Stage One:  Informal Dispute Resolution

Stage Two:  Mediation

Stage Three:  Formal Grievance Process

Certain policy statements within this Handbook contain their own grievance and disciplinary procedures, and those are appropriate for those specific policies. In all other cases, the procedures set forth below apply for employee grievances.

Supervisors and other persons about whom complaints are made should not take any action against the employees or other persons who make the complaints. Any retaliatory action, for whatever reason, is a separate offense and can result in termination. Accused persons who believe that the complaint is wrong may make their cases in the appropriate forum, described below.

All persons making complaints are expected to do so truthfully and with respect for the reputations of the persons involved. A complaint that is false may result in termination, and employees are also reminded that false complaints may incur legal actions for defamation of character.

Stage One:  Informal Dispute Resolution

When possible, informal dispute resolution is the preferred method for handling employment complaints of a minor nature. Following are suggested steps for informal dispute resolution:

  1. If the complaint is about another employee who is not the immediate supervisor involved, then the employee with the complaint should speak directly with his or her supervisor about the problem.
    1. If the complaint is about another employee in the same department, then the supervisor should take appropriate steps to address the issues with both parties, and the supervisor may consult with the director of Human Resources for guidance in managing the dispute resolution.
    2. If the complaint is about an employee in another department, then the two supervisors should confer about the issues and determine an appropriate course of action. Here again, consultation with the director of Human Resources is an appropriate course of action.
    3. If the complaint is about someone who is not the immediate supervisor but who is at the supervisory level or higher, then the supervisor who hears the complaint must consult with the director of Human Resources about the appropriate next steps.
  2. If the complaint is about the immediate supervisor, then the employee should speak directly with the director of Human Resources, who will work with both parties to resolve the matter.
  3. In all cases, the complaining employee has a right to know how the matter is being addressed, and open communication among the various supervisors and affected employees is essential.

Stage Two: Mediation

Sometimes a complaint cannot be resolved informally, so a more formal mediation process is appropriate. The decision to move into a mediation mode shall be made by the director of Human Resources in consultation with all of the parties to the dispute. The director should make a file memo, copies to the parties, simply stating that a mediation process is underway, the nature of the complaint, the names of the parties, the mediator and timeline.

When the director has determined that mediation is necessary, she will appoint an independent party (an employee at the supervisory level or higher, or a member of the faculty if appropriate) to conduct the mediation process.

The process is not a legal proceeding, and every effort should be made to keep the process open, respectful and amicable. Written materials should be minimal.

The mediator should meet with all of the concerned parties individually and listen to all statements without prejudice. After hearing all points of view, if the mediator sees an avenue for resolution, the mediator should meet again with the parties to explore solutions. These meetings may occur individually or in a group at the mediator’s discretion. The mediator is empowered to work with the parties to secure their mutual agreement to a solution. However, the mediator is not empowered to dictate a solution.

If, after the expiration of the original timeline no resolution is apparent, then the mediator and the director of Human Resources may agree to continue the mediation, to conclude it with no resolution and no further action, or to recommend to the complainant that the formal grievance process is available.

The director of Human Resources should make a file memo, copies to the parties, indicating the disposition of the case.

Stage Three: Formal Grievance Process

Many of the most serious forms of misconduct (discrimination, sexual harassment) already have formal grievance procedures stated in those policies. For other situations in which an employee feels aggrieved by the conduct of another employee or supervisor, the formal grievance process may be the most appropriate step toward resolution. Time frames indicated in the following steps are recommended, but these may need to be adjusted based on the facts of each case.

  1. The employee who wishes to invoke the formal grievance process must do so in writing. Such a request should be addressed to the director of Human Resources, or, in the alternative, to the vice president for Financial Affairs.
    1. The written request must state the reasons for invoking the formal grievance process.
    2. The written request should be as accurate as possible in stating the names of the persons about whom the complaint is made, and the specific facts and circumstances that gave rise to the grievance.
  2. The director (or vice president), upon receiving the written statement, should immediately write back to the party acknowledging receipt but making no further comment on the case.
  3. Within five days of receiving the written complaint, the director should review the case to determine whether adequate grounds exist to proceed to a formal hearing. In making this determination, the director may consult with all appropriate persons, including the complainant and the person about whom the complaint is made. The director may decide to send the case to Stage 1 or Stage 2 dispute resolution before proceeding to a formal hearing, and if the director so decides, that decision is final.
  4. If the director determines that a formal hearing is appropriate, then the director appoints an independent third party, at the supervisory level or higher, to serve as the hearing chair. The director then notifies the parties of the appointment of the chair and the timeline for the process. These steps should occur within ten days of the date of the complaint.
  5. The chair immediately issues a formal notification to the person about whom the complaint is made (the respondent) and invites a written response. The respondent is entitled to a copy of the original complaint so that the respondent can make a complete answer. This part of the process may take up to thirty days.
  6. After receiving the answer, the chair may determine
    1. to interview each party separately,
    2. to send the case back to the director with comments, or
    3. to call the parties to a formal hearing.
  7. If the case goes to a formal hearing, the procedure should be kept as simple as possible. This is not a legal proceeding; each party may bring one other person for support, such as a member of the Trinity community, a friend or family member, but not legal counsel. The chair must also appoint a secretary to keep a record of the meeting, and the secretary should be independent of the parties. At this hearing, the chair should invite each party to make opening statements for a defined period of time. After hearing each statement, the chair may ask questions of each party. The parties may not argue to each other, but simply respond to the chair. The chair may ask for concluding statements.
  8. After the hearing, within five days, the chair issues a written report and recommendation for action to the president. The recommendation may include:
    1. a definitive action involving the parties to secure resolution;
    2. disciplinary action against a party;
    3. further investigation for cause;
    4. closure of the case.
  9. The president may accept the recommendation, ask for additional information, or return the case to the director of Human Resources for further processing.
  10. Parties who are dissatisfied with the outcome of the case may make a written appeal directly to the president, who may invoke a new hearing, seek additional facts, interview the parties, or decide the case. The president’s action is final.

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