5.21 Grievance Procedure

Origination date: 10/1/93
Revised: 1/1/2000, 4/13/2004
Applicability: Classified Staff

Purpose

The purpose of the grievance policy is to provide an employee with an opportunity to state his/her case and obtain a resolution when the employee believes he/she has been the subject of a violation of university policy for which the university can provide a remedy.

Grievance Procedure

Northern Arizona University recognizes the importance of providing a prompt and efficient procedure for resolving grievances fairly and equitably, without fear of prejudice or retaliation for initiating or participating in a grievance and its resolution. All regular status classified staff employees shall have clearly defined avenues of grievance, which may include:

  1. informal grievance process (taking the written grievance letter through the chain of command) either of which may be followed by
  2. formal grievance hearing before an external hearing officer who prepares a summary recommendation for the university president.  The university president makes the final decision.

Adherence to an orderly process shall characterize all actions at all stages of the grievance.  Grievances should be resolved internally at the level closest to the grievant whenever possible. All grievants must pursue the informal grievance process to completion before filing a formal grievance request.

Determining Grievability

The Chief Human Resources Officer shall determine grievability prior to the second supervisory level of the informal grievance process or prior to formal grievance procedures, whichever is sooner.

The Chief Human Resources Officer will reply in writing to the grievant and respondent, within 15 calendar days of the receipt of a request to determine grievability, with a written explanation as to the reason(s) why the case is not grievable.

Informal Procedures                             

If the employee wishes to pursue a grievance, the employee must provide a written informal grievance request to the Chief Human Resources Officer and the immediate supervisor within 30 calendar days of the grievable event. The written grievance must state the issues in dispute and the remedy desired. (Note: Any issue appropriate for the informal grievance process that is not raised in the initial written request shall be considered waived and may not thereafter be raised or argued by the employee as part of the grievance process.)

The employee shall schedule and participate in a meeting to discuss the written grievance with the immediate supervisor. The supervisor and employee must make a good-faith attempt to resolve the grievance directly through discussion within 15 calendar days after the request has been received. The supervisor shall submit a written summary of the grievance meeting findings and recommendations to the employee and the Human Resources Department within 15 calendar days of the meeting. The supervisor shall include notice to the employee of his or her right to appeal the dispute to the second step. The employee may skip the immediate supervisor if sexual harassment or discrimination is alleged to have occurred with that supervisor.

If a mutually satisfactory agreement cannot be reached at the first level of the request, the employee may submit the grievance in writing to the next-level supervisor (the supervisor’s supervisor) within 15 calendar days. At the same time the employee shall also submit a written copy of the grievance to the Chief Human Resources Officer to determine grievability The second-level supervisor will investigate the matter and make a good-faith attempt to resolve the dispute. The second-level supervisor will discuss the matter with the aggrieved employee and send a written summary of the meeting including findings and recommendations to that employee and the Human Resources Department within 15 calendar days of receipt of the written grievance.

The employee has the right to present the case in person at each level up through the responsible vice president or provost within 15 calendar days following the employee’s receipt of the written findings and recommendations from the preceding level. If the grievance is not resolved with the second level supervisor, the aggrieved employee may then pursue the grievance in writing within 15 calendar days through each succeeding supervisor up through the responsible vice president or provost. Each succeeding supervisor, including the vice president or provost, should indicate in writing within 15 calendar days of receipt of the grievance his or her summary of the grievance meeting, findings and recommendations, and a copy shall be given to the aggrieved employee and the Human Resources Department.

If the grievance cannot be resolved through this informal grievance process and the matter is grievable, the employee may submit a formal written request for a hearing to the Chief Human Resources Officer within 15 calendar days of receipt of a vice president’s or provost’s written response.

Formal Procedures

A request for a formal grievance hearing must be filed within 15 calendar days of the employee’s receipt of a vice president’s or provost’s written response.

A covered employee may file a written formal grievance and request for hearing with the Chief Human Resources Officer.  If grievability has not already been determined, it will be determined by the Chief Human Resources Officer within 15 calendar days of the written request for formal grievance. Upon a grievability determination, a Human Resources Department representative will provide a Request for Grievance form and the Classified Staff Grievance Policy and Procedures to the grievant and supervisor, who shall complete the forms and return them to the Human Resources Department representative within 15 calendar days of their receipt. If the request is grievable, the Human Resources Department representative will forward the grievance to the external agency designated by the university for completion of the hearing process, at the university’s expense. Upon receipt of the grievance the agency will forward a copy of the grievance to the respondent with a request for a written response.  At this time, the agency will provide to the parties and to the Human Resources Department a listing of hearing officers, including their names and biographies and costs, who are available to conduct a hearing.   The written response to the grievance and the selection of a hearing officer must be returned to the outside agency within 15 calendar days of its receipt.  The hearing officer will be selected through a process which is agreeable to the parties and the agency, within 15 calendar days of receipt of the list of available hearing officers.  Each hearing officer will be trained by the outside agency on process and hearing procedures.

Each party must advise the other party and the agency at the time of signing the Request for Grievance, if he or she will have an attorney or counsel present and the contact information for such counsel.  It is the responsibility of the employee to ensure adequate presentation of their case.

Within 60 calendar days after the receipt of a written response and selection of a hearing officer a hearing will be scheduled on a date that is agreeable to both parties. The hearing will be conducted according to the procedures set out in the agency’s employment dispute resolution rules including the expedited procedures, (if requested) with the following exceptions:

The case will be heard, and not arbitrated.  The hearing officer will submit a non-binding advisory opinion to the Northern Arizona University president who will make the final decision. The hearing officer will not order an award or remedy to either party.

The agency will provide copies of the resolution rules to the parties early in the grievance process; also, either party may obtain a copy of the rules from the Human Resources Department, on request. To the extent any agency’s rule or procedure is inconsistent with this policy, this policy will prevail.

Within 15 calendar days after the hearing ends, the hearing officer will provide a written report summarizing the positions of the parties, the testimony of the witnesses, identification and analysis of documentation submitted, findings, conclusions and recommendations to the Northern Arizona University president. Within 15 calendar days from receipt of the report, the president will forward a written final decision to the parties, and the Chief Human Resources Officer.

Procedures Governing the Formal Grievance Hearing

The hearing is closed to the public, unless the grievant, respondent and the Chief Human Resources Officer have mutually agreed upon an exception.  Requests for open hearings shall be made in writing to theChief Human Resources Officer at the time the employee submits the Request for Grievance to the Human Resources Department.

The Chief Human Resources Officer shall serve as technical advisor to the hearing officer.

The hearing shall be recorded by a court reporter or by other reliable means. Audio tape recording by anyone other than the court reporter shall be prohibited. Video tape recording is not permitted.

The hearing officer may impose reasonable restrictions on the participants that are necessary to assure the orderly presentation and resolution of the dispute, such as restrictions on the length of the testimony and redundant statements. The hearing officer, upon request, may permit telephone testimony.

As a condition of employment, all university employees must appear and offer testimony at any grievance hearing for which they are requested to appear by the hearing officer or by the university at the date and time specified. Some university employees’ codes of ethics or professional guidelines prohibit testimony at hearings (for example, Employee Assistance and Wellness).

Employees may represent themselves and present their own cases to the hearing officer. An employee may have an attorney or lay advisor present at the hearing. The attorney/advisor may counsel the employee; question witnesses or otherwise present the employee’s case. The university is not responsible for any cost or expense incurred by the employee in consulting or engaging an attorney or other representatives in relation to the use of the dispute resolution procedure.

Relevant evidence of the sort that reasonable people rely upon in the conduct of their business affairs shall be admissible at the hearing and relied upon by the hearing officer. The hearing officer’s findings and conclusions shall be made on the relevant evidence presented.

Witnesses will be present only while testifying. The hearing officer’s reports and tapes, as well as the president’s decision are confidential but may be made available to the parties after the president’s decision on request. The requesting party must pay all duplication costs.

When a covered employee, whose dispute meets the criteria in this policy, is employed by the university at a site other than Flagstaff or its surrounding area, the Chief Human Resources Officer shall provide the employee, the department representative, and the hearing officer with the information necessary to convene the hearing.

The university is not liable for any cost and expense incurred by the employee, other than for the employee’s reasonable travel expenses incurred to the extent of reimbursement under the applicable university travel regulations, should the hearing site be greater than 50 miles from the employee’s regularly assigned work site or residence, whichever is closer.

Premature or Non-Grievable Actions

Premature Claims

A grievance will not be accepted and the hearing will not be conducted until the employee has attempted resolution the informal grievance process. In the event the employee has not completed the informal grievance process the Chief Human Resources Officer will return the formal grievance request to the employee, within 15 calendar days after receipt, with a written notice explaining why the request is premature.

Non-Grievable Claims

The following actions are not grievable:

  • Discrimination or sexual harassment complaints, which should be filed with the university’s Director of Affirmative Action.
  • Grievances or complaints which are handled through other university committees or boards.
  • Performance appraisals which may be reviewed through the Right of Review Process.
  • Job classification and compensation, including salary adjustment.
  • Verbal or written results of performance feedback sessions with the supervisor.
  • Layoff which may be reviewed through the Administrative Review process.
  • Termination of employees on their initial six month probation.
  • Non-retention of employees at the expiration of limited employment.
  • Actions grieved after resignation, voluntary termination, or resignation in lieu of termination.
  • Letters of Reprimand are grievable only through the informal grievance process.  They are not subject to the formal grievance process that includes an outside arbitration.
  • Hiring decisions, including internal promotion.
  • Disagreement about disabilities covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which will be forwarded to the Equity and Access Office.

Retaliation

No person shall use or threaten to use his/her official authority to influence in any manner or to discourage the use of this procedure, nor shall any reprisal or retaliation result from an employee’s use of the grievance procedure.

Record of Grievance Materials

Grievance material, except for any final remedial action, shall not become a part of or be retained in an employee’s official personnel file.

Contact Address

It is the responsibility of the grievant to provide the Human Resources Department with his/her most recent address and phone number, and to report any changes.

Timeliness

When a timeline ends on a calendar day (a calendar day excludes Saturdays, Sundays, university holidays, and university break periods) the usual close of business the following workday shall serve as the due date.

Time Extensions

The Chief Human Resources Officer can grant extensions of identified timelines if the request is in writing within the identified time frame and presents good cause.

Failure to Expedite

The Chief Human Resources Officer will initiate an Intent to Dismiss letter to both parties upon the first missed deadline or unapproved delay in the grievance process.  Failure to provide good cause to the Chief Human Resources Officer in writing within 3 days of the receipt of Intent to Dismiss letter will constitute a dismissal.

Human Resources Department representatives are available for advice on actions that are non-grievable, as well as grievance procedures and policies.