Staff Grievance Procedure Manual

Introduction

Regular and effective communication between supervisors and staff members reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and conflict in the workplace. The University expects and encourages supervisors and staff members to communicate openly and regularly so that the interests of both the staff and the University are best served. In addition, the University has Resource Offices such as the Division of Human Resources, Ombudsman, Affirmative Action & Equal Opportunity Programs, African American Resource Center, Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Center, and Penn Women’s Center, that will assist staff members in resolving issues or concerns. Staff members who have concerns about the administration of University or departmental policy are encouraged to try to resolve them by working with a supervisor, department head, or one of the Resource Offices.

The Staff Grievance Procedure is designed to provide for the fair and equitable resolution of concerns related to terms or conditions of employment that are not resolved to the staff member’s satisfaction within the school or administrative unit. Retaliation against a staff member for utilizing this Grievance Procedure violates University policy and will result in appropriate disciplinary action, which may include termination of employment. Any staff member who believes that he/she has been retaliated against or treated unfairly for utilizing the grievance procedure should contact the Division of Human Resources or another University Resource Office.

Definition

A grievance is defined as an unresolved issue concerning the application of University policy, practice, or procedure. This includes disciplinary action, involuntary termination, and allegations of discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected class status. Complaints regarding performance appraisals, flexible work option decisions, reductions in the size of the workforce, restructuring, change in reporting line, and/or the designation of individuals for redeployment or separation from a unit are not matters subject to a grievance under this policy. Complaints regarding compensation and classification are grievable only if a violation of federal, state or local equal opportunity or labor laws is alleged. Other complaints of this nature are handled administratively. Questions regarding the administrative review process should be directed to the Division of Human Resources.

  • For the purpose of this procedure “staff member” and “grievant” are used interchangeably.

Eligibility

This procedure may be used by all regular University staff members, including regular limited service staff members who have successfully completed their Introductory Period. It is not applicable to faculty members, ungraded senior administrators, university officers, health system clinicians, HUP staff, students, or staff members covered by collective bargaining agreements. Residents, or occasional or temporary workers are not eligible to file a grievance under this policy.

Statement of Rights

  1. All eligible University staff members have the right, and are encouraged, to use the Staff Grievance Procedure to address unresolved work-related issues.
  2. All grievances are treated confidentially by University Resource Offices. In the event that it is necessary to consult with other individuals in order to obtain information pertinent to the grievance, the grievant and respondent will be notified.
  3. The grievant, respondent, and panelists will have access to all information pertinent to the grievance. In cases where the information contains confidential material and/or data that is not relevant to the grievance, Human Resources will provide the parties involved with a written statement of the relevant information in order to maintain confidentiality. In the event a grievant has concerns as to whether all relevant material has been provided, the grievant may request in writing that one of the University’s designated Resource Offices review the materials to ensure that all relevant materials have been made available to the panel.
  4. Both the grievant and respondent have a right to be assisted by another University employee, or a retiree, during all phases of the grievance procedure (See section on Employee Representative).
  5. All participants are permitted a reasonable amount of release time for the grievance process. The supervisor should be notified of the need for release time, and efforts should be made to arrange mutually convenient times. A department may deny release time for a compelling reason, such as the employee’s absence constituting an undue hardship. Concerns regarding this issue should be directed to Staff and Labor Relations.
  6. A representative from Staff and Labor Relations will be available to assist grievants and/or respondents during all steps of the grievance procedure. (See the section on Administration for more details).
  7. No staff member will be reprimanded, harassed, retaliated against, discriminated against, or adversely treated for using or participating in the Staff Grievance Procedure. The University considers any such action(s) a serious offense and a violation of University policy. Violators may be subject to disciplinary action, which may include termination. Any staff member subjected to unfair treatment as a result of utilizing the grievance procedure should contact Staff and Labor Relations or another appropriate University Resource Office.

Employee Representative

In addition to the assistance provided by Staff and Labor Relations, both the grievant and respondent may be assisted throughout this process by an employee representative. A representative must be a regular or retired faculty or staff member. The head of the responding department must approve all employee representatives for respondents. Neither party is required to have an employee representative. The University encourages staff members to use all resources available to facilitate a speedy resolution of problems and concerns.

  • Each party to the grievance may select only one person to serve as an employee representative.

Role of Employee Representative

The role of the employee representative is to provide assistance and support throughout the grievance process. This includes:

  1. Assisting in gathering information and preparing for meetings and discussions
  2. Attending scheduled meetings
  3. Presenting the position of the party he/she represents in the dispute, if requested

Selection of Employee Representative

The grievant or respondent may select any regular or retired staff or faculty member as a representative. Employee representatives should be selected within five (5) working days of the initial meeting with a Staff and Labor Relations representative. Staff and Labor Relations should be notified of the representative’s name.

Administration

The Staff and Labor Relations office in the Division of Human Resources has primary responsibility for administering and coordinating the Staff Grievance Procedure. Staff and Labor Relations is the primary source of assistance for staff members and supervisors who have questions or concerns pertaining to the grievance process and will ensure that the grievance process is fair and equitable. The Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs assists in the administration of the Staff Grievance Procedure when unlawful discrimination is alleged. A representative from Staff and Labor Relations or, when applicable, the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, will:

  • Discuss concerns with the staff member and/or supervisor.
  • Assist the staff member and/or supervisor in clarifying, facts, issues and concerns.
  • Inform the staff member and/or supervisor of University policy and procedures relevant to the situation.
  • Inform the staff member and/or supervisor of their rights, responsibilities, and relevant time frames.
  • Serve as facilitators in discussions between the staff member and supervisor or other departmental/division representative.
  • Make suggestions for possible resolutions to the situation.
  • Investigate or coordinate the investigation of all issues relating to the grievance.
  • Monitor implementation of agreed resolutions and/or President’s decision.
  • Provide staff members with a list of panelists.
  • Once notified of a problem that indicates a violation of law or University policy, Staff and Labor Relations must initiate an investigation unless a Waiver of Investigation form has been signed. If during the course of the investigation it is determined that a University policy has been violated or not applied properly, Staff and Labor Relations, after advising the staff member and supervisor, will assist the parties in reaching an appropriate resolution.

Time Frames

All time frames indicated in the procedure are computed in working days. All parties involved in the grievance must adhere to the time frames specified in the procedure unless the Division of Human Resources has granted a waiver of that time frame. Requests for extensions should be in writing and submitted to Staff and Labor Relations prior to the expiration of the time frame for which the extension is sought. Exceptions to this rule will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Time-Frame Extensions

Requests for extensions should be submitted, in writing, to the chairperson of the panel prior to the scheduled date of the hearing. If a chairperson has not been identified, extension requests should be submitted to the Manager of Staff and Labor Relations. The panel hearing will normally be held within thirty (30) working days of the initiation the request for a panel hearing. If either the grievant or respondent is not available for the hearing within the thirty-day (30) period, an extension must be requested from the Vice President of Human Resources. If a panelist requires an extension beyond that period, the grievant and respondent will be notified and an alternate panelist will be selected.

Staff Grievance Procedure

If the problem or situation is not resolved to the grievant’s satisfaction by using the Workplace Issue Resolution Program (WIRP), or the issue is one that is not appropriate for the WIRP, the grievant may submit a written request for a hearing (before a three-member panel) to the Manager of Staff and Labor Relations.

Staff members must initiate action within the following time frames in order to reserve the right to request a panel hearing under the Staff Grievance Procedure:

  • If not utilizing the WIRP first: The grievant must submit a completed grievance form within thirty (30) working days of the date of the event giving rise to the grievance.
  • If utilizing the WIRP first: The staff member must initiate action under the WIRP within thirty (30) working days of the date of the event giving rise to the grievance. If no resolution is reached through the WIRP, the staff member then has ten (10) working days from the final attempt to resolve the issue through the WIRP to submit a completed grievance form.
  • If terminated from employment: The grievant has ten (10) working days from notice of termination of employment to submit a grievance form.

The completed grievance form must be submitted to the Division of Human Resources, Staff and Labor Relations Department, 3401 Walnut Street, Suite 527A, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6228.

Every effort will be made to hold the hearing within thirty (30) working days of receipt of the request.

The hearing is a non-adversarial process that will review the facts and provide an opportunity for the grievant to present his/her position fully and thoroughly. The grievant and respondent will each have an opportunity to present evidence and invite witnesses to appear at the hearing. A representative from Staff and Labor Relations will be present during the hearing and will advise the panel on Human Resources policies and procedures. If the grievance involves an allegation of unlawful discrimination, a representative from the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs will advise the panel on affirmative action/equal opportunity policies and procedures as well as any investigation findings.

The panel’s findings and recommendation(s) will be transmitted to the President or designee in writing within five (5) working days of the completion of the hearing. The panel’s recommendations will be submitted, unchanged, on a form that records all pertinent information and findings. All panelists review and sign the form indicating their agreement or disagreement with the decision. Dissenting opinions from panelists are also transmitted. The President of the University or her designee will then have ten (10) working days to accept or modify the Panel’s recommendation(s). The President or her designee will notify the grievant and respondent of the final decision in writing within that time frame. This decision will be final and binding on all parties.

Panel Selection

All panelists will be selected from a list of volunteers who have completed a training session: regular University staff members (who have successfully completed their Introductory Period), retired University staff members, or University faculty. The pool of panelists should be diverse (race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, ethnicity, etc.)

Persons who are affiliated with the department or school in question will be deleted from the list of eligible panelists prior to the selection process. From the remaining list of eligible panelists, the grievant and respondent will each select six (6) names in priority order to serve as panelists. The first two (2) of the six (6) who are available from each list will compose the panel. Human Resources will contact the four (4) persons, informing them that they have been selected, and schedule a meeting. At that meeting, the four (4) panelists will select the chairperson for the hearing, and an alternate, from their group. Before the scheduled hearing, a representative from Staff and Labor Relations (and a staff member from the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, if applicable) will meet with the panelists to review the guidelines and procedures for conducting the hearing.

Panel Hearing Guidelines

  1. A set of rules and regulations for the management of the panel hearing shall be disseminated to all parties and panelists prior to the hearing.
  2. The panel hearings will be held at a neutral location, designated by the Division of Human Resources.
  3. All information pertaining to the grievance must be kept confidential by University Resource Offices in accordance with University policy. Panelists are also expected to keep all information confidential.
  4. The hearing will not be open to the public. Only those persons directly involved with the grievance or who can provide relevant information for reviewing the grievance will be permitted at the hearing. This includes the grievant, employee representative(s), respondent(s), witness(es), representative(s) from Staff and Labor Relations, and representative(s) from the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs (if the grievance involves allegations of unlawful discrimination). The hearing may not be audio or video recorded.
  5. The grievant and respondent will have access to read the panel recommendations and/or findings submitted to the President.
  6. Copies of all records and documentation relevant to the grievance will be made available to the panelists for review at least five (5) working days before the scheduled hearing. Copies will also be made available to each party.
  7. It is the responsibility of the chairperson to schedule the hearing at a time that is convenient for all parties involved, and to review any requests for time extensions.
  8. The hearing will be conducted in a manner that will provide all parties ample opportunity to present all relevant data, facts, evidence, and witnesses.
    1. Both parties may make opening presentations that should outline the facts of the grievance and any proposed resolutions.
    2. The grievant will present his or her case first, including the presentation of witnesses and any supporting evidence.
    3. Witnesses presented by either party can be questioned only by the person calling the witness and the members of the panel. However, the respondent or grievant will be permitted to alert the chairperson to relevant issues and may request that the panel explore an issue more fully. All witnesses will be excluded from the hearing until needed for questioning. Once a witness has been questioned, he or she will be excused from the hearing.
      1. The hearing is not to be conducted with the same degree of formality as a trial or legal proceeding; therefore the introduction of legalistic procedures is not permitted. The hearing is not to be conducted as an adversarial proceeding, but rather in a manner that will allow all parties to present their positions completely and in a non-threatening environment. Therefore, it the responsibility of the chairperson of the hearing to determine and/or establish rules of appropriate conduct.
      2. The panel must be guided by University policy and procedures in reviewing the facts of the grievance, presenting its findings, and recommending an appropriate resolution. The recommendation of the panel may not add to, or subtract from, modify, or contradict stated University policy. The recommendation of the panel must adhere to all federal, state, and local laws.
      3. The grievant (or his/her employee representative) and the respondent (or his/her employee representative) will submit names of witnesses who will appear at the hearing to the chairperson at least five (5) working days prior to the scheduled hearing date. Witness lists are not shared between the parties.
      4. The only persons who are authorized to participate in the decision-making process are the panelists, the President or designee, Staff and Labor Relations, the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs (if the grievance involves an allegation of discrimination).
      5. Within five (5) working days, the panel will make a recommendation and submit it to the President or designee. Each panel member will sign the written findings prior to its submission to the President.
      6. Once the panel has made a recommendation and it has been reviewed by the President, the President or designee will forward copies of the final decision and resolution in writing to all parties involved within ten (10) working days following the receipt of the recommendation(s) from the panel.

Any questions regarding this Grievance Procedure may be directed to Staff and Labor Relations at 215-898-6093 or contact us online.

University Resource Offices

There are a number of University Resource Offices that can assist staff members in resolving workplace issues or concerns.