IV:07:23 Support Staff Grievance Procedures

I. POLICY STATEMENT

It is the policy of Middle Tennessee State University ("MTSU") to provide an effective procedure for resolution of problems arising from the employment relationship or environment. To this end, and in compliance with TENN. CODE ANN. § 49-8-117, the purpose of this procedure is to provide a clear, orderly, and expedient procedure for review of grievances by support staff employees relating to demotions, suspensions without pay, terminations, and work assignments or conditions that the grievant believes violate statute or policy.

II. SCOPE

This procedure is available only for support staff employees who are demoted, suspended without pay, terminated, or subject to work assignments or conditions of work that violate statute or policy. All employees wishing to present grievances that are not covered by this policy should follow the procedures set forth in the applicable policy or procedure, if any. In the event that the employee's grievance is also subject to review pursuant to another MTSU grievance policy, the employee must elect which policy he/she wishes to utilize.

Standard grievance forms will be made available to support staff at the Office of Human Resource Services ("HRS"), but no grievance will be denied because a standard form has not been used.

III. DEFINITIONS

A. "Support staff" means employees who are not faculty, executive, administrative or professional staff.

B. "Grievance" means a complaint about one (1) or more of the following matters:

1. Demotion, suspension without pay or termination for cause; or

2. Work assignments or conditions of work that violate statute or policy. However, grievances alleging unlawful discrimination or harassment will be processed under MTSU Policy I:01:22 Discrimination and Harassment-Complaint and Investigation Procedure.

C. For purposes of this policy, the term "working days" refers to Monday through Friday; official MTSU holidays shall not be included as "working days."

IV. GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE

A. General Provisions

1. So long as it does not interfere with the normal workflow of MTSU, grievants shall be given reasonable opportunity to pursue grievances during their assigned work time. The parties to the grievance proceeding will be given access to all persons, places and official records for information necessary to the determination and processing of the grievance with specified time limits.

2. The President may grant reasonable extensions of the applicable time limit at each stage of the procedure upon the timely showing of good cause. The request for an extension must be in writing. The approval or denial of the request shall also be in writing.

3. A grievance can be withdrawn in writing at any stage of the process.

4. Once a final determination is made on a grievance, the grievant may not later challenge the same employment concern in an attempt to gain a more favorable outcome.

5. Grievances that are processed through all steps of this process are appealable to the Chancellor of the Board of Regents only where they fall within the parameters set out in MTSU Policy I:02:02 Appeals and Appearances Before the Board.

6. HRS shall be responsible for maintaining all materials produced during the grievance process, and for facilitating the routing process.

7. No employee shall retaliate or discriminate against another employee who utilizes or otherwise participates in this process. In addition, no employee shall coerce another employee to interfere with the action of a grievant's attempt to file a grievance. Administrative, academic, and supervisory personnel are also responsible for ensuring that the employee is free from retaliation, coercion, and/or discrimination arising from the grievant's filing or intent to file a grievance. Employees using or involved in the grievance procedure shall be entitled to pursue their grievances without fear, restraint, interference, discrimination, or reprisal.

B. Time for Filing

A grievance must be initiated in the manner set forth below within fifteen (15) working days after the grievant receives notice or becomes aware of the action that is the basis for the grievance. If the grievant is not satisfied with the decision at any step, he/she must carry the grievance forward to the next step within fifteen (15) working days after receiving the written decision. If the grievant does not carry the grievance forward within fifteen (15) working days, the grievance procedure shall be terminated and the grievance disposed of in accordance with the last written decision.

C. Initial Review by HRS

Within five (5) working days of receipt of a grievance, HRS, in consultation with the Office of the University Counsel, will conduct a facial review of the grievance to ensure that the grievance was timely filed and that the employment action stated therein is subject to this grievance procedure. In the event that HRS determines that, on its face, the grievance is untimely or that this process is not available for the challenged employment action, HRS shall dismiss the grievance and shall inform the employee and his/her supervisor in writing.

Other than the review of the grievance described above, HRS shall not conduct any further review of the grievance or evaluate the factual merits of the grievance. In the event that there is question as to the timeliness of the grievance or whether the challenged employment action is subject to a grievance under this procedure, HRS in its discretion may require the grievant to provide additional details.

If an grievant attempts to bring a grievance under this policy and it is determined by HRS that this policy does not apply to that grievance, the grievant may continue to pursue his/her grievance under such other policy as may be applicable provided that the grievance was timely filed pursuant to either the time limitations set forth above or those set forth in the applicable grievance policy.

D. Testimony, Witnesses and Representation

At every step, the grievant may testify and present witnesses and materials in support of his/her position. The testimony of an employee, given either on his/her own behalf or as a witness for another employee, will not subject any employee to retaliatory action. At every step, the grievant may be represented by another employee of MTSU ("employee representative"). However, this individual may act only as a consultant for the grievant and not as an advocate for the grievant. At the discretion of the committee chair or hearing officer, additional employee representatives may be allowed to attend the employee committee hearing conducted as the final step.

E. Steps of Review

Step 1--Immediate Supervisor:

1. Within fifteen (15) working days after the grievant receives notice or becomes aware of the action that is the basis for the grievance, the grievant must complete a Grievance Form, which may be obtained at his/her work site or from HRS, submit it to HRS and provide a copy to his/her immediate supervisor.

2. HRS shall determine that the grievance is appropriate for processing pursuant to this policy and has been timely filed as set forth in Section VI(C) above.

3. Within fifteen (15) working days after receipt of the Grievance Form, the immediate supervisor and the grievant shall meet and discuss the grievance in a face-to-face meeting.

4. The supervisor shall complete a written decision with specific reasons stated for the decision within fifteen (15) working days after the face-to-face meeting. If the supervisor fails to respond or if the decision is not satisfactory to the grievant, the grievant may carry the grievance forward to Step 2.

5. The supervisor shall forward a copy of his/her written decision, as well as all documents or other evidence received or considered by the supervisor to HRS.

Step 2--Next Higher Level of Management (Vice President):

1. Within fifteen (15) working days after receiving the written decision at Step 1, if the grievant is not satisfied with the result of Step 1, the grievant must notify HRS that he/she wants further review. Within fifteen (15) working days after receiving notice that the grievant wants further review, HRS will forward the decision and materials from Step 1 and schedule a face-to-face meeting for the Vice President, or his/her designee, and the grievant to discuss the grievance.

2. Within fifteen (15) working days after the face-to-face meeting, the Vice President will issue a written decision that includes specific reasons for the decision.

3. The Vice President shall forward a copy of his/her written decision, as well as all documents or other evidence received or considered by the Vice President, including the information provided to the Vice President following the supervisor hearing, to HRS.

Step 3--Hearing:

1. Within fifteen (15) working days after receiving the written decision at Step 2, a dissatisfied grievant can request a hearing by notifying HRS of such request in writing. Under TENN. CODE ANN. § 49-8-117(b)(3) the type of hearing provided under this policy varies depending on the type of grievance being pursued by the support staff grievant.

a. If the grievance concerns a demotion, suspension without pay, or termination, the grievant may elect a hearing before an employee grievance committee or a hearing held pursuant to the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act ("TUAPA"), TENN. CODE ANN. § 4-5-101 et seq. The grievant's written request for a hearing should indicate the type of hearing desired.

b. If the grievance concerns any other work assignment or condition of work that the grievant contends violates statute or policy, other than grievances relating to harassment or discrimination (which must proceed under MTSU Policy I:01:22), the grievant may request a hearing before an employee grievance committee.

2. All hearings held pursuant to this policy shall be conducted in accordance with the hearing procedures set forth below.

Step 4–Review by the President:

The chair of the grievance committee or hearing officer shall provide its/his/her decision to HRS which shall promptly forward it to the President. The decision is subject to review by the President, who may adopt the decision, in whole or in part, or may arrive at a different conclusion.

F. Hearing Procedures

1. Committee Hearings

In the event that the grievant requests a hearing before a panel of employees, the Grievance Committee Process set forth in MTSU Policy IV:07:11 Employee Grievance/Complaint Procedures shall apply.

2. Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act Hearings

Hearings conducted pursuant to the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, TENN. CODE ANN. § 4-5-101 et seq. shall be heard by (i) a hearing officer or administrative judge employed by the Administrative Division of the Secretary of State's Office, (ii) a hearing officer or judge designated by MTSU from the administrative professional staff, or (iii) a hearing committee appointed by the President from the administrative professional staff and/or appropriate employees. MTSU has sole discretion to decide whether to exercise option (i), (ii) or (iii) above.

Hearing officers shall normally be appointed by the President from the administrative or professional staff of MTSU. Upon request from the President, the TBR Chancellor may appoint a hearing officer in any case, either from within or outside MTSU.

Contested cases may also be conducted by an administrative judge from the Administrative Procedures Division of the Office of the Secretary of State. MTSU may submit a request for an administrative judge to the Office of General Counsel.

All proceedings under the TUAPA shall be conducted according to the parameters set forth at Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-301 et seq., and MTSU Policy 1:01:19 Procedures for Personnel Cases Subject to the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Attorneys' fees and costs shall not be recoverable by the prevailing party. The grievant shall bear the burden of proof.

Revisions: July 1, 2011 (original).

Cross-references: TENN. CODE ANN. § 49-8-117; MTSU Policies I:01:22 Discrimination and Harassment-Complaint and Investigation Procedure; I:02:02 Appeals and Appearances Before the Board; Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act; T.C.A. § 4-5-101 et seq; MTSU Policy No. IV:07:11 Employee Grievance/Complaint Procedures; Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-301 et seq; MTSU Policy 1:01:19 Procedures for Personnel Cases Subject to the TUAPA.