University Staff Grievance Policy

  • Initiator:
  • Robin Van Harpen, Vice Chancellor, Finance & Administrative Affairs
  • Responsible Party:
  • Department of Human Resources
  • Classified Staff Council

1. Purpose

To establish a grievance procedure as a problem solving mechanism for University Staff with an expectation of continued employment who wish to appeal working conditions, discipline, layoff or dismissal from UWM.

2. Policy Background

Wis. Stat. § 36.115(2) requires the Board of Regents to develop personnel systems that are separate and distinct from the personnel system under Wis. Stat. Chapter 230. Effective July 1, 2015, the grievance procedures found at Chapter ER 46 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code and any procedures established by the Office of State Employment Relations are no longer applicable to current UW System University Staff employees. Therefore, this policy and these procedures provide grievance procedures for University Staff employees that hold positions with an expectation of continued employment at UWM.

Grievance procedures for faculty and academic staff are set forth in Wis. Admin. Code Chapters UWS 6 and 13; UWM Faculty Policies and Procedures Chapter 5, and Academic Staff Personnel Policies and Procedures UWM Chapter 112.

3. Definitions

Chancellor’s Designee means an administrative officer with the authority to hear and adjust personnel and policy actions when they have been grieved through this policy. At UWM the Chancellor’s designee for University Staff grievances is the Employment Relations Coordinator.

Dismissal means separation from employment for disciplinary or performance reasons.

Discipline means any action taken by UWM with respect to a University Staff member with an expectation of continued employment which has the effect, in whole or in part, of a correction of undesirable behavior.

Grievance Procedure means the process through which certain working conditions, discipline, or dismissal of a UWM University Staff member with an expectation of continued employment can be appealed.

Impartial Hearing Officer means a grievance review committee established through shared governance, an arbitrator employed by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC), or an arbitrator from a WERC or UWSA roster of neutral decision makers. At UWM, under the Standard Procedure, the Impartial Hearing Officer is the University Staff Council Grievance Committee.

Just Cause means a standard that is applied to determine the appropriateness of a disciplinary action. The elements of determining whether just cause exists include:

  • Whether the employee had notice of reasonable workplace expectations and the potential consequences if those expectations were not met;
  • Whether a full, fair and complete investigation was undertaken by the employer before discipline or discharge to determine whether the employee violated expectations;
  • Whether the employer obtained substantial evidence of the employee’s guilt;
  • Whether workplace expectations were applied equitably and without discrimination; and
  • Whether the degree of discipline imposed was reasonably related to the seriousness of the
    employee’s offense and the employee’s past record.

Layoff means separation from employment for reasons of budget or due to the discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or reduction of a program.

Nongrievable Issue means an issue that is not subject to this grievance procedure. At UWM, nongrievable issues include:

  • Oral warning or oral reprimand;
  • Termination of an appointment for temporary employment;
  • Release from probation;
  • Any matter alleging sexual harassment or other sexual discrimination; or matters alleging harassment and/or discrimination on the basis of protected class (e.g. age, race, creed, color, sex, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or arrest and conviction record) whose complaints are appropriate for the procedures of the UWM Office of Equity/Diversity Services, and other state and federal laws;
  • Performance evaluations.

University Staff are members of the university workforce that contribute in a broad array of positions in support of the university’s mission and are not exempt (e.g. hourly¹) from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

University Staff Council Grievance Committee is a Standing Committee of the University Staff Council, consisting of one representative from each employee group represented on the University Staff Council. Three additional members shall carry “replacement status” for hearing grievances in the event of an absence or conflict of interest of one of the standing committee members. Service on the University Staff Council Grievance Committee will be conducted without loss of pay and Committee members will be released from their regular duties to participate.

¹ All FLSA exempt employees holding positions in the State of Wisconsin classified service as of June 30, 2015 are given the choice to remain in the University Staff for as long as they retain their existing positions, or to be voluntarily reassigned to a position that UWM has designated as either an Academic Staff or Limited Appointment position – see UPS Operational Policy TR 3

4. Policy and Practice

UWM encourages informal dispute resolution, which can include informal discussions, consultation with the Office of the Ombuds, the Employee Assistance Program, or others. The grievance procedure should be viewed as one of several dispute resolution options.

University Staff serving a probationary period do not have the right to file grievances on layoff or release from probation.

Discipline or dismissal of a University Staff member with an expectation of continued employment may be imposed only for just cause.

In cases when an employee has been accused of sexual misconduct, steps will be taken to ensure that UWM complies with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and with applicable Board of Regents policies.

The University Staff Council Grievance Committee will be provided with copies of letters of discipline issued to University Staff employees.

Grievances shall be submitted on a form provided by the employer. Only one subject matter may be covered in any one grievance. Each grievance shall describe the facts upon which the grievance is based and the relief sought by the employee.

The employee and the appropriate grievance step respondent may agree in writing to extend the time limits in any step of the grievance procedure. Parties are strongly encouraged to resolve situations prior to a grievance being filed, but upon filing, parties are encouraged to resolve grievances at early stages of grievance procedures.

UWM is prohibited from retaliating against a grievant for filing a grievance or against a representative or witness who participates, or is scheduled to participate, in grievance proceedings.

At any stage of the process, the employee may choose to submit a written statement in lieu of participating in a grievance hearing. The written statement will be considered in the same manner as an in-person hearing.

The grievant has the burden of proving his/her case by a preponderance of the evidence, except in the case of a discipline or dismissal, for which the University will have the burden of proving just cause by a preponderance of the evidence.

Grievances shall be pursued in accordance with the following steps and time limits.

  • Dismissal appeals will begin at Step Two, as outlined below, and may proceed to Step Three.
  • Layoff and discipline grievances will begin at Step One and may proceed no further than Step Two.
  • Working condition grievances may be processed through Step One only.
  • A grievant eligible for the Optional Procedure my choose to use the Standard Procedure instead, but must choose one or the other. The two Step Two procedures are mutually exclusive.

Step One:

If attempts to resolve a matter through discussion between an employee and supervisor or other dispute resolution methods are not successful, a grievance may be filed. Grievances shall be filed with the employee’s department head, director, dean, or equivalent administrator no later than 30 calendar days from the date the grievant first became aware, or should have become aware (with the exercise of reasonable diligence), of the matter grieved. Within 30 calendar days of receipt of the written grievance, the department head, director, dean, or equivalent administrator will meet with the grievant to hear the grievance.

Grievance hearings may be conducted by teleconference or video conference.

The grievant shall receive a written decision no later than seven calendar days after this meeting. If the subject of the grievance is not discipline or layoff, there will be no further opportunity for appeal.

Step Two (Standard Procedure):

When an employee has filed a grievance alleging that a discipline decision was not based on just cause and is dissatisfied with the Step One decision, the employee may appeal the decision to the University Staff Council Grievance Committee.

To file at Step Two, the grievant must inform the Chancellor’s designee of his or her desire to appeal within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of the answer in Step One. An appeal of a dismissal will begin at Step Two and must be filed within thirty (30) days of the date of written notice of dismissal.

At issue before the University Staff Council Grievance Committee will be whether just cause for the discipline or discharge exists. For cases involving layoff, the issue before the University Staff Council Grievance Committee will be whether the applicable layoff procedure was followed.

By unanimous decision, the University Staff Council Grievance Committee may reject the hearing of a grievance for good and sufficient reasons. It will inform the grievant of the determination not to hear the grievance.

The grievant may make one preemptory challenge and request a substitute on the hearing committee. Other members of the University Staff Council Grievance Committee may recuse themselves, or be recused by the University Staff Council Grievance Committee for a conflict of interest with the grievant or the subject matter of the grievance.

The University Staff Council Grievance Committee will be charged with hearing the case within 30 days of the filing, and responding within 14 calendar days of the hearing. The deadlines may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties with Committee approval. The hearings may be recorded by mutual agreement of the parties with Committee approval.

The grievant shall have the right to be represented at the hearing, and shall have the right to offer witnesses. The hearing shall be closed unless it is opened by mutual agreement of the parties with Committee approval. Participation in the hearing will be without loss of pay.

Grievance hearings may be conducted by teleconference or video conference.

The University Staff Council Grievance Committee will make a written report and recommendations to the Chancellor’s designee within 14 calendar days of the hearing. Within twenty (20) days of receipt of the report and recommendations, the Chancellor’s designee shall issue a statement accepting or rejecting the findings of the University Staff Council Grievance Committee and explaining how the recommendations may be implemented. The Chancellor’s designee may comment upon, explain or reject the recommendations of the University Staff Council Grievance Committee, but will convey the Committee’s recommendations as written along with his or her own determination.

Step Two (Optional Procedure for Certain University Staff):

An employee who held permanent status in State employment prior to July 1, 2015 and according to the provisions of Wis. Stat. § 36.115(6) retains Wisconsin Statute Chapter 230 appeal rights, instead of using the Standard Procedure may appeal a disciplinary action (suspension, demotion, or reduction in base pay), layoff or discharge using the following Optional Procedure. Such a grievance may be appealed directly from Step One to the Chancellor’s designee within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of the answer in Step One. The Chancellor’s designee will meet with the grievant to hear the grievance within 30 days of the filing, and will answer within 14 calendar days of the hearing. The deadlines may be extended by mutual agreement.

The grievant shall have the right to be represented at the hearing. The hearing shall be closed unless it is opened by mutual consent.

Thereafter, if the employee is still dissatisfied with the decision as issued by the Chancellor’s designee, the employee may appeal the decision to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) or its successors or assigns under Wis. Stat. § 230.44(1)(c) within thirty (30) calendar days from the date of the decision being appealed. If an appeal to WERC is filed, no further steps in the grievance process will apply. The decision of the WERC may be subject to judicial review, but no appeal to the UW Board of Regents is available.

Step Three – UW Board of Regents Review:

For cases of dismissal only, a grievant that is dissatisfied with the Step Two (Standard Procedure) decision may appeal the decision to the UW Board of Regents. If the matter is not appealed to the Board of Regents within 30 calendar days, the grievance will be considered ineligible for Board review. Upon receiving an appeal, the President of the Board shall refer the appeal to the Board of Regents Personnel Matters Review Committee. In accordance with Board of Regents Bylaws, the Committee shall conduct a review based on the record of the matter created by the evidence collected, the recommendation of the University Staff Council Grievance Committee and the decision of the Chancellor’s designee. It shall prepare recommended findings and a decision, and shall transmit them to the full Board for final action. The full Board may confirm the Committee’s recommendations, the Chancellor’s designee’s decision, or it may direct a different decision. No further appeal shall be available to the parties.

5. Contact Information

For information about the operation of the grievance procedure or how to appeal an action, contact the Personnel Representative for your respective school, college, division or department, the University Staff Council, or Employment Relations in the Department of Human Resources.

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