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  1. What is a grievance as opposed to a complaint?
  2. What is NOT a grievance?
  3. Big deal. Why do I need to know what is and is not grievable?
  4. What are the key things I need to consider when dealing with a grievance?
  5. I understand issues phrased as "Did management violate Article III, paragraph D," but how do  you phrase issues claiming a "practical consequence" of a management decision or action?
  6. Where can I get help, or forms needed to process grievances?
  7. If there is no purpose or enough time, must I have a "grievance meeting" with the grievant before responding to her grievance? (Especially if I already know what she is going to say, and it won't be pleasant!).
  8. Why do I have to respond IN WRITING to an informal (unwritten) grievance?
  9. What do I do with a grievance (one) listing multiple grievants (class action grievance)?
  10. What if there is more than one issue raised in one grievance?
  11. Where can I find the time limits for filing and responding to grievances?
  12. What if I cannot respond to a grievance in the time limits allowed by the MOU?
  13. The union representative says I cannot change a "past practice." Is this true?
  14. What if I agree with the grievant? Management made a bad decision. How do I respond to the grievant?
  15. What do I do if, during a grievance meeting, the employee or the representative begin to taunt me, yell at me, accuse me of wrongdoing, use abusive language, or attempt to intimidate or threaten me?
  16. Do I have to defend a management decision during a grievance meeting? Do I have to respond to the grievance before the grievance meeting can end?

What is a grievance as opposed to a complaint?
Grievances are disagreements in the area of personnel or labor relations. We talk about grievances as a dispute over how the MOU (labor agreement or contract) or other written personnel rules are used by management.

Grievances can also be disputes arising out of management decision or action that has "practical consequences" on the employee. For example, management has the right to assign work, but an employee many grieve a reassignment if claiming that his reassignment was made to punish/discipline him.

What is NOT a grievance?
Disagreements or disputes in the bargaining process. Or, any issue that could be addressed by the Civil Service Commission. Or, an issue that is the topic for a claim of "unfair labor practice" filed with the City's Employee Relations Board.

As stated in question No. 1, above, a grievance is NOT a dispute over a management action (assignment or reassignment), but it could be a grievance if the dispute is over the consequencesof the management action. (See later questions on grievances claiming that management is "arbitrary and capricious.")

HERE IS A QUESTION FOR YOU: Is a disciplinary suspension of 3 working days grievable? How about a suspension of 10 days?

Big deal. Why do I need to know what is and is not grievable?
Because you have to respond to grievances-even if they are not grievances.

If you respond to a grievance that is not a grievance, it may become a grievance. (Huh?)

It is important to recognize when a complaint is not a grievance so that responses to the "grievance" all say the same thing- it is not a grievable issue.

What are the key things I need to consider when dealing with a grievance?
First, get a clear understanding of the issue. Second, see if the issue is grievable and if the grievance was filed in a timely manner (see MOU time limits). Third, get a clear understanding of the remedy requested by the grievant.

Clarification of these items can best be obtained during the meeting you have to have with the grievant before responding. While not required in the MOU, GSD supervisors must respond in writing to all grievances no matter the level-even if at the informal level.

I understand issues phrased as "Did management violate Article III, paragraph D," but how do you phrase issues claiming a "practical consequences" of a management decision or action?
This gets real tricky. Remember, the issue is NOT the "goodness" of managementís decision, but the consequences it has for the employee. Employees, unions and arbitrators are not in a position to make management decisions. But they can claim that management arrived at its decision through arbitrary and capricious means.

If the employee is not challenging the decision, but is hurt by the results, he is challenging the METHOD used by management to arrive at its decision. The issue in these (management decision) cases is, "Was management arbitrary and capricious?" Alternatively, "Did management abuse its discretion?" On the other hand, "Was management unreasonable?"

What we need to evaluate in these grievances is the practice or procedure used by management to make its decision (UNreasonable or arbitrary and capricious). Did management follow its own rules and procedures? Is there any evidence of bias or prejudice in making the decision? Does the management decision serve some legitimate business purpose (as opposed to harassment of the employee)?

Notice, nowhere in the issue should there be the question of how good the decision was, or if it was the best decision, or if it was even a correct decision.

Okay, pretty weird. If you have a question on how to phrase an issue in a grievance that does not allege a violation of written rules or the MOU, call your Liaison Personnel Analyst in Personnel Services.

Where can I get help, or forms needed to process grievances?
As always, seek assistance from your supervisors and division manager, and feel free to seek assistance from your Liaison Personnel Analyst.

The "rule" is to comply with the MOU - which requires a meeting. If you really want to make an "exception" to this rule, seek agreement with the union to forego the meeting.

If there is no purpose or not enough time, must I have a "grievance meeting" with the grievant before responding to her grievance? (Especially if I already know what she is going to say, and it wonít be pleasant!)
As always, seek assistance from your supervisors and division manager, and feel free to seek assistance from your Liaison Personnel Analyst.

Why do I have to respond IN WRITING to an informal (unwritten) grievance?
Glad you asked. You obviously know that someone in GSD wants you to respond to informal grievances in writing-using the standard Grievance Response form. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, it gives the supervisor first opportunity, after having met with the grievant and clarified the issues, to state the issue and remedy sought in the grievance. If the supervisor did not respond in writing the grievant would have to state the issues in writing at the next step on the Grievance Initiation form. And, issues tend to change from the informal grievance meeting, and tend to be very unclear. A written response to an informal grievance helps narrow the issue that needs to be addressed at that level and higher levels in the grievance procedure.

Second, a written response at the informal level clearly establishes time frames and the supervisor"s response. Without the written response, the grievant gets to write out the supervisor's response on the Grievance Response form-and what's written is often not what was said!.

What do I do with a grievance (one) listing multiple grievants (class action grievance)?
The "rule" is one grievant per grievance. Therefore, each grievant must file his own grievance. This allows you to look at the merits of each grievance based on the facts and circumstances of each. There may be different facts, time frames or different remedies for each of the grievants, and it would be impossible to deal with those variations in one grievance response (or arbitration).

However, if it is to your benefit to handle more than one grievance in one grievance (one meeting one response, all issues and circumstances identical), you can ask the Department Personnel Officer to make an exception to the "rule". To do this, contact your Liaison Personnel Analyst.

What if there is more than one issue raised in one grievance?
The "rule" is one issue per grievance. (Sound familiar? Similar to question/answer above.)

A grievant has to file a separate grievance for each issue and remedy. Again, there may be different facts, time limits or different remedies for each issue. If you want to make an exception to this rule, contact your Liaison Personnel Analyst who will discuss it with the Personnel Officer.

Where can I find the time limits for filing and responding to grievances?
In the MOU. Don't bother looking anywhere else, or trying to memorize it. Look it up in the MOU.

What if I cannot respond to a grievance in the time limits allowed by the MOU?
As with the answer to a question above, we are bound by the MOU time limits for processing grievances. If more time is needed to respond, check with the grievant or his representative to see if they will agree to giving you more time to respond. If yes, document the agreement. If not, prepare your response as soon as you can-but never sooner than you when you are ready. Don't be rushed into giving inaccurate or incomplete grievance responses.

The union representative says I cannot change a "past practice." Is this true?
The answer is "no" but, don't stop there. Arbitrators almost always consider past practices as unwritten parts of a labor agreement/contract (MOU). Management or the union cannot unilaterally change the terms of a labor contract.

That does not mean we should not try where the change has to be made for bussiness reasons. Ways to change a past practice include:

a. negotiating changes with the union,
b. making the change in the most "reasonable" manner possible (least negative impact on employees) while making the business reason for the change known, or
c. making the change and arguing in arbitration that the issue is NOT a past practice.

If you want to know if you are dealing with a possible past practice, call your Liaison Personnel Analyst for some help.

What if I agree with the grievant? Management made a bad decision. How do I respond to the grievant?
It is okay to grant a grievance-only if your management agrees that the grievance should be granted. You may have to try to convince management to grant the grievance.

You do not want to be granting grievances that contradict your bosses decisions unless they agree that the grievances should be granted. You are part of the management team, and sometimes you will have to deny grievances that you think should be granted or because you had nothing to do with the decision or action which led to the grievance.

If you have to deny a grievance that you had nothing to do with or disagree with, you have to respond the way your management wants you to respond. The worst thing you can say in a grievance response is, "It is out of my hands" or "Take it up with the Personnel Officer."

What do I do if, during a grievance meeting, the employee or the representative begins to taunt me, yell at me, accuse me of wrong doing, use abusive language, or attempts to intimidate or threaten me?
Tell them the meeting is over. Tell them to let you know when you want to discuss the grievance in a respectful manner.

You do not have to take any abuse in dealing with a grievance, and you do not need to allow any attempt to rush you for a decision.

Do I have to defend a management decision during a grievance meeting? Do I have to respond to the grievance before the grievance meeting can end?
No and no. In fact, you should not allow a grievance meeting to turn into a trial or adversarial meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to clarify issues and supporting facts-not to argue or defend a management decision. You should never respond to a grievance at the meeting. Take your time to think it out, check with management, and let your boss review a draft of your response before you issue it.

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