Introduction: Application of Guideline
- This Guideline applies to employees of an institution/center and has been developed to assist universities,community colleges, technical institutes and Tennessee Technology Centers in drafting procedures for addressing grievances and complaints filed by institution/center employees. There shall be two types of procedures, which each institution/center shall address through policies developed pursuant to this Guideline. The two types are: 1) grievances, which are subject to committee review; and, 2) complaints which must be resolved without committee review.
- The following is a minimum which must be incorporated in the institutional/center grievance and complaint procedures. The procedures may vary from campus to campus, but may not establish any right to a hearing except as set out herein.
- This Guideline has no application to a termination procedure initiated against a tenured faculty member under TBR policy No. 5:02:03:60 Section V (I), or 5:02:03:70 Section VI (G)(2). This Guideline is not to be used for support staff employees who are demoted, suspended without pay, or terminated. In accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-8-117, Support Staff Grievance Procedure, support staff employees who are demoted, suspended without pay, or terminated must follow the grievance process contained in Guideline P-111.
- An employee may choose to utilize the procedure for review by the grievance committee established pursuant to this Guideline in the following situations:An employee may choose to utilize the procedure for review by the grievance committee established pursuant to this Guideline 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 No. 1:06:00:05 (Cases Subject to TUAPA), or TBR Policy No. 5:02:03:60 Section V (I)(2) or 5:02:03:70 Section VI (G)(2)(b) (suspension of tenured faculty) or TBR Policy No. 5:02:03:10 Section III (O)(2) (suspension of tenured faculty at TTCs); or,
- actions involving hearings requested pursuant to TBR Guideline P-080 Section VI (D).
- The institution/center may choose to utilize the procedure for review by the grievance committee (established pursuant to this Guideline) when resolving a complaint initiated pursuant to TBR Policy No. 5:02:02:10 (Faculty Promotion at TTCs), 5:02:02:20 (Faculty Promotion at Universities), or 5:02:02:30 (Faculty Promotion at Community Colleges)
- Grievance - (Committee review available) - An employee may only grieve those matters defined in 1. - 3. 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 actions the institution/center has taken against the employee which:
- violates institution/center 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, or;
- b. a federal or state statute not covered by TBR Guideline P-080.
- COMPLAINT - (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 re-classifications, or position terminations due to reduction in force do not fall under the definition of complaint.
- EMPLOYEE - For purposes of the grievance and complaint procedures, an employee is defined as an administrator, faculty member (though not including faculty on adjunct contracts), professional, clerical and support staff personnel. Probationary employees are also included in this definition. Student workers and graduate assistants are not included in the definition of employee.
Applicability of Procedures
- All employees shall have access to the grievance/complaint procedure as long as the process was initiated within the time frame set out in the procedure.
- All employees are encouraged to discuss any problem with their supervisor or unit head prior to utilizing any grievance/complaint procedure. The institution/center should attempt to resolve each grievance/complaint at the lowest possible level.
Responsibility for Implementation
- The President/Director of the institution/center has ultimate responsibility for implementation of the grievance and complaint procedures, and provides the final decision at the institutional/center level.
- Administrative, academic, and supervisory personnel are responsible for insuring 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 should also be informed that they are 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 complaint procedure should state a time limit within which a complaint must be presented after the date the employee received notice or becomes aware of the action which forms the basis of the complaint. If the complaint arises from a repeated or continuing occurrence, the time limit begins from the date of the last such occurrence. Any complaint not presented within the time limit is waived and shall not be considered. Once a final determination is made, the employee may not later present the same complaint in an attempt to gain a more favorable outcome.
- The institution/center policy shall indicate with whom a complaint is to be filed. It should also indicate that a complaint must be submitted in writing.
- Resolution of complaints at a minimum requires the institution/center to: 1) allow the employee to present facts and/or materials; 2) investigate the dispute; and, 3) attempt to find a solution. The President/Director or his/her designee shall be the final decision maker. Complaints do not include a right to any type of hearing, adversarial proceeding, nor the right to appeal to the Chancellor.
- The grievance procedure should begin at the lowest appropriate supervisory level.
- The grievance procedure should state a time limit within which a grievance must be presented after the date the grievant received notice or becomes aware of the action which forms the basis of the grievance. If the grievance arises from a repeated or continuing occurrence, the time limit begins from the date of the last such occurrence. Any grievance not presented within the time limit is waived and shall not be considered.Once a final determination is made, the grievant may not later present the same grievance again in an attempt to gain a more favorable outcome.
- The institution/center shall require written grievances. However, the institution/center may choose to allow the grievant to present his/her grievance orally in the first one or two steps in the procedure.
- The institution/center shall specify that written grievances are to be filed with the appropriate decision-maker, or in the alternative, shall specify that all written grievances be filed in a central location with the appropriate decision-maker being notified of the grievance.
- The grievance, whether oral or written, should 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 in which the grievant is employed.
- Explanation of the grievance citing the specific policies or statute claimed to have been violated or inconsistently applied, or the constitutional right abridged.
- Names of persons with whom the grievance has previously been discussed and date on which the grievance was discussed with each.
- Corrective action desired.
- Date the written grievance is filed.
- Signature of the grievant.
- Institutions may wish to provide 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 should be informed that s/he 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 Campuses may require the advisor to be an employee of the institution/center.
- The person charged with making the decision at each step should be given the responsibility and authority for conducting a thorough and independent investigation. Consideration may be given to information and materials gathered at previous steps.
- The decision should be based on full and fair consideration of all pertinent facts and circumstances.
- The procedure should include time limits within which a grievant dissatisfied with a decision must take the grievance to the next highest step. The decision-maker at each step should also be given a time limit for notifying the grievant of the decision. The President/Director should be authorized to grant reasonable extensions of the time limits upon a showing of good cause.
- Employees should be given the opportunity to pursue grievances pursuant to this policy during regular business hours. Each institution or school should insure that all parties have access to all persons, places, and official records for information necessary to the determination and processing of a grievance within specified time limits. This access shall not interfere with normal work-flow of the institution.
- Each institution/center policy should insure that a grievance can be withdrawn in writing at any stage of the process.
G. Grievance Committee
1. The institution/center shall establish a grievance committee to advise the President/Director on those grievances which could not be resolved and which reach the final decision-making level. Grievance committees are convened only at the request of the grievant for review at the next higher level.
2. The President/Director shall determine the details of the grievance committee such as appointment, committee membership, the term of the committee members, etc. The committee appointment process shall allow for peer representation taking into account the distinctions between tenured faculty and non-faculty. The institution/center may choose to develop a pool of committee members who can receive training about the institutional grievance procedure. The President/Director may then pick a committee from that pool in order to hear an individual grievance. A standing committee of the institution/center may also be utilized. Separate committees may be established for faculty and non-faculty grievances. The TTCs may utilize committees developed from a statewide or region-wide pool.
3. A system of selecting members of the committee should seek to make appointments which will ensure that committee members 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.
4. The number of individuals on the committee should be small enough to be efficient. An odd number is recommended. It is also recommended that a chairperson be selected for each committee.
5. While the committee may review the material and decisions of previous decision-makers in the process, it should conduct a review of the relevant facts. In order to do so, it should have the power to receive evidence from the grievant, gather evidence from other sources and call witnesses.
6. 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 evidence standard.
7. The committee may allow all witnesses to be present at one time; or in the alternative, may allow the committee to hear each witness, including the grievant, separately. In any event, the grievant should 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.
8. The committee shall make a written report of its recommendation and reasons supporting its recommendation to the President/Director. The President/Director may then adopt the committee's recommendation, in whole or in part, or may make his/her decision independent of the committee's findings.
9. The grievant shall be provided a copy of the Committee's report along with the President's/Director's decision.
10. Grievances which are processed through the grievance committee and upon which the President/Director has made a decision are appealable to the Chancellor only where the grievance falls within the parameters set out in TBR Policy 1:02:11:00.
Maintenance of Records
- Copies of written grievances and complaints, and accompanying responses and documentation should be maintained at a specified location(s) at the institution/center for at least three (3) years. If a finding adverse to the grievant/complainant is made, the finding shall be maintained in the grievant/complainant's personnel file.
Source Presidents Meeting: August 18, 1987; May 16, 1989; August 21, 2001; February 13, 2002; February 13, 2008
To access the Grievance Complaint Form click on the link below: Grievance Complaint Form
Approved: Executive Staff,
Approved: President's Cabinet,
Reviewed and Revised by: Human Resources, November 2000, January 2010