D.2. Employee Relations
D.2.a. Problem Solving Procedure
The Institute strives to maintain effective employer-employee and employee-employee relations within the context of the at-will employment relationship. The Institute seeks to promote open communication between its employees with appropriate involvement of Human Resources, if necessary, to facilitate a resolution of employee concerns. Employees are encouraged to bring concerns directly to the attention of their immediate supervisor or, if uncomfortable in doing so, to their second level manager, or Human Resources. If the concern remains unresolved, formal Institute resources should be engaged through the Human Resources office. After a minimum of two rounds of problem solving involving a member of the Human Resources Office, the employee may file a grievance.
D.2.b. Grievance Procedure
Individuals who are actively employed by the Institute may avail themselves of the grievance procedures if an issue concerns a person, situation, or policy that the employee believes is adversely impacting her/his conditions of employment. A grievance is understood to be a work-related problem, condition, or complaint not covered by the Institute's harassment policy that an employee believes to be unfair, inequitable, discriminatory, or a hindrance to her/his effective operation. Concerns regarding harassment or other behaviors noted in the Institute's harassment policy, salary surveys, wage and salary levels, position description re-evaluation, and job dates are not appropriate for the grievance process but other procedures are available. The grievance policy also does not apply to issues related to faculty contract renewal and promotion, or faculty misconduct as described in the Faculty handbook.
If an employee believes that s/he is being subjected to harassment or other behavior noted in the Institute's harassment policy, then s/he should promptly present a complaint under the Institute's harassment policy set forth above in this Handbook.
The employee must have attempted the problem solving process (see above) prior to filing a grievance.
The formal grievance process begins with the creation of a written document detailing the situation. Specifically, the grievance must provide the following information:
- the employee's name,
- what s/he does,
- what the grievance is,
- how it relates to her/his employment,
- how the problem could be resolved,
- who the other parties are,
- what policies are involved, and
- what has been done to date to resolve the problem or concern.
The grievance must be sent to the Human Resources Manager (or, in the event that the grievance is with the Human Resources Manager, to the HR Manager’s supervisor).
Upon receipt of the written grievance, the Human Resources Manager creates a Grievance Review Committee (GRC). The three-member GRC consists of one person from Human Resources and two disinterested and impartial members of the Institute employee community drawn from departments or sectors other than those of the parties to the grievance. In appointing GRC members, care is taken to avoid direct supervisors, known personal relationships, or other conflicts of interest that could hinder an impartial decision. GRC appointees are charged with upholding the confidentiality of all proceedings.
Generally, Human Resources will acknowledge the receipt of the grievance and the formation of the GRC within one week of receiving the grievance. Within one week of its formation, the GRC will meet with the employee. Due to CTO/holiday schedules and illness, a specific timeframe for the process cannot be made. The GRC will complete its charge as soon as possible.
Once the members have been selected and confirmed, the GRC convenes its first meeting. The focus of the initial meeting is to:
- select a chairperson to facilitate the meetings.
- choose a recorder to record the meetings.
- meet with the employee who filed the grievance and review the grievance with her/him.
During the meeting with the employee who has filed the grievance, the GRC must ascertain that:
- the grievance is not a simple misunderstanding that can be resolved immediately by the GRC,
- the grievance contains the required information, and
- the GRC understands the grievance.
Upon completion of the initial meeting of the GRC, there are a variety of possible decisions that may be made. They include the following:
- the employee may withdraw the grievance,
- the GRC and the employee may come to the realization that the grievance has been resolved,
- the grievance may be edited and refiled, or
- the grievance may remain unchanged.
If the decision to continue the grievance is made, the GRC will:
- begin gathering facts pertaining to the grievance,
- review Institute policies and procedures, and
- meet with all parties pertinent to the grievance in an attempt to resolve the situation.
Once the GRC has reached a decision, it will meet with all major parties to the grievance and share its findings. The decision will be communicated to the appropriate individuals within the Institute administration for implementation. The decision of the GRC is final unless appealed or unless in her/his sole discretion, the VPAA alters the committee decision.
In order to make certain that documentation pertaining to the grievance process is created, maintained, and kept confidential, the following steps are taken:
- The GRC maintains written meeting summaries.
- All meeting participants sign every summary.
- Information is shared with individuals external to the meetings only upon unanimous agreement of the participants.
- A copy of all work done by the GRC will be placed in an envelope and stored in a separate file (i.e., not the employee's personnel file) in the Human Resources Office as a confidential item.
Once an employee has filed a grievance concerning a particular issue, another grievance on the same issue cannot be filed. For example, if an employee files a grievance regarding a particular section of her/his annual performance review, a grievance pertaining to a different section of the same review cannot be filed at a later date.
D.2.c. Appealing a Grievance Decision
There are times when an employee, after following the informal and formal procedures outlined above, may believe that satisfactory resolution was not attained. The Institute has established staff appeals procedures to provide a fair and impartial process of which employees may avail themselves under certain conditions to appeal grievance decisions. The conditions under which an employee may file a grievance appeal are:
- new evidence,
- demonstrable prejudice violative of Institute policy in the original GRC's actions, and/or
- failure by the GRC to follow the grievance procedures.
In order to initiate the grievance appeals process, the employee must submit a written request to the VPAA of the Institute within ten working days following notification of the decision. Contained within the written request must be reasons for the appeal.
Within five working days of receipt of the request, the VPAA or her/his designee appoints an Appeals Board to hear the appeal.
In order to assure the creation of a well-balanced, impartial board, the 3-member Appeals Board is composed of:
- One administrator from the VPAA’s senior staff
- One staff member
- One faculty member
To ensure impartiality and fairness, no one is eligible to serve on the Appeals Board who heard the original case, has a conflict of interest, or is the senior administrator of any of the parties involved. Conflict of interest includes employment in the same department, or family relationship with any person involved as a principal in the case, or other relationship/circumstance that might render the process unfair to any parties involved.
The names of the Appeals Board members are conveyed in writing by the VPAA or designee to the two parties within 5 working days of initiating the appeals process. The VPAA or designee convenes the Appeals Board no later than ten working days after initiation of the appeals process.
Upon selection to the Appeals Board, if a designee is unable to participate in the hearing in a fair and impartial manner for any reason, s/he will be disqualified and another person selected. Attendance at all meetings is required.
Within ten days of the initiation of the appeals process, the Appeals Board convenes its first meeting. The focus of the initial meeting is to:
- choose a chairperson to facilitate the meetings.
- choose a recorder to record the meetings.
- review the written request for an appeal.
- determine whether the appeal has merit.
- set timelines for the appeal.
The Appeals Board holds individual and collective responsibility for deliberating in a manner that demonstrates sensitivity to the matters brought forth and respect for those involved in the process. To that end, all proceedings of the Appeals Board are kept confidential.
The Appeals Board provides all sides involved the opportunity to present their views as well as cross-examine each other. The appellant and appellee may testify on their own behalf before the Appeals Board. The Appeals Board may make the request of both or either party. While no legal counsel is allowed at a hearing, the appellant and appellee each may bring one support person from the Institute community to the proceedings.
In cases in which a person who is not called to meet with the Appeals Board wishes to do so, the Appeals Board will vote on whether the meeting may occur. A majority of Appeals Board members are required to allow the person to present information.
In cases in which additional information is brought forth once the Appeals Board has finished its interviews and begun deliberations, a majority of Appeals Board members need to agree to reopen the hearings.
The members of the board consider carefully the information presented, and deliberate on the matter before as a board reaching a conclusion. The conclusion is reached by majority vote.
If the Appeals Board determines that the grounds for the appeal are not valid, the appeal process ends.
Upon review of the case, if the Appeals Board determines that the grounds for the appeal are valid based upon new evidence presented, the Appeals Board will refer the case back to the original GRC. The new information will be provided with a request that the committee reviews the case.
In order to make certain that documentation pertaining to the appeal process is created, maintained, and kept confidential, the following steps are taken:
- The Appeals Board maintains written meeting summaries.
- All meeting participants sign every summary.
- Information is shared with individuals external to the meetings only upon unanimous agreement of the Appeals Board.
- A copy of all work done by the Appeals Board will be placed in an envelope and stored in a separate file (i.e., not the employee’s personnel file) in the Human Resources Office as a confidential item.
Upon reaching a conclusion, the board forwards its decision to the VPAA. In her/his sole discretion, the VPAA may choose to alter or not alter the appeal committee decision. Once the grievance has been through the appeals process, it cannot be appealed further.