Operating Procedure 421.01 - Complaint and Grievance Resolution

Johnson County Community College
Series 400: Personnel
Section 421.00: Complaint and Grievance

Policy: Complaint and Grievance Resolution - 421.01

The following procedures are established in accordance with College Policy 421.01 – Complaint and Grievance Resolution.

I. Purpose

It is the intent of the college to provide its employees with a fair and efficient process to present and resolve complaints and grievances arising out of the employment relationship.  This Complaint and Grievance Resolution Procedure is available to all college employees.

It shall be considered a violation of college policy for any individual to knowingly file a false or malicious complaint or grievance under this procedure. If the college believes that such a false or malicious complaint or grievance has been filed, the matter will be investigated under the Grievance Resolution Procedures provided in Section VII below.  If substantiated, appropriate disciplinary action up to and including termination may be taken.

II. Complaint and Grievance Procedure Definitions

The Complaint and Grievance Resolution Operating Procedure represents two separate processes established for the purpose of resolving work related complaints and work related grievances. 

A complaint is defined as a problem or issue negatively impacting the employee’s workplace or his/her working conditions.  The Complaint Process described herein shall provide the opportunity for employees to have work-related problems and complaints heard and considered in a non-adversarial manner.

A grievance is defined as an allegation by an employee that he/she has been adversely affected by a violation of college policy, misinterpretation of college policy, and/or inconsistent application of college policy.  The Grievance Process described herein shall provide the opportunity for employees to resolve alleged violations of college policy, misinterpretation of college policy, and/or inconsistent application of college policy.

The person filing a complaint shall be considered the “complainant”.

The person filing a grievance shall be considered the “grievant”.

The person(s) about whom a complaint is made or whose action gave rise to a grievance shall be referred to as the “adverse party”.

III. Complaint and Grievance Procedure Exclusions

The following matters can be addressed through other avenues and are not subject to the Complaint and Grievance Resolution Procedure.

a)    salary placement (see Human Resources Office);
b)    performance reviews, progressive counseling and/or disciplinary matters (see Human Resources Office);
c)    demotion, suspension or termination for cause (see College Policy 416.00);
d)    non-renewal of employment (see College Policy 415.08)
e)    matters covered by the Grievance Procedure of the Master Agreement for full-time Bargaining Unit members (see Master Agreement Article V);
f)    claim of discrimination, harassment or retaliation (see College Policy 420.01 and Operating Procedure 420.01)

IV. Prompt Reporting of a Complaint or Grievance

Complaints and grievances are best resolved if addressed early. It may be difficult to substantiate the allegations made if brought forward after significant time has passed. The time lines set forth in this Complaint and Grievance Resolution Procedure are implemented in order to ensure that allegations are reported, reviewed and concluded in a timely fashion so that a complaint or grievance can be appropriately resolved.

Written complaints and grievances filed under this procedure shall be made within thirty (30) calendar days of the time the alleged action giving rise to the complaint or grievance took place unless good cause is shown for the delay.

Due dates under this procedure shall be calculated based upon calendar days. If the due date specified falls on a weekend or holiday, the next business day will be the due date for the action. While the intent of this procedure is to provide for the prompt reporting and review of a complaint or grievance, these deadlines are not meant to penalize.  Therefore, either party may request a reasonable extension of time for any of the deadlines set forth in this procedure, including the time for making an initial complaint.

Prior to filing a written complaint or grievance, the college encourages employees to seek advice or assistance from their supervisors as workplace concerns arise in order to identify and resolve complaints and grievances at the earliest stage possible.
An employee who believes that actions of another person have given rise to a complaint or grievance should also feel free to inform the adverse party of his/her concern, either through verbal or written communication.

If the employee does not choose to address this issue directly with his/her supervisor or the adverse party or if discussions do not produce a result acceptable to the employee, then the employee may file a written complaint or grievance with the Office of Human Resources.

V. Filing a Complaint or Grievance

A complaint filed with the Office of Human Resources must be a written, signed, and dated statement that includes specific information sufficient for the matter to be reviewed.  Appropriate information for the complaint may include:

1) a statement of the alleged complaint or problem,
2) a sequence of events surrounding the complaint,
3) the date(s) of the alleged action or events giving rise to the complaint,
4) any witnesses present during the alleged actions or events giving rise to the complaint,
5) the perceived roles of the complainant and adverse party, and
6) a suggested remedy for the complaint.
A grievance filed with the Office of Human Resources must be a written, signed, and dated statement that includes specific information sufficient for the matter to be reviewed.  Appropriate information for the grievance may include:
1) the specific policy or policies alleged to be violated,
2) a statement of the alleged violation or misinterpretation of a policy or policies,
3) a sequence of events surrounding the grievance,
4) the date(s) of the alleged actions or events giving rise to the grievance,
5)    any witnesses present during the alleged policy violation or witnessing actions giving rise to the grievance,
6) the perceived roles of the grievant and adverse party, 
7) a suggested remedy for the grievance.

In lieu of filing a written complaint or grievance with the Office of Human Resources, the appropriate documentation may be submitted through the JCCC Ethics Report Line.  If the complaint or grievance is submitted anonymously, the complainant or grievant will be required to provide his/her name and contact information before the process can continue. A complaint or grievance received through this channel shall be entered in the designated category available in the JCCC Ethics Report Line and will be routed directly to Human Resources.  Once received, the designated Human Resources officer will contact the employee to facilitate the process in accordance with this procedure.

If the complaint or grievance is against an employee or an action of the Office of Human Resources, the written complaint or grievance can be submitted through the JCCC Ethics Report Line in accordance with the above procedures or it can be submitted directly to the Office of Internal Audit Services.  In that case, the Director, Internal Audit Services shall act in lieu of the designated Human Resources officer in the Complaint and Grievance Resolution Procedures stated below.

Two or more employees similarly affected by the alleged work-related complaint or grievance may file a joint complaint or grievance.

Once a complaint or grievance has been filed, the complainant or grievant may not add new considerations to the complaint or grievance.  Only those allegations contained in the original complaint or grievance will be considered.  Any new allegations by the complainant or grievant must be filed as a separate action.  A complaint or grievance can be withdrawn in writing by the complainant or grievant at any stage of the review process.

Once a complaint or grievance has been filed and appropriately reviewed as provided for in this procedure, an employee may not present the same complaint or grievance again in an attempt to gain a more favorable decision.

The filing of a complaint or grievance shall not affect the rights of an employee to seek any external remedy which may be available.  However, the filing of a complaint or grievance does not postpone any deadlines for pursuing such remedies.

VI. Complaint Resolution Procedures

The Complaint Resolution Procedure provides employees the right to have a complaint heard and considered in a non-adversarial manner.  It does not bind the college to a particular outcome or course of action, or in any way limit the college’s discretion to determine an appropriate outcome or course of action.

An employee may file a complaint by submitting a written, signed and dated notice of the complaint in accordance with the provisions specified in Section V. Filing a Complaint or Grievance.

Upon receipt of the complaint in the Office of Human Resources, a Human Resources representative will review the complaint and, if appropriate, will work with the branch administrator of the complainant, or other appropriate party, to investigate the facts and initiate a discussion/resolution with the complainant and adverse party.  Complaint review may include discussions with the supervisor(s) or other college administrators, interviews with other parties who may have knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the complaint, and/or use of a third party to help mediate between the complainant and adverse party.

During the review of a complaint, the reviewing parties shall serve in a neutral role in the process and shall not act in an advocate role for the complainant or the adverse party. The role of the reviewing parties will be to thoroughly review the issues as stated in the written complaint and to determine findings based on this review. Legal counsel may be consulted by the reviewing parties as appropriate.

Human Resources will make every effort to complete its review and determination on a complaint within thirty (30) days unless it is determined by Human Resources that additional time is needed based on the facts presented in the complaint.

When the review is complete, the resolution will be communicated in writing to all parties involved.  The decision of the Human Resources representative shall be final and the outcome of a complaint review is not grievable.  The complaint review process ends at this point.

VII. Grievance Resolution Procedures

The Grievance Resolution Procedure allows employees an opportunity to resolve alleged violations of college policy, misinterpretation of college policy, and/or inconsistent application of college policy.  This Grievance Resolution Procedure shall not apply to complaints of any nature that do not directly relate to a policy issue as defined herein.

An employee may file a grievance by submitting a written, signed and dated notice of the grievance in accordance with the provisions specified in Section V. Filing a Complaint or Grievance.

Upon receipt of a written grievance, the Vice President of Human Resources, or a designee, shall review the allegations provided in the grievance and may consult with legal counsel to discuss the allegations.

The Vice President of Human Resources or designee shall appoint a reviewing officer to review the grievance. The appointed officer may be a college employee or an independent third party retained by the college to conduct the assigned review. Where appropriate, two parties may be appointed to conduct such review.  The reviewing officer(s) shall not be a party named in the grievance.

The reviewing officer shall initiate a review of the grievance and shall arrange for an interview of the grievant to be held within fifteen (15) days of the filing of the grievance. The reviewing party shall also meet with the adverse party and any other administrators or parties appropriate to resolution of the grievance, including but not limited to the area supervisor, director, dean, vice president and/or executive vice president.  The meetings shall be non-adversarial, and each party is expected to extend serious consideration to the views of the other parties.

If through this review the reviewing officer determines that the grievance is warranted, the officer shall recommend in writing appropriate steps to correct the grievance.  If the reviewing officer finds that the grievance is unfounded or unwarranted, the officer shall so state this determination in writing.  The written and dated report of the reviewing officer shall be submitted to the Vice President of Human Resources or designee. The reviewing officer shall make every effort to complete this review and submit the written report within thirty (30) days of the filing of the grievance.

During this review process, the officer shall serve as a neutral reviewer in the process and shall not act in an advocate role for the grievant or the adverse party. The role of the officer will be to thoroughly review the issues as stated in the written grievance and to determine findings based on this review. Legal counsel may be consulted by the officer as appropriate.

Within fifteen (15) days of the date on the report submitted by the reviewing officer, Human Resources shall provide the grievant, the adverse party, and the appropriate supervisor(s) a notice of determination of the outcome of the review and of the recommendations of the officer. This notice of determination shall also include a reminder that retaliation taken because of the filing of or participation in a grievance review is prohibited and that any such retaliation should be reported immediately.
Should the grievant not be satisfied with the conclusions and/or recommendations of the review then, within fifteen (15) days of the date of the notice of determination, he/she may file a request for review with the Office of the President.

Upon receipt of the request for review, the President or designee shall appoint an officer of the college or other appropriate independent party to review the original reviewing officer’s report and determine what, if any, appropriate action is required as a result of the findings of the review. The reviewer may review the grievance, interview the grievant and the adverse party, if necessary, and complete such other interviews as may be necessary to make a determination. The reviewer shall complete the review within thirty (30) days. If additional time is needed to complete this review, the reviewing officer shall notify the grievant and the adverse party that the review will be delayed, and indicate the reasons for the delay. At the conclusion of the review, the reviewer shall provide a written report to the President with his/her findings. The President shall consider this report and shall, within fifteen (15) days of receipt of the reviewer’s report, inform the grievant and adverse party in writing of his/her findings and conclusions.

Should the grievant not be satisfied with the conclusions of the President, he/she shall be permitted to petition the Board of Trustees to consider the matter. Such written petition must be submitted to the Secretary of the Board of Trustees within fifteen (15) days of the date on the President’s notice of findings and conclusions. Upon receipt of the petition, the Board of Trustees shall have the sole right to choose one of the following options:

1)    The Board of Trustees can decline to consider the matter and let the decision of the President stand.
2)    The Board of Trustees can review the record of the prior proceedings regarding the grievance and issue a decision based on its review of the record.
3)    The Board of Trustees can hear the appeal.
4)    The Board of Trustees can appoint an independent hearing officer to hear the appeal.

If the Board of Trustees chooses to hear the appeal or to appoint an independent hearing officer to hear the appeal, the appeal hearing shall follow the procedures contained within College Policy 416.03.

Once a petition is submitted to the Board of Trustees to consider a grievance, the decision and action of the Board of Trustees shall be final.

If the grievance was filed against the President, someone who reports directly to the President or a Board member, the request for review shall be submitted to the Office of Internal Audit Services instead of the Office of the President. Upon receipt of the request for review, the Director, Internal Audit Services shall appoint an independent reviewer to conduct a review pursuant to the Formal Procedure set forth herein. The Director, Internal Audit Services and/or the independent reviewer may consult with legal counsel as appropriate.  At the conclusion of this review, the Director, Internal Audit Services shall provide the Board of Trustees a report and an accompanying recommendation from the reviewer for the Board’s consideration. Following completion of the review of this report, the Board of Trustees shall take any necessary and appropriate action. The action of the Board of Trustees will be final.

VIII. Disciplinary Action

Disciplinary actions from this Operating Procedure resulting in demotion, suspension without pay, or termination for cause may be appealed by the employee in accordance with the college Personnel Policy 416.00 et seq. or the Master Agreement, whichever may apply.

IX. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is required of all participants in the Complaint and Grievance Resolution process.  All information revealed and all discussions held shall be as confidential as reasonably possible within legal requirements and organizational responsibilities, and within limits allowing for the review to occur.

The college encourages an environment in which individuals can discuss concerns and make proper authority aware of certain conduct, including illegal discrimination, harassment or retaliation.  In such matters, however, confidentiality of the information received and the privacy of the individuals involved cannot be guaranteed because of legal obligation to report such matters.  Confidentiality will be protected as much as legally possible, and the expressed wishes of the complainant or grievant regarding confidentiality will be considered in the context of the college’s obligation to act upon the complaint or grievance and the right of the adverse party to be informed concerning the complaint or grievance.

X. Retaliation

No employee shall retaliate or discriminate against another employee because of the latter employee’s filing of or participating in a complaint or grievance. Retaliation includes taking any action which may have any impact on the terms or conditions of employment including, but not limited to, increasing discipline or assignment, demotion, changes in pay or hours, material changes in job duties or functioning, if such conduct is taken because of the individual’s filing of or participation in a complaint or grievance, whether or not such complaint or grievance is determined to be valid. Employees are assured that retaliation due to filing or participating in a complaint or grievance under this procedure is strictly prohibited by this procedure and shall lead to discipline up to and including termination. Any person believing that retaliation has taken or is taking place should immediately report the matter as provided herein.