Staff Employee Grievances
Section: Human Resources Index: C-21
The University of Houston-Victoria (UHV) is committed to a work environment that requires supervisors and officials at all levels to treat employees fairly and consistently in all matters related to their employment and to make personnel decisions consistent with state and federal laws, university policies and University of Houston System policy 02.A.05. The purpose of this policy is to provide the informal and formal processes for addressing non-faculty employee grievances in an impartial manner. Employees have the right to express concerns/grievances through informal and formal avenues without interference, coercion, intimidation, harassment or retaliation.
This policy applies to all UHV non-faculty employees, and offers different levels of recourse (informal and formal) for regular benefits eligible employees and other employees. (Guidelines governing faculty grievances are published in the Faculty Handbook):
- The informal problem-solving procedure has been established to resolve work-related problems as quickly as possible and is available to all university employees, regardless of classification, hours worked, or length of appointment. Employees are encouraged to pursue the resolution of work-related concerns through the informal problem-solving procedure prior to seeking recourse through the formal grievance procedure.
- The formal grievance procedure has been established to resolve those work-related issues that could not be resolved through the informal problem-solving procedure. The formal procedure is only available to employees in regular benefits eligible positions at the university with the exception of probationary status employees
It is the policy of the University is to ensure equal opportunity in all its educational programs and activities, and all terms and conditions of employment without regard to age, race, color, disability, religion, national origin, veteran’s status, genetic information, or sex (including pregnancy), except where such a distinction is required by law. Additionally, UHV prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment and educational programs on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. For the University’s Official Non-Discrimination Statement, see UHV Policy C-5, Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Statement.
Grievance: An employee’s expression of disagreement or dissatisfaction either by formal or informal process, with employee related concerns. The causes for a grievance may include, but are not necessarily limited to working conditions, the interpretation or application of a rule, procedure or policy, discipline, demotion, suspension without pay, dismissal or involuntary transfer.
Regular Employee (benefits eligible): A regular employee is defined as one who is employed at least 50% FTE on a regular basis for a period of at least 4 1/2 continuous months, excluding students holding positions for which student status is a requirement for employment.
Excluded from this policy are complaints/grievances concerning:
- Discipline and Dismissal - see UHV Policy C-14,Discipline and Dismissal Regular Staff Employees
- Job Reclassification - see UHV Policy C-20, Job Reclassification Review
- Sexual Harassment - see UHV Policy C-12 Sexual Harassment
- Discrimination Complaints on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or veteran status - see UHV Policy C-22 Title IX and other Discrimination Complaints
Please consult with the Human Resources/Equal Opportunity/Title IX Deputy (the HR Director) if you have a question as to which policy applies to the grievance.
- Each individual is encouraged to become familiar with his or her responsibilities and this grievance and appeals process. The university grievance and appeals policy and procedures will be communicated to each new employee, both orally and in writing, during new employee orientation.
- If an employee feels that she/he has been dealt with in an unfair way, she/he is encouraged to proceed first through the informal problem-solving procedure prior to seeking recourse through the formal grievance procedure.
- The formal grievance procedure must be initiated within twenty (20) working days of the action or inaction for which the employee feels aggrieved.
- The burden of proof to show that the action taken against the employee is in violation of university policy or state or federal law or regulation rests with the grievant.
- So far as is reasonable, confidentiality will be maintained throughout the course of the procedures outlined in this policy. However, employees should be aware that it may be necessary to disclose certain information so that the University can fully investigate the circumstances of an action.
INFORMAL GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES
Whenever possible, employees are encouraged to pursue the resolution of work-related concerns through open discussion with the party(s) involved. Such discussions should be held early to prevent problems from escalating.
Each department supervisor is responsible for establishing a mutual understanding with employees of the need to resolve problems objectively and without fear of retaliation or reprisals.
Most work-related problems can and should be resolved informally within the department. If an employee has a work-related problem, the university strongly encourages him/her to schedule a meeting with the person to whom he/she reports, and make a good faith-effort toward resolution.
If the work-related problem is not resolved through informal open discussions with the immediate supervisor, either party may then request a confidential review by the HR Director or the next supervisor in line. The HR Director or the next supervisor in line will attempt to promote resolution of the complaint.
This concludes the informal problem-solving process.
FORMAL GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES
If resolution has not been obtained through the informal problem-solving process, a regular employee may proceed with the formal grievance procedure.
Step 1: Written Grievance
Within twenty (20) working days of the occurrence of the action or inaction for which the employee feels aggrieved, the employee should file a written, signed grievance with the HR Director. The written grievance should contain the following information: name and address of grievant; nature and date of action or inaction; name(s) of person(s) responsible for the action or inaction; requested relief or corrective action, and any background information that the grievant believes to be relevant.
If the HR Director is the immediate supervisor named in the grievance, the President or appropriate vice president will designate another administrator to assume all grievance responsibilities normally assigned to the Director.
The HR Director will either forward a copy of the grievance to the employee's immediate supervisor or notify the employee in writing that the complaint does not warrant action under this policy.
If the grievance is forwarded to the immediate supervisor, the supervisor will respond in writing to the employee within five (5) working days of receipt and provide a copy of the response to the HR Director.
If the grievant is notified that the complaint does not warrant action under this policy, he/she has five (5) working days to appeal the decision by the HR Director. The appeal must be in writing. If the grievant appeals, the HR Director will forward the complaint to the Chair of the Staff Grievance Committee, who shall convene a review panel (3 members of the Staff Grievance Committee) to consider the appeal. The review panel will notify the grievant within ten (10) working days of its decision. The decision of the review panel is final.
Staff Grievance Committee
The President shall appoint the Staff Grievance Committee, which shall consist of twenty (20) staff members (ten (10) from the Non-Exempt Subcommittee and ten (10) from the Exempt Subcommittee). The Staff Grievance Committee will elect a Chair, and members of the Committee will serve two (2) year terms. Members may be reappointed at the President's discretion.
Step 2: Appeal of Immediate Supervisor's Response
If the employee is not satisfied with the supervisor's written decision, the employee may, within five (5) working days of receipt of the decision, notify the HR Director of his/her desire to file an appeal of the supervisor’s decision with the appropriate department head. The HR Director will then forward a copy of the written grievance to the department head with a request for review. (If the employee reports directly to the department head, the copy shall be forwarded to the appropriate vice president.) The department head (or vice president) has the option of meeting with the grievant and supervisor, either separately or together, before responding in writing. Either party may decline to attend the meeting. If a meeting is agreed upon, the department head has the option of contacting the HR Director to be present at the meeting for procedural advice only.
The department head (or vice president) has five (5) working days from receipt of the written request for review to provide the employee with a written decision that affirms, amends, or reverses the supervisor's decision. A copy of the decision will be sent to the employee's supervisor and to the HR Director.
Step 3: Request for Hearing
If the grievance is not resolved in Step 2, the employee may, within five (5) working days of receipt of the department head's (vice president's) decision, file a signed, written request for a hearing with the HR Director.
Upon receipt of the written request for a hearing, the HR Director will immediately begin the process of appointing a Hearing Panel. The Hearing Panel will consist of five (5) panelists selected from the Staff Grievance Committee. The membership of the panel will be provided to the employee and the supervisor within five (5) working days and may be challenged by either party in writing to the HR Director. Both parties may challenge the selection of a prospective hearing panel member one time without a statement of reasonable cause; however, neither party may select or recommend a member of the Hearing Panel. Any additional challenges by either party must include a statement of reasonable cause. Rulings on challenges with a reasonable cause statement will be made by the HR Director.
The Hearing Panel will elect its Chair.
The hearing will be conducted within twenty (20) working days, or as soon as practicable, after receipt of the employee's written request. The HR Director will send a notice confirming the date, time, and place of the hearing to the employee, supervisor, and members of the Hearing Panel no later than five (5) working days prior to the hearing, together with copies of documents relevant to the grievance.
The Hearing Panel may request that an attorney from the Office of General Counsel sit as an advisor to the panel during the hearing. The attorney would be available to answer procedural questions and to assist in maintaining the decorum of the proceeding. The attorney will not be present during deliberation.
The hearing procedures specified below are intended to serve as a broad outline for ensuring a fair and impartial hearing. However, the Hearing Panel Chair may approve departure from these procedures, if, in the opinion of the Chair, all parties have been treated fairly. The Hearing Panel Chair will be responsible for maintaining decorum.
Advisors --Parties will have the right to an advisor of their choice; however, neither party may proceed through their advisor. Any party who chooses to bring an advisor to the hearing must provide the name of the advisor to the HR Director at least five (5) working days prior to the hearing date. Any advisor not listed will not be allowed to attend. If the grievant’s advisor is an attorney, then an attorney from the Office of General Counsel must also be present at the hearing.
Record of Hearing --The hearing, but not the deliberations, will be electronically recorded so that there is an official record of what occurred. The HR Director will have responsibility for recording the hearing and no other recording will be allowed. Either party may obtain a copy of the tapes at the requesting party's expense. The request must be made in writing to the HR Director. The tapes of the hearing will be kept by the HR Director for at least three years after the resolution of the appeal.
Documents and Witnesses --The issues before the Hearing Panel will be limited to those raised by the written grievance. Both parties shall provide the HR Director with all documents to be used and relied on at the hearing and names of potential witnesses no later than five (5) working days prior to the hearing date. No new information will be accepted after this date, except in compelling circumstances as determined by the HR Director or the Chair of the Hearing Panel. In such event, the hearing will be delayed until all interested parties have had a fair opportunity to consider the new information and prepare a response, if necessary. There will be a simultaneous exchange of this information between the parties, which will be facilitated by the HR Director within two (2) working days of the hearing date.
It is the responsibility of the grievant and the supervisor to notify their respective witnesses as to the date and time of the hearing. It is not the responsibility of the HR Director to contact witnesses and ascertain whether such witnesses consent to provide information at the hearing.
Retaliation against any emplolyee for participating or not participating in a grievance hearing is strictly prohibited.
Retaliation by a UHV employee will be handled as a separate disciplinary action under this policy.
Opening Statements and Closing Statement: At the hearing, all parties will be afforded a reasonable opportunity for oral opening and closing arguments. The amount of time allowed for opening and closing statements may be limited by the Hearing Panel. The complainant will make the first opening statement. The respondent will then make an opening statement. After all witnesses are presented, the complainant will make a closing statement, which will be followed by the respondent's closing statement.
Witnesses: Only listed witnesses will be allowed to address the Hearing Panel. If information is made available to the Hearing Panel during the course of the hearing that the Hearing Panel deems necessary for the resolution of the hearing, the Panel is vested with the authority to request testimony from additional witnesses or request additional documentation. The Hearing Panel can only hear testimony from additional witnesses and can only review additional documents if it allows both parties additional time to prepare a response.
Witnesses will not be present during the questioning of any party or any other witness. The number of witnesses and the length of testimony may be limited by the Hearing Panel. The Hearing Panel may also decline to hear from a witness if the testimony is determined to be repetitive, irrelevant, or for other good reason.
After opening statements, the complainant will present witnesses. After the complainant has questioned each witness, the respondent will be given an opportunity to question each witness.
After the complainant has presented all witnesses, the respondent then has an opportunity to present witnesses. The respondent may question these witnesses, and then the complainant will have an opportunity to question the respondent's witnesses.
The Hearing Panel may ask questions of a witness at any time.
After all parties and the Hearing Panel have concluded questioning the witness, the witness will be reminded that all testimony is confidential and will be excused from the room.
Since this is an administrative hearing, legal rules of evidence will not apply.
Disruptive Behavior: Disruptive behavior by any participant, as determined by the Hearing Panel, will not be tolerated and will be grounds for expulsion from the hearing.
Hearing Panel Outcomes and Recommendation Transmittal: After the hearing is concluded, the Hearing Panel will convene in closed session to deliberate its findings and arrive at majority decision. Within five (5) working days after the date of the hearing, the Panel will prepare and submit a report containing fact findings and recommendation(s) to the HR Director, who will forward the report to the appropriate Cabinet-level supervisor or vice president. (If the vice president was involved in Step 2, the findings will be forwarded to the vice president who is not in the employee's appeal chain. For example, if the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs is the department head in Step 2, the HR Director will forward the fact findings and recommendations to the Vice President for Administration and Finance and vice versa.)
Step 4: Administrative Actions
Within five (5) working days from the receipt of the Hearing Panel's report, the appropriate Cabinet-level supervisor/vice president will take action on the recommendation(s). The Cabinet-level supervisor/vice president may accept or reject the recommendation(s) of the panel, or may return the case to the panel with instructions to conduct further deliberations or answer specific questions. If the case requires further deliberation, the HR Director will establish new time schedules and communicate them to all members of the panel. who will notify the employee and the supervisor by mailing copies of the decision by certified mail The Cabinet-level supervisor/vice president will make a decision and forward it the HR Director
Both the employee and the supervisor have the right to appeal to the President. Appeals must be received in the President's office not later than ten (10) working days after the person appealing has been notified of the action taken by the Cabinet-level supervisor/vice-president. If either party has requested an interview or is requested to appear for an interview by the President, then both parties must be informed. The intent of the President's review is not to hear new evidence. The intent of this review is to insure that the hearing and recommendations of the Hearing Panel were not arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory, did not violate the rights of the parties and did not violate the concepts of fair play to both parties. The President shall respond in writing to the appeal within fifteen (15) working days from the date of receipt. The copy of the response will be forwarded to the HR Director for inclusion in the hearing file. The decision of the President is final.
Comments / Questions
If there are any comments and/or questions regarding this policy, please contact Laura Smith, Director of Human Resources.
Signature Obtained 10/24/2019
Robert K. Glenn, Ph.D. Date
Next Review Date: 10/24/2022
Origination: Human Resources