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Grievances and Complaint Procedure

Section 600, Proc. 640
Effective: 6/5/09
RELATED FORMS:  Grievance Form, Complaint Form


To provide a method for the resolution of problems which may arise between the university and regular employees. Faculty Grievance Procedures may be found in the Faculty Handbook.

Who is Affected:

The grievance procedure is available to non-exempt staff only. The complaint procedure is available to non-exempt and exempt staff members.


I. Grievances

1. Definition. A grievance is defined as any unresolved issue regarding university policy, practice, or procedure. The definition includes demotion with loss of pay, suspension without pay, termination of non-probationary employee for inadequate work performance, an allegation of non-compliance with reduction in force policies, work assignments, or conditions of work which the employee claims violate a statute or university policy, and conditions of work which the employee claims are based on discrimination and which have already been explored via procedures outlined in HR0220 that resulted in a decision unsatisfactory to the employee.

The grievance process is available only to non-exempt staff.

2. Allegations of Discrimination against a Protected Class or Sexual Harassment. Any staff member whose allegations allege discrimination or sexual harassment must proceed first under HR Policy and Procedures 0220, Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action. The Office of Equity and Diversity should be contacted.

3. Representation. A regular non-exempt employee may choose to act as his/her own representative in any step of this procedure. The employee may testify and present witnesses and materials in support of his/her position. Any employee who testifies, whether on his/her own behalf or for a co-worker, will not be subject to retaliatory action. The employee may choose to be accompanied and represented by his/her employee relations representative. Neither the employee nor the university may be accompanied or represented by legal counsel unless the case is a contested one under the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. (TUAPA)

4. Steps in the Grievance Process:

  1. Immediate Supervisor. Within 15 work days after the employee receives notice or becomes aware of the action which is the basis for the grievance, he/she must complete a Grievance Form (available from Human Resources), and submit it to his/her immediate supervisor. Managers and supervisors are responsible for making every effort to resolve problems locally, and will arrange a face-to-face meeting with the complainant within 15 workdays of receipt of the Grievance Form. Within 15 work days of this meeting, the supervisor or manager will respond with a written decision. Failure by the manager or supervisor to provide a written decision is this time period entitles the staff member to proceed to the next step.
  2. College or Unit Head. If the employee does not receive a written decision or is dissatisfied with the written decision from his/her manager or supervisor, he/she may, within 15 work days, submit the Grievance Form to the college or unit head (dean or director). The college or unit head will schedule a face-to-face meeting with the staff member within 15 work days, after which meeting, he/she will have an additional 15 workdays to submit a written decision, which must include specific reasons for the decision. If the college or unit head fails to respond, or the decision is not satisfactory to the employee, he/she may proceed to the next step.
  3. Informal Hearing. Within 15 work days of receiving the dean or director’s written decision, the employee submits the Grievance Form to the executive director of Human Resources (HR) who arranges for a hearing by a panel of unbiased university employees. The panel will include two representatives from the Employee Relations Committee (ERC) who are not representatives for the unit where the grievance originated, an administrator appointed by the appropriate vice president or vice chancellor, and the executive director of HR or his/her designee. Upon completion of the hearing, the panel will render a decision to uphold the earlier decision or to overturn the earlier decision, and will submit that decision to the appropriate vice president/vice chancellor or Provost, who will communicate his/her final decision to the employee.

II. Complaint Procedure

1. Definition. Non-exempt and exempt employees may choose to use the university’s Complaint Procedure when they believe a situation in their workplace is not in keeping with university policy. The complaint process cannot be used for job classification, pay, workers’ compensation matters, terminations during the probationary period, termination for inadequate work performance or gross misconduct, and complaints alleging discrimination in work assignment, employment opportunities or conditions of work. The university provides other avenues to resolve these concerns.

To file a complaint, the employee should complete a Complaint Form and give it to his/her supervisor. Human Resources will assist employees who need help completing the form. If the complaint is not satisfactorily resolved at the supervisory level, the employee may proceed to the department head for review.

An employee who files a complaint with the department head and HR will then meet with the college or unit head and an HR representative. The employee may be accompanied by an ERC representative. The college or unit head will reply to the complainant within fifteen 15 working days of the meeting. If the employee still is not satisfied, he/she may make a final appeal to the vice chancellor or provost by submitting a written request to HR, which must include the steps that have been taken to resolve the problem. HR will then schedule a meeting which will include the vice chancellor or provost, an HR representative, the complainant, and at the employee’s request, an ERC representative. The employee may present witnesses or written documentation to support his/her position. The vice chancellor or provost may also call witnesses or others who have information concerning the situation. The vice chancellor or provost will submit the final disposition of the matter.

2. Informal Resolution. The university encourages the informal resolution of disputes through regular and forthright communication between staff and supervisors. Assistance is available to supervisors from Human Resources-Employee Relations Unit. Supervisors should discuss any concerns regarding a staff member’s work with that person in a timely fashion in an effort to resolve any work-related issues. Staff members are encouraged to bring to the attention of their supervisors work-related issues as soon as they arise, so that they can be discussed with an objective of resolution.

3. Mediation. Mediation, or facilitated communication, may be employed when appropriate as one part of a complaint procedure. This is a form of alternate dispute resolution which may assist in the resolution of the complaint.

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