievance process. Staff may be classified or non-classified. Employee categories are defined in Sections 2.1 and 2.3 of the Staff Handbook.  

Non-appointed employees (such as hourly employees) may consult with the Grievance Officer, but are expected to address issues through their supervisory chain. 

Respondent: Any person against whom a grievance is filed, or the supervisor responsible for the employment action that is being grieved. 

Supervisor in the Chain of Command: Any person in the Respondent’s chain of command who holds supervisory responsibility, excluding the Vice Chancellor. 

Grievance Officer: The individual responsible for assisting all staff employees during the grievance process and for overseeing all procedural matters and paperwork pertaining thereto.  The Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance shall designate the Grievance Officer.  

Grievance Record: A file shall be maintained by the Grievance Officer, which shall include documentation pertaining to all stages of a grievance.  The Grievance Officer shall be the custodian of the grievance record and shall determine the relevancy of materials submitted.  Documents deemed to be irrelevant to the grievance issues will not be provided to the Grievance Committee.  At the end of the procedure for each grievance, the Grievance Officer shall close the grievance record for retention in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance. The grievance record shall be treated as confidential, subject to applicable law.  In particular, whether a grievance record is subject to disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act shall be determined on a case-by-case basis consistent with Arkansas law and all applicable university policies. 

Grievance Panel: The panel shall be made of the current fiscal year Staff Senate Representatives, as elected. 

Grievance Committee:  Five (5) Staff Senate Representatives will be selected from the grievance panel to serve on each grievance committee. The Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance will select the five (5) representatives at random. None shall be from the Grievant’s immediate administrative unit or supervisory chain. The Grievance Committee shall hear all evidence relevant to the grievance and make recommendations to the Vice Chancellor based on its findings.  The Committee shall not be bound by official rules of evidence and shall have no subpoena power. 

Persons to be disqualified from the initial selection pool will be those who: (a) have direct involvement or direct knowledge of the incident involved;(b) are employed in the immediate administrative unit or supervisory chain.; or (c) are related to or otherwise determined by the Director and/or the Grievance Officer to have an actual or potential conflict of interest with either party in the grievance. 

Grievance Committee Chair: The Grievance Committee shall elect a member to serve as the committee chair. The Chair shall be responsible for submitting the written proposal of resolution to the Grievance Officer. 

Working Day:  A regularly scheduled workday, excluding those days which are designated as holidays by the official university calendar or by action of the Chancellor or Provost, unless otherwise specified herein.

 

Rights and Responsibilities

Each grievance shall be handled promptly and impartially, without any acts of coercion, discrimination, or retaliation.  Each participant in a grievance shall do his or her part to protect this right. 

A Grievant, any witness, any other employee involved as a participant in the grievance process, and any member of the Grievance Committee shall be provided release time from her or his work unit, as necessary, to participate in the grievance process. 

All parties shall keep all matters discussed in the grievance process in strict confidence. Only those individuals who have a legitimate need to know will have access to the information. 

The Grievant, Respondent(s), and Supervisors in the Chain of Command shall receive copies of all documentation, regardless of form, during all steps of the grievance procedure. 

While supporting information or clarification may be requested or presented in subsequent steps of the grievance process, the Grievant is responsible for identifying all issues and allegations relevant to the grievance in the written formal grievance.  Allegations not included in the written grievance will be considered in the grievance process only at the discretion of the Grievance Officer.  Any additional allegations or requested remedies, raised by a Grievant, may be addressed through a separate grievance process or may be included in the initial grievance at the discretion of the Grievance Officer. At the discretion of the Grievance Officer, multiple grievances filed by one or more Grievants may be combined into a single grievance process, if such an action promotes a more meaningful and efficient review of the matter.

 

Extensions and Delays

The amount of time for filing and decision making under this policy is intended to provide for a prompt, yet thorough, review and resolution of grievances. However, should the Grievance Officer determine that special circumstances or the nature of the grievance are such that additional time will allow for a more meaningful, well-supported resolution of the matter, then the Grievance Officer may grant an extension of up to five (5) working days.  In the event the Grievance Officer grants an extension, notice of the extension will be in writing, delivered to all parties with a need to know.  If circumstances warrant, the Grievance Officer is authorized to grant additional extensions to the extent necessary to permit appropriate consideration of the matter or to minimize any significant disruption to the university’s mission. 

If the Grievant does not submit a written request to move the grievance forward within the specified time period, or otherwise fails to provide prompt cooperation with the grievance process, and is not granted an extension prior to the passing of a deadline, the grievance will be closed based upon the Grievant’s failure to move the process forward. 

If the Respondent, any supervisor in the chain of command or the Grievance Committee fails to deliver a written response or decision within the specified time period and is not granted an extension of time prior to the passing of that deadline, the grievance will automatically advance to the next level of review.

The Grievance Officer shall record and maintain the timeline associated with each grievance.

 

Withdrawing a Grievance

A Grievant may terminate his/her grievance under this policy at any time by delivering to the Grievance Officer a written notification requesting such. Additionally, a grievance will be automatically withdrawn if the Grievant’s employment with the university ends at any time during the grievance process, except in instances where a former employee is grieving a termination for cause.  Withdrawal of a grievance waives further consideration of the matters contained in the grievance. 

 

Retaliation; Pending Employment Actions

University policy prohibits any form of retaliation against persons who initiates or participates in the grievance procedure.  While such retaliation is prohibited, the filing of a grievance shall not prevent an employment action taken for bona-fide, non-retaliatory reasons that are independent of the filing of the grievance.  Employees who have initiated a grievance are responsible to perform their job duties and comply with all university policies, and the filing of a grievance does not preclude these obligations.

 

Friday, August 19, 2016 12:40 PM