Chapter 5: Personnel
05:06:03 Grievance Policy
(TBR Guideline P-110)
- Purpose: The purpose of this policy is to provide clear, orderly, and expedient procedures through which all employees of Northeast State Community College may process bona fide complaints or grievances.
- Policy Statement: The policy of this institution is to provide effective procedures for resolution of problems arising from the employment relationship or environment. To this end, a formal grievance policy has been established in accordance with TBR Guideline P-110 for the use and benefit of all employees. When an employee believes a condition of employment affecting him/her is unjust, inequitable or a hindrance to effective performance of his/her employment responsibilities, the employee may seek resolution through this policy without fear of coercion, discrimination, or reprisal. This institution will make every effort to resolve complaints and grievances at the lowest possible step in the grievance process.
- Applicability of Policy: The provisions of this policy are applicable to all employees (administrative, faculty, professional non-faculty, clerical and support staff) of Northeast State Community College.
This policy has no application to a termination procedure initiated against a tenured faculty member under TBR Policy 5:02:03:10, Section III (O); 5:02:03:60, Section V (J); or 5:02:03:70, Section VI (G)(2). The procedures established pursuant to this policy do not establish any right to a hearing except as set forth herein.
A grievance committee appointed pursuant to the requirements of this policy shall be utilized when an employee requests an institutional hearing in the following situations:
Actions relating to the suspension of employees for cause or termination in violation of an employment contract which fall under TBR Policy 1:06:00:05 (Cases Subject to TUAPA) or TBR Policy 5:02:03:60, Section V (I)(2) or TBR Policy 5:02:03:70, Section VI (G)(2)(b) (suspension of tenured faculty) or TBR Policy 5:02:03:10, Section III (O)(2) or action involving hearings requested pursuant to TBR Guideline P-080.
- Definitions: Matters Subject to the Grievance or Complaint Procedure: There shall be two types of matters which the College will address through this policy. These two types are: a) grievances which are subject to committee review, and b) complaints which must be resolved without committee review
- Grievances (Committee review available): An employee may only grieve those matters defined in (i) through (iii) below. If the grievance involves or is based on unlawful discrimination or unlawful harassment, the process set out in Guideline P-080 must be utilized. A grievance may result from any action the institution has taken against the employee which:
- Violates institution or TBR policy, or involves an inconsistent application of these same policies.
- Violates any constitutional right. The most likely areas of concern are the First, Fourth, or Fourteenth Amendment of the federal constitution when that action hampers free speech, freedom of religion, the right to association, provides for improper search and seizure, or denies constitutionally required notice or procedures.
- Violates a federal or state statute not covered by TBR Guideline P-080.
- Complaints (Committee review not available): A complaint is a concern which an employee wants to discuss with supervisory personnel in an effort to resolve the matter. Personnel actions such as performance evaluations, rates of pay, position reclassifications, or position terminations due to reduction in force do not fall under the definition of complaint.
- Employees: All references to the term employee(s)“ contained in this policy include only those individuals defined in this paragraph. Employees shall include administrators, faculty (including full-time faculty on term or temporary contracts), professional non-faculty, clerical and support personnel. Probationary employees are also included in this definition. Student workers, adjunct faculty, and temporary workers are not included in the definition of employees.
- Grievance Committee: The president shall appoint a committee of three members to hear an individual grievance. The committee shall be appointed in accordance with section (9) of this policy.
- Applicability of Procedures
- All employees shall have access to the grievance/complaint procedure.
- All employees are encouraged to discuss any problem with their immediate supervisor prior to utilizing any grievance/complaint procedure. An effort shall be made to resolve each grievance/complaint at the lowest level possible.
- All grievances and those complaints which cannot be resolved with the immediate supervisor shall be filed with the director of Executive Director of Human Resources. The director shall assist in proper documentation of the grievance on a Northeast State Grievance Form or Complaint Form and refer the grievance/complaint to the appropriate supervisory level for processing through administrative channels.
- Responsibility for Implementation
- The president provides the final decision, at the institutional level, where a grievance is involved.
- Administrative, academic, and supervisory personnel are responsible for ensuring that they inform and make available to all employees information concerning their right to file a grievance or complaint and their right to be protected from retaliation.
- No employee shall retaliate or discriminate against another employee because of the latter employee's filing of a grievance or complaint. In addition, no employee shall coerce another employee or interfere with the action of another employee in the latter employee's attempt to file a grievance or complaint. Administrative, academic, and supervisory personnel are also responsible for ensuring that the employee is free from retaliation, coercion, and/or discrimination arising from the employee’s filing of or intent to file a grievance or complaint.
- The Executive Director of Human Resources is responsible for briefing the president on all grievances and complaints filed with his/her office.
- Grievance/Complaint Process
- Grievances which cannot be resolved shall, upon request of the grievant, will be referred to a grievance committee as set out in (4.d) above. See also section (8.c) below. The grievant has the option of choosing committee review when he/she has attempted to resolve the matter without success, or it is apparent that such attempt would be futile.
- Grievances which are processed through the grievance committee are appealable to the chancellor only when they fall within the parameters set out in TBR Policy 1:02:11:00. This generally includes all grievances defined in (4.a.i) above, except those where the complainant has filed a lawsuit or appeal with a state or federal administrative body.
- Complaints: Complaints may be initiated orally; however, it is preferred that the complaint be documented on an official Northeast State Complaint Form. Resolution of complaints at a minimum requires the institution to:
- Allow the employee to present facts and/or materials;
- Investigate the dispute; and
- Attempt to find a solution.
The president or his/her designee shall be the final decision-maker. Complaints do not include a right to any type of hearing, adversarial proceeding, or the right to appeal to the chancellor.
- Process Applicable to Grievances Only
- All grievances must be filed with the Executive Director of Human Resources who will assist the employee when required in properly documenting the grievance. The director of Human Resources will refer the grievance to the appropriate supervisory level for processing through administrative channels. The director of Human Resources will notify the president of all grievances filed.
If the employee is satisfied with the decision reached by the immediate supervisor, no additional action is required. If the employee is not satisfied, the grievance shall be referred to the next level of supervision following the College's personnel organization chart. Grievances which are unresolved at the level of supervision reporting directly to the president shall be referred in writing to an appropriate grievance committee. In addition, the grievant has the option of choosing committee review where he or she has attempted to resolve the matter without success or it is apparent that such attempt would be futile.
- The grievance procedure should begin at the lowest appropriate supervisory level.
- It is preferred that all grievances be submitted in writing on an official Northeast State Grievance Form. However, the employee may present his/her grievance orally in the initial steps of the procedure. All grievances shall be in writing prior to being referred to a grievance committee.
- A grievance must be filed within 10 working days after the date of the occurrence giving rise to the grievance. If the grievance arises from a repeated or continuing occurrence, the time limit is from the date of the last occurrence. Any grievance not presented within the time limit is waived. Once a final determination is made, the employee may not present the same grievance again in an attempt to gain a more favorable decision.
- Written grievances must be stated in reasonable and temperate terms.
- Written grievances should contain, at a minimum, the following information:
- The grievant's name and job title.
- The department or division in which the grievant is employed.
- Explanation of the grievance.
- Names of persons to whom the grievance has previously been presented and date on which the grievance was presented to each.
- Corrective action desired.
- Date the written grievance is filed.
- Signature of the grievant.
- The institution provides pre-printed forms asking for the desired information.
- A written grievance may be returned to the grievant for additional information or restatement in clearer terms.
- The grievant is entitled to be accompanied by an advisor at each step of the grievance procedure; however, the advisor may not act as an advocate but may act as an advisor only.
- The supervisor, or any person who has been charged with making the decision at each step, is responsible and has the authority for conducting a thorough and independent investigation.
- Decisions shall be based on full and fair consideration of all pertinent facts and circumstances.
- Each decision-maker will have five working days from the date the grievance is filed to notify the grievant of his/her decision. The grievant will have five working days from the date of each decision to appeal to the next level of authority. The president is authorized to grant reasonable extensions of the time limits upon a showing of good cause.
- Employees shall be given the opportunity to pursue grievances pursuant to this policy during regular business hours. Each party shall have access to all persons, places, and official records for information necessary to the determination and processing of a grievance within regular business hours unless other arrangements are required. This access shall not interfere with normal workflow of the institution.
- A grievance may be withdrawn in writing by the grievant at any time during the process.
- A grievance which is the subject of an action filed with an external body shall not be processed through this policy. The term external body includes a court, federal, or state administrative body such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, office of Civil Rights, or Tennessee Human Rights Commission.
- A grievance which is the subject of a harassment complaint which is being pursued through Northeast State Policy 05:14:00 shall NOT be processed through this policy.
- Grievance Committee
- An appropriate grievance committee shall be established to advise the president on those grievances which reach the final decision-making level. Separate committees will be established for faculty and non-faculty grievances. The faculty grievance committee shall include at least one peer representative.
- The president will attempt to make appointments of members to these committees who will be disinterested in the outcome. Any committee member selected who has a particular interest in the outcome of the decision should be replaced with an alternate to avoid a biased decision. Every effort should be made to include minorities, i.e., ethnic minorities and women, in the composition of the committee.
- Grievance Committees appointed by the president shall be established as follows:
- Non-faculty Grievance Committee: Committee of three non-faculty employees, none of who has a direct interest in the grievance to be considered. The three members, one of who shall be designated to serve as chair, will be selected by the president. A non-voting recorder may also be appointed to assist the committee.
- Faculty Grievance Committee: Committee of three faculty members, none of who has a direct interest in the grievance to be considered. The three members, one of who shall be designated to serve as chair, will be selected by the president. A non-voting recorder may also be appointed to assist the committee.
- The designated committee should review the material and decisions of previous decision-makers in the process and conduct a review of the relevant facts. In order to do so, it will have the power to receive evidence from the grievant, gather evidence from other sources and call witnesses.
- The burden of proof necessary to establish the validity of a grievance (a violation of law, policy, or constitutional right) is on the grievant and must meet a preponderance of the evident standard.
- The procedure by the committee shall consist of fact finding. Except as noted below the committee shall provide a hearing where each witness, including the grievant, can be interviewed separately. The grievant shall be allowed to present any pertinent evidence to the committee and to have the committee call those witnesses who have testimony pertinent to the decision.
- Within three working days following the hearing, the chair of the grievance committee shall forward a written report of the committee's findings and reasons supporting its recommendations to the president. The president may adopt the committee's recommendation(s), in whole or in part, or make his/her own decision.
- The grievant shall be provided a copy of the Committee’s report along with the president’s decision.
- The president's decision shall be directed to the chair of the committee, the grievant, and all parties involved. The president's decision shall be final and binding to all parties concerned. However, grievances which are processed through the grievance committee are appealable to the chancellor only where they fall within the provisions of TBR Policy 1:02:11:00.
- Maintenance of Records
- Copies of written grievances/complaints and accompanying responses and documentation will be maintained in the office of the Executive Director of Human Resources.
- Copies of grievances/complaints and accompanying responses will be maintained for at least three years. If a finding adverse to the grievant/complaint is made, the findings shall be maintained in the grievant/complainant’s personnel file.
- Grievance/Complaint Forms: The office of the Executive Director of Human Resources shall stock Grievance/Complaint Forms for use by institution employees.
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Revision History: April 2008, July 2014