When a union laborer feels that their employer violates their contract, they often face the process of filing a grievance. Unfortunately, this process can often feel overwhelming and discouraging in workplaces, so many instances go unreported. For this reason, this article attempts to explain the grievance process to better aid laborers in the steps to a resolution and ensure a successful grievance process.
This article will define the grievance process and explain the steps in the process. Next, it will discuss the key elements that will need to be discussed in the grievance to ensure that a grievance is complete. Finally, it will outline some important considerations that should be made when filing a grievance to help ensure that it is taken seriously and addressed thoroughly.
Labor unions and employers have long histories of negotiating and contracting. However, when there is a contract violation, actions must be taken. This process is called the grievance process. Filing a grievance will ask the labor union to look into the reported issue and address the situation to improve the working conditions for the laborers.
A grievance is a formal complaint made by an employee that includes allegations of violating the contract between the labor union and the company. These violations may be related to non-compliance by the employer to workplace policies and those that negatively affect employees.
Grievances are filed by an individual employee or a group of laborers who feel they have been treated incorrectly under their contracts or the collective bargaining agreement. The grievance process begins with a formal complaint and then moves through a review process.
To better understand where the grievance fits within this process, it is essential to know the way that a grievance is addressed and resolved. Many collective bargaining agreements and contracts have a procedure for the company. However, many of these grievances follow a similar process, so it can be helpful to know a basic understanding. These steps include:
- Documentation: The first step in the grievance process is documenting the incident or pattern of behavior. Documentation can include writing down the instances where the conduct happened, who was involved, and the result of the conduct or action. It can also include taking pictures or videos of incidents, especially if the alleged violations are allegations of repeated conduct.
- Filing: After documenting, the laborer or group will look at the documentation and work on writing and filing a grievance. There are specific elements that should be included in the grievance, as discussed later. Still, the document should help the employer or union understand what happened and when. There is also usually a specific timeframe that the grievance may be submitted, so understanding those requirements is also vital.
- Review: Both the labor representative and the direct supervisor of the employee will review the reported grievance and decide whether the grievance is valid. They will either decide whether the grievance is invalid, has been resolved, or that it is a grievance that has not been resolved and needs investigation.
- Higher Review: Usually, if an issue has not been resolved, it will move on to higher supervisors within the organization and continue.
- Arbitration: Often, if the company’s management levels do not resolve the grievance, it will be referred to an outside arbitrator to hear the case and issue an award based on the grievance. Arbitrators are third-party neutrals who hear evidence and have the authority to decide the case between the parties. The contract will provide for arbitration.
- This process allows employees to voice their concerns, but it must be encouraged to be effective.
Key Elements of a Grievance:
Because writing and filing a grievance begins the process and sets up the facts upon which a decision is made, a grievance must be complete. Each association will have a form or specific elements that a grievance must include to be complete, but many will include similar requirements. These elements include:
- Statement: Many associations will require a statement of the grievance, which is a short statement that outlines the action that violated the agreement. It does not contain arguments or citations to parts of the collective bargaining agreement. It will include a date so those reviewing it can decide if the filing is timely.
- Citations: A grievance should also include citations to the collective bargaining agreement or employment contract to demonstrate what exactly the management or company did to violate the agreement. It is also wise to include a catch-all paragraph that references any paragraphs that may have been violated but have not been included directly.
- Facts: It is essential to include the relevant facts that support the allegations of a violation like the specific people, dates and times, and the actions that happened to the laborer filing the grievance and contributing to the violation. The statement may cover this fully if the grievance is for a single, straightforward violation. Still, issues often need to be addressed more thoroughly later in the grievance.
- Remedy: The grievance should also suggest what the laborer or union requests based on the alleged violation. It should be the best possible outcome that could come through the grievance procedure to have a jumping-off point.
Including these elements in a grievance will ensure that the reviewers fully understand the issue and how it affected the employee and violated the contract.
In addition to assuring that a grievance includes all of the necessary information, there are a few extra considerations that an employee should make to ensure that it is accurate. These considerations include:
- Focus: Often, if an employee has been suffering from a period of issues at work, they may be tempted to go through everything that has happened at work at the grievance, but this can distract from the more significant violation at hand and can discourage the reviewers from moving forward with the grievance process.
- Evidence: It is important to stick only to the facts and allegations that the evidence and not baseless allegations can prove. This will discredit the grievance process. Each allegation should be backed up by either documentation or testimony of the employee.
- Impact: The impact of the violation should be included, but it should not be done in purely emotive ways. The employee should state facts indicating how and why their performance at work has changed since the violation. Demonstrating the impact the issue has had on the employee can help the reviewer understand how thoroughly the issue has run.
Filing a grievance can be an intimidating task. Still, it can bring real change and encourage other employees to hold the company accountable when done effectively.
Understanding how the process works can hopefully help make it easier for all.