Faculty grievance

Human Resources Policy 40310

1. Purpose

The Grievance Procedure is intended to provide a fair process for resolving complaints or disputes.  If a complaint or dispute cannot be resolved through informal discussion, the grievant may pursue the formal Grievance Procedure.  This procedure shall include but is not necessarily limited to (i) the Professional Employee’s Appointment Policy, (ii) the Procedures for Non-reappointment, Dismissal, Suspension or Reduction in Staff for College Personnel Holding Faculty Rank.  Nothing in this procedure is intended to substitute for nor repeal the policies/procedures governing tenured faculty (See the VCCS Tenure Policy).

2. Policy

A grievance is a difference or dispute between a faculty member (the grievant) and an administrator, another faculty member, or a member of the classified staff of the college with respect to the application or interpretation of the provisions of the rules, policies, procedures, and regulations of the college or the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) as they adversely affect the grievant’s work activity or terms of employment.

3. Procedure

3.1 Informal resolution prior to filing the grievance

3.1.1 Informal Meeting: When a complaint or dispute arises, the first step must be an informal meeting between the complainant and the immediate supervisor.  This meeting shall take place within twenty (20) workdays of the occurrence which gave rise to the complaint or dispute or when the complainant should have reasonably known of its occurrence.

3.1.2 Arbitration – After the informal meeting, the parties to the complaint or dispute may agree in writing to submit the problem to arbitration by some person on whose appointment they both agree.  If the decision of the arbitrator is agreeable to both parties, they should sign a written statement of the dispute’s resolution, a copy of which will be given to each party.  The decision may be implemented provided it is within the authority of the parties involved and is within policy.  The parties have ten (10) workdays from the date of the informal meeting to try to reach agreement by arbitration.  If agreement is not reached within that time, the complainant has ten (10) workdays in which to file the grievance.

3.2 Grievance level one – immediate supervisor

If the complaint or dispute cannot be resolved informally, the grievant may file a formal written grievance with the immediate supervisor within ten (10) workdays following the informal meeting with the immediate supervisor or the conclusion of the arbitration process.  A copy of the written grievance must also be forwarded by the grievant to the Germanna human resources officer.  The written grievance shall meet the requirements of grievance procedure.  Within ten (10) workdays of receipt of the written grievance, the immediate supervisor shall render a written decision on the grievance and provide a copy to the grievant and to the Germanna human resources officer who will maintain a separate grievance file. (Note: If the president is the immediate supervisor or at any point that the president occupies the next administrative level or has rendered a previous decision relative to the grievance, the process moves to Level Four.)

3.3 Grievance level two – Vice President or equivalent position

3.3.1 The grievant may file a written appeal of the Level One decision with the grievant’s vice president (or equivalent position, i.e., the person reporting directly to the college president and having overall responsibility for the area in which the grievant works) within ten (10) workdays of receipt of the written decision rendered by the immediate supervisor.  The appeal shall include the written grievance described above in Level One, the supervisor’s written decision, and a concise explanation of the basis of the appeal.

3.3.2 The vice president or equivalent position shall set a date for a meeting and notify the grievant and the immediate supervisor.  The meeting shall take place within ten (10) workdays after receipt of the written appeal by the vice president or equivalent position, unless the time is extended by the vice president or equivalent position for good cause.  The grievant and the supervisor may call persons to offer information pertinent to the grievance.  Each side of the grievance shall have the right to question all witnesses and to examine all documents and tangible evidence presented.  Witnesses shall be excused upon completion of their statement.  The party desiring such persons to be present at the meeting has the responsibility to make all necessary arrangements therefor.  Electronic recorders may be used.  The use of a stenographic reporter is prohibited, except by mutual consent.

3.3.3 The vice president or equivalent position shall communicate the decision in writing within ten (10) workdays from completion of the meeting to the grievant and to the immediate supervisor.

3.4 Grievance level three – Ad Hoc Hearing Committee or President

3.4.1 The grievant may file a written appeal of the Level Two decision with the College president within ten (10) workdays of receipt of the written decision.  The grievant shall request either that the appeal be heard by the College president or that an ad hoc hearing committee be appointed according to the procedures established herein.

3.4.2 Ad Hoc Hearing Committee

If the grievant requests that an ad hoc hearing committee be appointed, the president shall, within ten (10) workdays after receipt of the written appeal, implement the procedures outlined below.  For good cause, the time for selection of the committee may be extended by the president to the earliest available date.

3.4.3 Procedure for the Appointment of the Ad Hoc Hearing Committee

3.4.3.1 Purpose:  to provide for a uniform and fair selection of prospective committee members and the appointment of ad hoc hearing committees from college personnel holding faculty rank.

3.4.3.2 General provisions

Each college shall identify a list of prospective committee members for service on an ad hoc hearing committee for the purpose of conducting the Faculty Grievance Procedure.

The prospective committee members shall be elected from the various segments of the college faculty:  teaching faculty, counselors, librarians, and administrators.

3.4.3.3 Election of Prospective Committee members

Each segment of the faculty, as defined by the college, shall elect prospective committee members by the beginning of each academic year.  Whenever practical, the prospective committee members shall be in general proportion to the number of faculty members in each segment.  In no case shall there be less than one (1) representative member from any faculty segment.

3.4.3.4 Appointment of Ad Hoc Hearing Committee

When it becomes necessary to appoint an ad hoc hearing committee, three (3) faculty members and two (2) administrators shall be chosen by lot in the presence of both parties.  Whenever an administrator is the grievant, the membership of the committee shall consist of two (2) faculty members and three (3) administrators chosen by lot in the presence of both parties.

3.4.3.5 Eligibility for Committee Membership and challenges to committee members

All prospective committee members shall be eligible to serve on an ad hoc hearing committee except any supervisor or administrator who has rendered a decision on the issue.  No person who serves at one step of the grievance procedure shall be eligible to serve at any other step.  At the time of the appointment, each party to the dispute is permitted two challenges of members of the ad hoc hearing committee.  It is not necessary to submit proof of bias.  When any member of the committee is challenged, that person is replaced by lot.  The selection of the committee members and the challenge process shall take place in a meeting with both parties to the dispute present.  The committee shall then proceed under the normal time frame requirements established for the particular procedure.  The committee shall select its chairman.

3.4.3.6 Role and Function of Ad Hoc Hearing Committee:  The role and function of the committee is to determine whether the challenged action is within policy and the authority of the person taking the action, and provide a written report of findings of fact and the decision.  Committees may not exceed the scope of the purpose for which the committee was established.

3.4.3.7 Within ten (10) workdays after the ad hoc hearing committee has been appointed, the chairman, in consultation with the ad hoc hearing committee, shall set a time and place for a hearing and notify the grievant, the grievant’s immediate supervisor, and the vice president or equivalent position.  The hearing shall begin within twenty (20) workdays after the ad hoc hearing committee has been appointed.  The chairman, in consultation with the committee, may continue the hearing, for good cause, to the earliest practical date.  The committee’s report, which will include findings of fact and its decision, shall be based on the information presented at the hearing and shall be consistent with the rules, policies, procedures, and regulations of the Germanna Community College and the VCCS.  The ad hoc hearing committee shall arrive at its report by simple majority vote and shall communicate its findings of fact and decision in writing, within ten (10) workdays after the hearing is completed, to the grievant, the grievant’s immediate supervisor, the vice president or equivalent position, and the president.  If there is a dissenting member, a minority opinion including the rationale for dissent, shall be included in the report.  The report of the ad hoc hearing committee shall be reviewed and signed by each member of the committee.  Nothing herein should be construed as delegating to the committee any power of management, nor authority to award any compensatory relief.

3.4.3.8 The president may, within ten (10) workdays of the receipt of the report, submit a written petition to the committee for clarification or to reconsider its report should the president find errors or inconsistency of fact and conclusion.  The written petition should specify the perceived errors or inconsistencies of fact.  The committee shall respond within ten (10) workdays.  For good cause, the president may extend the ten (10) workdays to the earliest practical date.  The petition and the committee’s response shall become part of the record.

3.4.3.9 The decision of the ad hoc hearing committee shall be binding upon the parties unless the provisions of Level Four apply or the president determines that the decision violates the law, or the rules, policies, procedures or regulations of the college or the VCCS.  In this case, the president must state in writing the exact law, or the rules, policies, procedures or regulations of the college or the VCCS which have been violated.  The president must communicate in writing the findings to each party involved in the grievance.  If the finding is against the grievant, the grievant may proceed at once to Level Four.

3.5 President’s hearing

3.5.1 If the grievant requests that the college president hear the appeal in person, the president shall, within ten (10) workdays after receipt of the appeal, set a date for a hearing and notify the grievant, the grievant’s immediate supervisor, and the vice president or equivalent position.

3.5.2 The hearing shall begin within twenty (20) workdays after receipt of the appeal by the president.  The president may continue the hearing, for good cause, to the earliest practical date.

3.5.3 The president shall render a decision in writing within ten (10) workdays of the completion of the hearing with copies to the grievant, the grievant’s immediate supervisor, and the vice president or equivalent position.  The decision of the president shall be final under the provisions of this grievance procedure, except where the provisions of Level Four apply.

3.6 Essential elements of the ad hoc or President’s hearing

3.6.1 Each side of the grievance shall have the right (1) to present relevant information or witnesses; (2) to question all witnesses; (3) to examine all documents and tangible evidence presented; (4) to receive at no cost a copy of the evidence, the documents and a transcript of the proceedings.  A verbatim transcript shall be provided in audio form and in written form if requested by either party.

3.6.2 The chairman/president shall be the presiding officer and rule on objections and govern the proceedings.  The chairman/president may require each side to make brief opening and/or closing statements, with the grievant making the second presentation.  The chairman/president will designate the time allowed for this purpose and allow neither party to exceed the allotted time, except upon petition.  If the petition is granted, both parties involved will be given equal additional time.  The chairman/president shall begin and end the hearing, as appropriate, and may grant a recess or continuance as required.

3.6.3 Governing rules of procedure should be established in writing by the committee/ president, and made known to all parties involved at least seven (7) days prior to the commencement of the hearing.  The hearing is not intended to be conducted as court proceedings, and the technical court rules of evidence are inapplicable.  The committee/president should consider all reliable and relevant information presented.  Hearsay evidence may be admissible if the committee determines that such evidence is reliable and relevant to the issue under consideration.

3.7 Grievance level four – State Appeals Panel

3.7.1 There are four conditions under which the grievant may appeal to a State Appeals Panel of the VCCS (provided that the grievance process has been fully exhausted at the college).

3.7.1.1 Condition one:  When the college ad hoc hearing committee/president rules against the grievant.

3.7.1.2 Condition two When the president rejects the findings of the ad hoc hearing committee.

3.7.1.3 Condition three When the grievance is directly against the president.

3.7.1.4 Condition four:  When the grievance procedures have not been followed to the prejudice of the grievant.

3.7.2 The State Board Appeals Officer as the executive secretary of the State Appeals Panel is responsible for orienting the panel to its role and responsibility, providing for staff support, and distributing written grievance documents for the panel’s review prior to its initial meeting.  All appeals to the State Appeals Panel are to be directed to the State Board Appeals Officer.  The grievant must file the appeal within twenty (20) workdays of the receipt of the decision from Level Three.  Within ten (10) workdays of the receipt of the appeal the State Board Appeals Officer shall select by lot the State Appeals Panel which is to examine the grievance.  The selection of the panel will follow the procedure outlined below.  The panel shall elect its own Chairman.  No one who has served on the Level Three ad hoc hearing committee may serve on the State Appeals Panel for the same grievance. (Note: The State Board for Community Colleges appoints the State Board Appeals Officer.  In the event that the State Board Appeals Officer is unable to participate as executive secretary to the State Appeals Panel or there is a conflict, including a conflict of interest, the Chairman of the State Board Personnel Committee will appoint an alternate executive secretary to the State Appeals Panel within (10) work days of the receipt of the appeal by the State Board Appeals Officer.)

3.7.3 Within ten (10) workdays after the panel has been established, the State Appeals Panel shall meet to elect a chair and shall set a time and place to examine the appeal and all relevant material.  The State Appeals Panel shall review the written decision of the president or ad hoc hearing committee and all written or taped records regarding the grievance.  The State Appeals Panel is empowered to hold a formal hearing if it determines (1) there is a need for more information, (2) clarification of the record is necessary, (3) or new evidence is presented which would substantially alter the decision under review.  The same essential elements of hearing shall be followed.

3.7.4 If the panel decides to hold a hearing, within ten (10) workdays the State Appeals Panel must notify each party to the grievance by certified mail.  The hearing shall begin within twenty (20) workdays from the receipt of notification.  The panel shall arrive at its final decision within ten (10) workdays after the hearing is completed.

3.7.5 The decision of the State Appeals Panel will be forwarded, in writing, to the person submitting the appeal and the president of the appellant’s college within ten (10) workdays after the decision is made.  The Panel may extend the ten (10) workday period, for good cause, to the earliest practical date.  The decision of the State Appeals Panel shall be final under the provisions of this grievance procedure unless the State Board on its own initiative should decide to reverse or modify the Panel’s decision as contrary to law or policy.  Except in the case of a job termination, there is no right to appeal to the State Board.  In the case of a job termination, including a reduction in force meeting the terms of this policy, either party may appeal the Panel’s decision to the State Board.

3.7.6 In the case of job termination, within ten (10) workdays following the decision rendered by the State Appeals Panel, the grievant may submit a written appeal to the State Board through the Secretary of the State Board.  The case shall be considered on the record of the prior proceedings and upon the basis of any written materials provided by the college and the grievant.  The decision of the State Board shall be final.

3.8 Time limitations

3.8.1 Extension of Time:  It is important to good relationships that grievances be initiated and processed as expeditiously as possible.  The time limitations specified for either party may be extended by mutual written agreement.

3.8.2 Effect of Failure to Initiate a Complaint or Dispute Within Time Limit:  A failure to raise the complaint or dispute within the time limits of at each level shall result in the loss of the right of the grievant to further appeal.

3.8.3 Effect of Failure of Grievant to Appeal Within Time Limit:  If there is no mutual written agreement to extend the time limits set herein, and if a decision at one level is not appealed by the grievant to the next level of the procedure within the time limit specified, the right of the grievant to further appeal is terminated.

3.8.4 Effect of Failure to Respond to Grievant Within Time Limit:  Failure at any level of the grievance procedure to initiate communication of a decision to the grievant within the specified time limit shall result in an automatic right of appeal to the next level of the procedure.  The appeal must be made by the grievant within the time frame which would have been allotted had the decision been communicated by the final day.

3.9 General provisions

3.9.1 Identification:  All written grievances and appeals shall identify the name and position of the aggrieved party, the name and position of the party or parties against whom the grievance is filed, the date of filing, a concise statement of the nature of the grievance, the specific rule, policy, procedure, or regulation of the VCCS or the college which has allegedly been misapplied or misinterpreted, how it was misapplied or misinterpreted, and the specific redress being sought by the grievant.

3.9.2 Avoiding interruptions:  In pursuing the provisions of this procedure, every effort shall be made to avoid interruptions of classroom activity and other college functions and the unnecessary involvement of students or others not directly involved in the act being grieved or the grievance process itself.

3.9.3 Informal discussion:  Nothing contained herein shall be construed as limiting the right of the grievant to discuss the matter informally with any appropriate member of the college.  If the grievance is settled informally and/or the grievant withdraws from the procedure at any level, such a settlement shall be deemed a final resolution and shall be entered in the records as such.

3.9.4 Clarification of administrative structure:  It shall be the responsibility of each college president, where necessary, to provide a clarification on the relationship of Levels One through Three to the college’s administrative structure.  The term “immediate supervisor”, as used herein, refers to the first line of administration.

3.9.5 Placement of records:  Once a grievance has been formally filed (Grievance Level One), a record shall be kept in the GCC Human Resources Office.  After final resolution of the grievance, only the rendered decision shall be placed in the personnel file of each party to the grievance.

The record of the case shall be treated with the same confidentiality as other personnel records.

3.9.6 Applicability to temporary faculty members:  When a temporary part-time faculty member (P-14) has a grievance, the same procedures as set forth herein shall apply except that the procedure shall end at Level Two.

3.9.7 Applicability to administrators and professionals:  When an administrator or professional has a grievance, the same procedure as set forth herein shall apply.

3.9.8 Representation by legal counsel:  In order amicably to promote the informal resolution of potential grievances, legal counsel may not participate prior to Level One.  Both parties to the grievance have the right to employ legal counsel, who may be present and participate at any level of the formal grievance procedure.  Any party intending to have legal counsel present at the hearing must notify the other party to the grievance of that intent.

3.9.9 Timing:  The grievance procedure at the institution (absent agreement otherwise) should take place when the parties are under contract and during regular working days.

3.9.10 Public statements:  Except for such simple announcements which may be required covering the time of hearings and similar matters, public statements and publicity about a case shall be avoided by all parties so far as possible until all proceedings have been completed.

3.9.11 Academic freedom:  Nothing in this policy shall be used to restrain faculty rank employees in their exercise of constitutional rights or academic freedom as set forth in the Statement of Academic Freedom and Responsibility adopted by the State Board.

3.9.12 Job termination:  The initial recommendation of job termination may be issued from the vice president/provost or the president instead of the immediate supervisor.  In all such cases, the faculty member shall be notified of the identity of the person making the initial recommendation.  All subsequent proceedings shall begin at the appropriate level (vice president /provost or president) and recommendations of lower level administrators, if any, shall be included in the record for future consideration.

3.9.13 Delivery of notices:  When giving notice of action or requesting appeal, it is the author’s responsibility to make all reasonable effort to ensure that the person(s) designated to receive such notices and requests receive them personally.  Personal delivery by the author for which a receipt is obtained or certified mail with return receipt should be used for the delivery of notices and requests.

4. Definitions

4.1 Grievance:  A grievance is a complaint or dispute between an employee of the college holding faculty rank (the grievant) and an administrator, a faculty member acting in a supervisory capacity, or a member of the classified staff of the college with respect to the application or interpretation of the rules, policies, procedures, and regulations of the college or the Virginia Community College System as they adversely affect the grievant’s work activity or terms of employment.  Only the application or interpretation is grievable and not the rule, policy, procedure, or regulation itself.

A complaint or dispute may include but is not limited to (i) disciplinary action; (ii) dismissal; (iii) demotion; (iv) suspension; (v) non-reappointment; (vi) reduction in force; (vii) promotion; (viii) multi-year appointment; (ix) acts of reprisal as the result of utilization of the grievance procedure or of participation in the grievance of another employee of the VCCS; (x) acts of reprisal as the result of faculty members exercising their constitutional rights or academic freedom as set forth in the Statement of Academic Freedom and Responsibility adopted by the State Board; and (xi) discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, political affiliation, age, disability, national origin or sex.

4.2 Management responsibilities: The State Board reserves the exclusive right to manage the affairs and operations of the College.  Except in the case of misapplication or misinterpretation of policy, the following complaints are non-grievable:  (i) establishment and revision of wages or salaries, faculty rank classifications or general benefits; (ii) work activity accepted by the employee as a condition of employment or work activity which may reasonably be expected to be a part of the job content; (iii) the contents of ordinances, statutes or established personnel policies, procedures, rules and regulations; (iv) a personnel action within policy and the authority of the person implementing policy, such as:  non-reappointment, dismissal, suspension, reduction in force, multi-year appointment, promotion, and demotion; (v) the hiring, promotion, transfer, assignment and retention of employees within the agency; and (vi) the relief of employees from duties of the agency in emergencies.

4.3 Faculty member: Faculty members are those employees who hold faculty rank and occupy a permanent full-time or part-time teaching, counselor or librarian position, who are not defined in the Governor’s Consolidated Salary Authorization for Institutions of Higher Education as holding an administrative and professional position.  Restricted faculty members are employees who hold faculty rank and occupy a full-time position which is funded in whole or in part by non-state revenues or has been accepted under special conditions or which is identifiable as non-continuing in nature.

4.4 Administrators and professionals: Administrators and professionals shall be defined as those employees who hold faculty rank and occupy a permanent full-time or part-time administrative and professional position as defined in the Governor’s Consolidated Salary Authorization for Institutions of Higher Education, except counselors or librarians.  Restricted administrators and professionals are employees who occupy a position funded in whole or in part by non-state revenues or has been accepted under special conditions or which is identifiable as non-continuing in nature.

4.5 Adjunct faculty: Adjunct faculty are employed to teach less than a normal faculty load or to teach less than a full session on a semester by semester or summer term basis.  The adjunct faculty contract contains no guarantee of continued employment.

4.6 Law: The term law used herein includes all Federal and State court decisions, all Federal and State statutes, and all lawful regulations and policies emanating therefrom.  The Attorney General’s Office may provide advice and guidance with respect to questions of law.

5. References

6. Point of contact

Associate Vice President of Human Resources

7. Approval and revision dates

Faculty Senate: February 8, 2017
College Council: February 17, 2017
President’s Council: February 20, 2017

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