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Dispute Resolution

Responsible Department
Human Resources
Effective Date
06/24/2019
  1. .

    Policy Purpose

    This policy reinforces the commitment of the University of North Georgia (the “University”) to provide a safe and amicable workplace for all employees.

  2. .

    Definitions

    1. Complainant:  Employee filing the grievance

    2. Respondent:  Party whose actions are the source of the grievance
  3. .

    Policy Statement

    1. The University is committed to providing a good working environment for its faculty and staff, however, conflicts and disagreements between employees and their supervisors are inevitable.  It is the policy of the University to solve disputes at the lowest level possible.  When these disagreements or conflicts occur, employees should first attempt to resolve the matter through discussion with their supervisor.

    2. Nothing in this policy should be interpreted as:

      1. Eliminating or even diluting the responsibility of a manager to attempt immediate and impartial resolution of issues which occur within their area of responsibility, or

      2. Providing a forum for a hearing on matters involving the exercise of legitimate managerial discretionary authority.

    3. Any classified employee or administrative officer working at least .50 FTE (full-time equivalency) who has completed the provisional employment period is eligible to utilize the University Grievance Process outlined by this policy.  The Grievance Procedure is not available to temporary employees, students, or non-University employees (consultants, contractors, etc.).

    4. All University personnel shall have access to University policies and procedures.

    5. The Grievance Process may not be used to bring a grievance about:

      1. Promotion and tenure decisions;
      2. Performance evaluations;
      3. Flexible work option(s) decisions;
      4. Organization of a department or allocation of its resources;
      5. Hiring decisions;
      6. Classification appeals;
      7. Challenges to grades or assessments;
      8. Challenges to salary decisions;
      9. Challenges to transfers or reassignment;
      10. Termination or layoff because of lack of work or elimination of position;
      11. Non-renewal of a limited term position;
      12. Investigations or conclusions reached under the UNG Discrimination or Harassment policies; or
      13. Normal supervisory counseling

    6. The Grievance Process may be used by an eligible employee to bring a grievance about:

      1. An action or decision that is inconsistent with a specific University rule, regulation or policy;
      2. A suspension, demotion, or other disciplinary action; or
      3. An involuntary termination.

        An employee may not file a grievance, even in the above circumstances, if:

        1. The discharge occurred during the six-month provisional period;
        2. The issue underlying the grievance is a charge of discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, creed, national origin, age, disability, or handicap. Such charges should be directed to Human Resources/EEO.
        3. The issues being grieved have been previously heard by an administrative panel at the institution.

    7. Nothing in this policy should be interpreted as impairing the right of any employee to seek resolution of a perceived grievance through the courts or through agencies of the Federal or State governments.

    8. Any attempt to intimidate or retaliate against a person for raising an issue or participating in the Grievance Process is strictly forbidden.  Any person who makes such an attempt will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.  Furthermore, no employee’s status with the University shall be adversely affected because of his or her utilization of any of the following dispute resolution options.
  4. .

    OPTIONS FOR DISPUTE RESOLUTION

    The Grievance Process at the University consist of three options:

    • Informal Grievance/Complaint Process
    • Alternative Dispute Resolution (Mediation or Facilitated Discussion)
    • Formal Grievance Process

    At any point in the dispute resolution process, personnel from the Office of Human Resources will be available to meet with concerned employees to provide advice, counsel, or referral.

    1. Informal Grievance/Complaint Process

      1. The employee will seek to resolve the grievance/complaint with his or her immediate supervisor or a first line manager consistent with our practice of resolving disputes at the lowest possible level in the organization.  These discussions should be confidential.  Verbal or written statements are an acceptable means of requesting a meeting during the informal grievance/complaint process.

      2. If the grievance/complaint involves the immediate supervisor, the employee and/or the supervisor, shall have the option of having a confidential discussion, and/or shall be given an opportunity to have another employee, peer, or human resource representative present as a neutral observer. If the grievance/complaint remains unresolved, the employee may then seek to resolve the grievance/complaint at each level of supervision.

      3. If the grievance is not resolved or if circumstances of the grievance prevent the employee from using the above mentioned steps, the employee may present the grievance to Human Resources at any time during the informal grievance/complaint process.

      4. Human Resources shall meet with the employee and the supervisor and others as appropriate, in an attempt to resolve the informal grievance/complaint.

      5. If the complaint involves accusations or appearances of discrimination, Human Resources/EEO will be immediately contacted.

      6. At any time during the informal grievance/complaint process, an employee may choose to pursue mediation or a formal grievance, keeping in mind the alternatives to the formal process.

    2. Mediation and/or Facilitated Discussion

      If all reasonable informal efforts to resolve the complaint do not result in resolution, or at any time during the complaint process the employee or supervisor feels mediation may be an option, they are encouraged to consider mediation to resolve the conflict.

      1. What is mediation?

        1. Mediation is an informal process that involves a trained facilitator who will assist in effecting a voluntary resolution of the dispute/complaint.  The objective of a mediation or facilitated discussion process is to come to an agreement that is fair and meets the needs of the parties involved in the conflict.  The process is confidential and is conducted in a confidential setting.  The University and USG maintain a list of trained mediators.

        2. Mediation does not waive the rights of any aggrieved party to seek resolution of his/her grievance through formal avenues.  Mediation is a cost effective, voluntary, fast and efficient way to resolve grievances; it encourages a mutually acceptable resolution.

      2. Steps for Mediation

        1.  If one or both parties are interested in pursuing mediation or facilitated discussion as an option, they should contact Human Resources.

        2. Both parties involved in the complaint/dispute must agree to voluntarily request mediation.

        3. If the parties agree and an external or internal, University trained, mediator is utilized; Human Resources will arrange the time and location for the mediation or facilitated discussion.

        4. Every attempt will be made to arrange for the mediation/facilitated discussion within ten working days of the request.  Requests for external mediators will take additional time to coordinate. The mediator will facilitate the discussion between the disputing parties to help find a mutually agreeable solution to the conflict.  The mediator will not impose a solution.

        5. At any time during the mediation process either with or without reaching an agreement, the employee can file a formal grievance.

    3. Formal Grievance

      Faculty and staff employees may pursue resolution of their grievance/complaint through a formal grievance process.  The framework for formal grievances is as follows:

      1. Human Resources will serve as the dispute resolution coordinator and has the responsibility of managing the expeditious and fair resolution of grievance hearings.  The main role of Human Resources is to assist the parties, the Grievance Panel chairperson, and the Grievance Panel in administrative procedures.  If the complaint involves accusations or appearances of discrimination, including but not limited to sexual harassment, Human Resources will immediately contact the General Counsel to determine next steps.

      2. The request for a grievance hearing must be filed with Human Resources within 30 working days of the event that has given rise to the complaint.  The University encourages the use of informal procedures as a means of resolving conflict.  Therefore, if mediation is selected as the means to informally resolve the dispute, Human Resources, in consultation with the Complainant and Office of General Counsel, will extend the time for the submission of the written grievance hearing request up to 30 working days following the completion of mediation.

      3. To initiate a formal grievance hearing, the Complainant is required to prepare and submit a Grievance Form to Human Resources to ensure the Grievance Panel will address the specific issues that concern the Complainant.  The Grievance Form can be obtained from Human Resources.  Human Resources staff members are available to assist the Complainant in completing the form upon request.  The information listed below should be included to ensure that the Complainant identifies all the issues and facts. The Grievance Form must include:

        1. The Complainant’s name and job title;

        2. The department/unit in which the Complainant is employed;

        3. The nature of the problem or complaint/grievance;

        4. The communication that has taken place between the Complainant and his or her academic department head, supervisor, and/or second level supervisor concerning the matter;

        5. The supervisor and/or supervisors responsible, if applicable;

        6. The reason why the Complainant disagrees with that response;

        7. The Complainant’s suggestion for proper resolution of the matter or the remedy sought;

        8. Identification of any witnesses who may have relevant information regarding the complaint/grievance; and

        9. Identification of any previous recommendations to resolve the issue.

      4. Within ten working days of receiving a written grievance, Human Resources shall meet with the Grievance Board Chairperson to present the grievance.  The Chairperson shall within ten working days of receipt of the grievance from Human Resources determine and respond in writing to the Complainant as to whether the grievance is eligible for review by a Grievance Hearing Panel.

      5. If the grievance is accepted for review, the Chairperson will instruct the parties as to the procedures to be followed in selecting the members of the Panel and in conducting the hearing.

      6. If the grievance is not accepted for review, the Chairperson will inform the Complainant in writing.  The Complainant may then request a review by the full Grievance Board (faculty or staff, as applicable) within five working days following the Chairperson’s decision.  The full Grievance Board will render a final decision within five working days following receipt of the request for review.  If the Board, by simple majority, upholds the original decision of the Chairperson, the Complainant and other involved participants will be notified and reasons given.  If the Board agrees to hear the grievance, the process continues in the same manner as if the Chairperson had accepted the grievance, and the Chairperson will have the Grievance Hearing Panel selected as described below within five working days following the panel’s decision.

      7. Any attempt to intimidate or retaliate against a person for raising an issue or participating in this process is strictly forbidden.  Any person who makes such an attempt will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

    4. Grievance Board

      1. Establishment of the Grievance Board

        1. The Grievance Board shall provide a means to hear the complaints of University employees who have exhausted other channels but who have not received satisfaction.

        2. There will be a 14 member faculty Grievance Board appointed by the Leadership and Appointments Committee of the Faculty Senate, with the approval of the President, or designee, and charged with hearing faculty grievances.  At least seven of the members will be tenured faculty.  The President, or designee, will appoint two tenured faculty members from the Board to serve as Chair and Vice Chair.

        3. There will be a 14 member staff Grievance Board appointed by the Staff Council, with the approval of the President, or designee, to hear staff grievances.  The President, or designee, will appoint staff members from the Board to serve as Chair and Vice Chair.

        4. The Grievance Board will be selected by the end of September of the fall term of odd calendar years.  The newly appointed members will meet within four weeks following their appointment.  Training will be provided by the Office of General Counsel and Human Resources to all Grievance Panel members once the selection is complete.

      2. Eligibility of Service on Grievance Board

        With the exception of the Human Resources department head, the General Counsel, Vice Presidents and the President, all regular employees with at least two years of continuous service at the University, who are not under a Performance Improvement Plan or have not had a written reprimand in the preceding six months, are potential Grievance Panel members.

    5. Selection of the Grievance Hearing Panel

      1. Each Grievance Hearing Panel shall consist of the Chair, non-voting, and three voting members chosen from the Grievance Board of 14 faculty or staff members.  The Chair shall set up a meeting with the Complainant and Respondent.  In the presence of the Chair, each party may strike the names of one person from the list of Grievance Board members.  The parties shall alternate in exercising their strikes, beginning with the Complainant, until three members remain.  The three members shall constitute the Grievance Hearing Panel which will hear the grievance.  It is anticipated that the “striking” process will be completed within five working days following the decision by the Chair to hear the case.

      2. In the event a grievance is filed that involves faculty and staff, the Hearing Panel will consist of three voting faculty members and three voting staff members.  The Chair will represent the deciding vote if the outcome of the vote results in a split decision.

      3. Excusing Grievance Hearing Panel Members

        Grievance Board members who are drawn as possible Grievance Hearing panelists may be excused by the Chairperson upon request if:

        • There is a bona fide conflict of interest between the Hearing Panel member and either of the parties of the grievance;
        • The potential Hearing Panel member is ill; or
        • Service on the Hearing Panel should be excused for good cause shown such as, but not limited to, conferences, job responsibilities, or family illness.

      4. Notice to the Parties and Grievance Hearing Panel

        After the Grievance Hearing Panel (three members/six members if faculty and staff are involved) has been selected, written notice of the time and date set for the hearing shall be delivered via email to the parties and to the members of the Grievance Hearing Panel by the Chair no less than ten working days before the scheduled date of the hearing.  The Chair should coordinate meeting participation with the selected Hearing Panel members and parties prior to the delivery of the written meeting notice.

      5. Duties of the Chair

        Other than identified above, the Chair shall not vote in hearings, but shall be responsible for the conduct of the hearing and implementation of the grievance procedures.  The Chair’s duties include the following:

        • Assuring that all parties are familiar with the grievance procedures;
        • Consulting with Human Resources and the General Counsel to ensure the grievance should be heard by the Grievance Panel;
        • Notifying the Complainant and other parties in writing as needed regarding the status of the grievance;
        • Determining which records, statements, witnesses, and exhibits may be accepted for consideration during the hearing; and
        • Ensuring that the grievance/complaint has been submitted as outlined above.

      6. Grievance Hearing Panel Findings

        1. Any findings and recommendations made by the Grievance Hearing Panel shall be provided to all parties and to the appropriate Vice President and are advisory only.  The Vice President will render a final decision within ten working days of receiving the panel’s recommendation.  The Vice President reserves the right to return the grievance to the Grievance Hearing Panel for further consideration.  If the Vice President is directly involved in the grievance/complaint or in cases where the Vice President’s role is a conflict of interest, the Grievance Hearing Panel’s recommendation will be submitted to the President for final decision.

        2. The Vice President’s final decision may be appealed to the President in writing within 20 days following the decision of the Vice President.  The President’s decision will be rendered within ten working days.  Applications for Discretionary Review of the President’s decision by the University System of Georgia may be made pursuant to BOR Policy 6.26.
  5. .

    SUPPORT INFORMATION

    This policy supersedes previous policy 885.0, which was in effect from 7/1/2004, through consolidation, and until the effective date of this policy.

  6. .

    PROCEDURES

    1. The Grievance Hearing procedure describes how a Grievance Hearing is conducted in regards to this policy.

    2. Any related operating procedures must comply with and should reference this policy.

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