Chapter 28 – Conflict Management Resources for University Staff
In order to maintain and promote a fair and productive work environment for all University staff, the University encourages the active resolution of workplace conflicts. Staff members and supervisors are encouraged to maintain and utilize open communications to promote and maintain a civil and humane workplace. The University also provides a variety of mechanisms to facilitate the management and constructive resolution of conflict situations involving staff when workplace conflicts occur.
The University encourages the resolution of conflict at the earliest opportunity, or the lowest step in whatever dispute resolution process is used. Both formal procedures and informal conflict resolution mechanisms are provided. Staff are encouraged to use informal resolution whenever appropriate. When staff use multiple forums to raise non-grievable issues (as defined by the applicable grievance procedures), the University may, upon consultation with the staff member, designate one to be the primary forum appropriate for final resolution of the situation.
Together, the resources listed are intended to provide fair, thoughtful, and effective means to manage and/or resolve conflict situations, and thereby promote the work of the University. Working independently or collaboratively, these mechanisms constitute the system of conflict management for University staff (note references to University policies):
- Human Resource Offices — provide information and interventions through Human Resource representatives at the department, college/division, or central administration level. For example, unit Human Resource representatives may provide assistance in a wide range of employment and related issues.
- Administrative Review — provides a mechanism for the review of employment-related actions or inactions at both departmental and collegiate/division levels, with participation and input from University Human Resource offices. Administrative review may be used for issues not subject to a formal grievance process, including but not limited to disputes over the application of University policy, ethics complaints, salary administration, and/or probationary dismissals. Administrative review may also be used as a less formal alternative for issues covered by one of the grievance processes. (See III-28.3 Merit System Member Grievance Procedure and III-28.4 Grievance Procedures for Professional and Scientific Personnel.)
- University Ombudsperson — provides an informal, confidential, neutral, and independent dispute resolution resource. The mission of the Ombudsperson is to ensure that all members of the University community receive fair and equitable treatment within the University system. (See VI-2 Office of the University Ombudsperson.)
- Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) — provides both formal and informal processes to address complaints of discrimination, including, but not limited to, racial discrimination, sexual harassment, discrimination based upon disabilities, consensual relationships, and/or other violations of the University Policy on Human Rights (II-3). OIE also receives complaints under the University Policy on Violence (II-10). (See also Part II. Community Policies.)
- Classification Appeal — provides a formal appeal process for the denial of an individual reclassification request. (Professional and Scientific staff, see III-3.4; Merit staff, see Iowa Administrative Code, Regents 681, Merit Rule 3.127 (19A).)
- Grievance Procedures — provide formal grievance processes for the review and resolution of certain employment issues. Following a series of steps, third-party arbitration may be used to resolve the issue. Issues subject to grievance may include violations of University policy or Regent Merit System Rules, and disciplinary action. (Please refer to the relevant grievance procedures: Merit staff: III-28.3; Professional and Scientific staff: III-28.4; staff nurses and allied health professionals should refer to the UI Health Care Employee Manual available through The Point or from a local Human Resource Representative.)
Together the resources outlined above constitute the University Conflict Management System for staff. In support of an integrated approach to conflict management, these resources may work collaboratively to resolve conflict situations. The University, however, reserves the right, upon consultation with the staff member, to designate one to be the primary forum appropriate for resolution of non-grievable issues, as defined by the applicable grievance procedures. These resources and procedures are available to all University staff, except where governed by or reserved as exclusive to an overriding University or Board of Regents, State of Iowa, policy. For more information, please refer to the specific policies or offices cited above.
If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to utilize these resources, please contact Faculty and Staff Disability Services, 121 University Services Building, in advance.
- Definition. The Administrative Review provides to all University staff a forum for review of and response to concerns/conflicts related to conditions of employment, except for those reserved for an alternate forum or procedure. Examples of where Administrative Review may be applicable include: reporting ethics policy violations, dismissal during a probationary period, denial of career status, salary administration, or other forms of action or inaction related to University policy application and/or interpretation by a supervisor. Examples of issues reserved for alternate forums or procedures would include sexual harassment and research misconduct.
- When a staff member identifies a concern or conflict, they initiate administrative review by requesting a face-to-face conference to discuss the issues with either the immediate supervisor or unit Human Resource representative. The staff member must identify the request for a conference as their request to initiate administrative review under this procedure. In order to preserve any rights to a formal grievance process, absent extenuating circumstances, the individual must have initiated the administrative review within 15 calendar days of the discovery of the event giving rise to the conflict, but not later than one year from the occurrence of the event that gave rise to the conflict. At the initial conference, the participants will agree upon a time frame for a response from the immediate supervisor or unit Human Resource representative regarding the identified concern/conflict. The supervisor or unit Human Resource representative will consult with other departmental administrative staff, as appropriate and available, and respond to the employee.
- If the conflict is not resolved at the unit level, the staff member may proceed to the college/division level. The individual will need to fill out an Administrative Review (AR) form within 10 days following the response to paragraph (1) above to proceed to the next level. The staff member will complete the top portion of the Administrative Review form and share with the collegiate/division administrator or Human Resource representative.
- Review and discussions at the college/division level will involve the Dean/VP/Director or designee and may include input from University Human Resources to resolve the concern/conflict. If a face-to-face conference is determined by the collegiate area to be helpful in the resolution of the issue due to the nature of the review, this will be scheduled. The participants will agree upon a time frame for a response not to exceed 30 calendar days.
- Upon completion of the review the collegiate/division administrator or Human Resource representative will complete the Administrative Review form and send a copy with the decision/rationale and/or resolution to University Human Resources, to Employee and Labor Relations, and to the employee. The collegiate level review/response is considered a final position and end to the administrative review process.
- In the event that the employee is a covered staff member within the meaning of the Grievance Procedures for Professional and Scientific Personnel (see III-28.4 below) and the issue is within the scope of those procedures, the individual can request to proceed to Step 3 of the grievance process within 7 calendar days of the response at the collegiate/division level. However, absent extenuating circumstances, the individual must have initiated the administrative review within 15 calendar days of the discovery of the event giving rise to the conflict, but not later than 1 year from the occurrence of the event that gave rise to the conflict.
- The UI staff member utilizing the Administrative Review process will be provided a reasonable amount of release time from work duties without a loss of pay to attend meetings under the Administrative Review procedure. Release time must be scheduled with the approval of the appropriate supervisor and shall not interfere with the employee's work responsibilities.
- A UI staff person can bring another employee as a witness observer or support person to meetings as scheduled under this procedure. If a witness observer or support person is a university staff member, and if such meetings occur during their normal duty hours, the witness observer or support person will be provided a reasonable amount of release time from work duties without loss of pay. Release time for this purpose must be scheduled with the approval of the appropriate supervisor and shall not interfere with the employee's work responsibilities. Legal counsel is not appropriate for this process.
- The confidentiality of individual specific employment information will be maintained at all times.
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to participate in all University of Iowa–sponsored programs. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this process, please contact your department Human Resources representative in advance.
Note: The University follows the Grievance Procedures established by the Board of Regents as set forth in IAC 681-12.9 (19A), 681-12.10 (19A); 681-12.11 (19A); 3.127 (19A); 3.128 (19A). The following is a reproduction of those sections.
- Merit system employee grievances. For purposes of grievance procedure only, "employee" means a merit system employee who has completed the six-month probationary period and is presently employed, or has been dismissed within the previous one-year period.
Disputes or complaints by permanent employees regarding the interpretation or application of institutional rules governing terms of employment or working conditions (other than general wage levels) or the provisions of the merit system rules, or other than disputes whose resolution is provided for in the Iowa Administrative Code 3.127(19A) and 3.128(8A), will be resolved in accordance with this procedure, which has been approved by the merit system director in accordance with 3.129(1). Employees in an initial probationary period will be allowed access to the grievance procedure with the right to appeal orally at Step 1 and in writing at Steps 2 and 3. The University may permit an oral presentation at Steps 2 and 3 if deemed necessary.
- Grievance procedure.
- An employee who has a grievance and wishes to use the grievance procedure must initiate Step 1 within 21 calendar days from the date of the discovery of the grievance. No grievance may be filed later than one year from the occurrence of the event which gave rise to the grievance.
- An aggrieved employee has the right to be accompanied by no more than two co-workers throughout the grievance procedure. The names of such individuals will be noted on written grievances and each subsequent request for review.
- An aggrieved employee is allowed reasonable time off from regular University duties without loss of pay to investigate and process a grievance. The immediate supervisor of the employee makes suitable arrangements.
- The aggrieved employee may also request released time from work without loss of pay for such co-worker(s) to investigate a grievance at any time following the oral presentation in Step 1 of the grievance procedure, except that the aggrieved employee and co-worker(s) are allowed up to one hour off from regular University duties without loss of pay to confer before any grievance hearing held under these procedures.
Any request for time off for a grievant's co-worker(s) is made in writing to their supervisor(s), with an informational copy to the Director of Employee and Labor Relations, and should contain an indication of the reason released time is necessary. The supervisor(s) shall provide a reasonable bona fide amount of released time for the investigation, such time being scheduled as soon as reasonably possible and preferably within the same work day, consistent with the normal functioning of the employee's department.
Furthermore, it is a violation of institutional policy to restrain, interfere, coerce, or discriminate against an employee acting as a grievant's designee in accordance with this procedure. On the other hand, an employee acting as a grievant's designee shall not use time provided for grievance investigation for other matters and will conduct the investigation with dispatch.
- A written grievance will contain a brief description of the complaint or dispute and the pertinent circumstances and dates of occurrence. It will specify the University or merit system rule which has allegedly been violated and will state the corrective action desired by the employee.
- Presentations, reviews, investigations and hearings held under this procedure may be conducted during working hours, and employees who participate in such meetings will not suffer loss of pay as a result thereof.
- If an employee does not appeal a decision rendered at any step of this procedure within the time prescribed by these rules, the decision becomes final. If a University representative does not reply to an employee's grievance or appeal within the prescribed time, the employee may proceed to the next step. With the consent of both parties, any of the time limits prescribed in these rules may be extended.
The grievance procedure consists of the following four steps:
Step 1. An aggrieved employee states in writing that a grievance is being presented and then presents the grievance orally, stating the pertinent circumstances of the complaint or dispute and the actions requested, to the employee's immediate supervisor. The supervisor responds in writing to the grievance within 7 calendar days. In such writing, the supervisor states the supervisor's understanding of the grievance, the response to the grievance, and justification for the response. If a satisfactory settlement is not reached, the employee has 7 calendar days to request Step 2.
Step 2. If the employee requests Step 2, a written grievance is forwarded by the aggrieved employee to the administrative head of the unit or department within 7 calendar days. The administrative head of the unit or department or designee has 10 calendar days to reply in writing. If a satisfactory settlement is not reached, the employee has 7 calendar days to request Step 3.
Step 3. If the employee decides to request Step 3, the written grievance is forwarded by the aggrieved employee to the head of major functional or administrative unit of the university with a copy sent to the Senior Human Resources Leader for the administrative unit. A meeting shall be held within 10 calendar days after the grievance has been submitted to the head of a major functional or administrative unit. The University may be represented by the Senior Human Resources Leader for the administrative unit or designee, the head of a major functional or administrative unit or designee, and the administrative personnel involved in Steps 1 and 2. The aggrieved employee has the right to be accompanied by no more than two co-workers. The head of the administrative unit or their designee should respond in writing within 7 calendar days to proceed to Step 4.
Step 4. If the employee is not satisfied with the decision rendered under Step 3, a hearing before an arbitrator may be requested within 7 calendar days after receiving the Step 3 decision. Such a request will be in writing and include all of the information included in the initial grievance and subsequent appeals, all of the decision related thereto, and any other pertinent information the employee wishes to submit.
The appeal will be signed and dated by the employee and will be directed to the Merit System Director, Board of Regents, State of Iowa, 11260 Aurora Avenue, Urbandale, Iowa, 50322-7905, who will arrange for a hearing before an arbitrator. The arbitrator will be expected to render a decision within 30 calendar days following the conclusion of the hearing.
- Appeals. The Board of Regents will approve the use of a single arbitrator in hearing an appeal. The selection of the arbitrator shall be made from a panel of arbitrators as referred from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service or the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board. Fees charged by the selected arbitrator will be shared equally by the employee initiating the appeal and the University.
The arbitrator will hear a dispute appealed to the last step of the grievance procedure and render a decision thereon subject only to review by the courts.
The arbitrator establishes procedures for the conduct of the hearing in a fair and informal manner that affords each party reasonable and ample opportunity for case presentation and to rebut the presentation of the other. The arbitrator will be expected to render a decision to the involved parties and to the Board of Regents within the prescribed time.
- Purpose. This procedure has been established to provide a formal process to resolve qualifying disputes without retaliation against the staff member or members. If a staff member prefers to use an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, please refer to III-28.1 Policy on Conflict Management Resources.
- Definitions. As used in this policy:
- "Administrator" means the person or persons designated by the President to perform the functions assigned by this policy to the administrator. (At the present time, the duties of the administrator are assigned to the Chief Human Resources Office, or designee.)
- "Hearing officer" means the person selected as provided in paragraph i of this policy.
- "Reviewing officer" means the Associate Vice President and Senior Advisor to the President, except that in cases in which the grievant holds a position in the Office of the President, the reviewing officer will be the Executive Vice President and Provost.
- "Covered staff member" means an employee with career status holding an appointment in a professional and scientific classification, excluding staff nurses and allied health professionals whose terms of employment are established in the UI Health Care Employee Manual (available through The Point or from a local Human Resource Representative). A listing of covered Professional and Scientific classifications is available on the web at: https://hris.uiowa.edu/CC_Redesign/driver.php?ACTION=HOME.
- "Grievance" is defined as an allegation or complaint involving a perceived harm or injury and consistent with the scope of the policy outlined below.
- Scope of policy. Except as provided in subparagraph c(4) below, this policy establishes procedures which a covered staff member, as defined in paragraph b above, must follow in seeking resolution of a grievance concerning the staff member which:
- involves improper discrimination prohibited by the Constitution, statute, or University policy (such as the University Policy on Human Rights); however, issues of discrimination reserved for the jurisdiction of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission may only be processed through Step 3 of this procedure;
- involves the wrongful interpretation or application of established University, collegiate, and departmental policies governing terms and condition of employment;
- results in disciplinary action, including discipline, demotion, or dismissal; or
- for a staff member in term status, results in termination before the end of the staff member's term of appointment, when the action is based on unsatisfactory performance or on University-related misconduct.
- Other matters involving covered staff members beyond those specified in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3), or (4) above for term staff, or matters involving staff members not covered by this procedure (probationary, temporary, and other term-status issues) are not subject to this procedure, but can be addressed through Administrative Review provided in III-28.2. University policies on human rights (II-3), on sexual harassment and sexual misconduct (II-4), and on consensual relationships (II-5) also provide alternate complaint procedures available to all staff.
- Disputes regarding whether an issue qualifies under the scope of this policy as defined above will be subject to administrative review beginning with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, and concluding with the Reviewing Officer as defined in this procedure, as final and binding.
- Rights of staff members.
- No retaliatory action shall be taken against a staff member because they utilized these regulations or were a witness in a proceeding.
- A covered staff member who utilizes this procedure will be released without loss of pay for a reasonable amount of time, if needed during working hours, to attend the meetings provided under paragraphs f and g of this procedure. In addition, the staff member may be released without loss of pay, not to exceed a total of eight hours, in preparing for the hearing provided under paragraph g of this procedure. Release time for this purpose must be scheduled with the approval of the appropriate supervisor and shall not interfere with the individual employee's work responsibilities. Denial of reasonable time to prepare for a grievance is grievable under paragraph c(2) of this policy.
- The staff member may be accompanied at any step of this procedure by a witness observer or support person. If a staff member, this person will be released from duty without loss of pay to attend the meeting during scheduled work hours. Such release time shall be scheduled with their supervisor so as not to interfere with their normal work responsibilities.
- The staff member may be accompanied by legal counsel of their choosing in lieu of a witness observer or support person in all proceedings provided for in this procedure after Step One.
- A letter of discipline issued more than one year before the occurrence giving rise to the grievance is not available for use as evidence against the staff member in the grievance procedure unless that staff member has been subject to further disciplinary action subsequent to receipt of the letter or unless the discipline reflects a repeated pattern of behavior.
- As provided by state law, a staff member may have access to their personnel file.
- Time periods.
- Calendar days will be used in computing any period of time prescribed or allowed by this policy, and the day of the act or event from which the designated period of time begins to run shall not be included in the computation. For example, the day a grievant receives a response from an administrator will not be counted as part of the time period. The last day of the period so computed shall be included, unless University administrative offices are not open on that day, in which event the period runs until the end of the next day on which University administrative offices are open.
- A staff member must initiate a request for administrative review (see III-28.2) or file a grievance under this policy within 15 days of the staff member's discovery of the action or non-action giving rise to the grievance. After that time, any request must reflect extenuating circumstances, but in any event, the grievance must be filed no later than 12 months from the date of the action or non-action of which the staff member complains. Questions of timeliness will be addressed as those relative to the scope of the policy, as outlined in paragraph c(6) of this procedure.
- At any time during the grievance process, the parties may agree in writing to mediate the dispute, through a mutually agreeable resource. Such agreement shall suspend the deadlines for processing outlined in paragraph f of this procedure for a period of 30 days, or other mutually agreed-upon period of time, in order to pursue a mediated settlement of the dispute. In the event the mediation is unsuccessful, the formal procedures will resume at the point at which they were suspended for mediation.
- If the grievant fails to act within the time period specified in this policy, the grievance shall be deemed to have been satisfied by the administrative response and the grievance may not be raised again.
- If the University fails to act within the time periods specified in this policy, the grievance shall be deemed denied and the grievant may pursue the grievance at the next step of these procedures. The time limit governing the grievant's next step shall run from the latest time the omitted action should have been taken.
- Time limits may be waived in writing by mutual consent of the parties.
- Pre-hearing procedures.
- Step One. A grievance must begin with a submission of a written request for a conference (electronic or hard copy) sent by the grieving staff member to the person to whom the staff member is immediately responsible. The request will describe the matter about which the grievant seeks a remedy consistent with the scope of the policy (paragraph c). Within 10 days of receipt of the written request, the immediate supervisor will confer with the grievant, and the parties will seek to find a mutually satisfactory remedy to the grievance. If such a remedy is not found, the immediate supervisor will, within seven days thereafter, give a written response to the grievant.
- Step Two. If the response at Step One fails to resolve the matter, the grievant, within seven days of the Step One response, may begin Step Two by filing a written grievance (electronic or hard copy) with the executive officer (e.g., head, chair, or director) of the department in which the grievant is employed. Step Two is waived if the person to whom the grievant is immediately responsible is also the executive officer of the department in which the grievant is employed. The written grievance will state with reasonable particularity:
Within 10 days of receiving the written grievance, the executive officer of the University department in which the staff member is employed will respond in writing to the grievant, stating with reasonable particularity their understanding of the facts. The written response also will state whether or not the requested remedy will be granted.
- the events concerning which the grievant feels aggrieved;
- the date or dates on which the events complained of occurred;
- the remedy requested; and
- include a copy of the response from Step One.
- Step Three. If the issue is not resolved at step 2 the grievant, within seven days of the receipt of that response, will file a request for review (electronic or hard copy) with the head of the major administrative unit in which the grievant is employed, e.g., with the dean, vice president, or director (or designee), as appropriate. The request for review will be accompanied by a copy of all materials required to be submitted in Step Two plus the written response from Step Two, if any. The head of the major administrative unit, or designee, will confer with the grievant within seven days of the filing of the request for review. At this time, both the grievant and the University will present all arguments and facts reasonably known at the time relevant to the grievance. Following the conference, the person reviewing the grievance shall have 10 days in which to respond in writing to the grievant.
- Request for hearing. If the issue is not resolved through the response from the head of the administrative unit, or designee, and the grievant wishes an advisory arbitration hearing, they may request one by filing, within 10 days of the receipt of such response, a request for hearing with the administrator (electronic or hard copy). The request will be accompanied by copies of all documents developed while the grievant proceeded from Step One through Step Three. Upon receipt of the request, the administrator will take the necessary steps to convene a hearing.
- Arbitrator. The administrator and the grievant will select the arbitrator. They may choose an arbitrator from within the University or from outside. If they do not agree on an arbitrator within 10 days of the request for a hearing, the administrator will seek a list of at least five persons who are skilled in the resolution of disputes dealing with professional staff in institutions of higher education from an appropriate dispute resolution service (e.g., American Arbitration Association, Iowa Public Employment Relations Board, or Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service). The parties will then select the arbitrator by alternately striking a single name until one name remains. The parties will decide who strikes first by flipping a coin. The grievant's department will pay the arbitrator's fee.
- Hearing. The arbitrator will conduct the arbitration hearing to assure that the grievant is accorded a full and fair hearing and all due process to which the grievant is entitled, according to the standards usually followed in arbitrations sanctioned by the American Arbitration Association.
- Scheduling the hearing. Within 14 days of the appointment of the hearing officer or as soon as reasonably practicable, the administrator shall notify the parties in writing of the time, date, and place of the hearing.
- Issue at hearing. The issue(s) at the hearing will be restricted to the issue(s) presented by the parties at Step Three. No later than one week prior to the hearing, the representatives for the grievant and the University shall meet to review to exchange all evidence relevant to the grievance that is available at that time through the exercise of reasonable diligence, and a list of potential witnesses. If not presented at the pre-hearing exchange, no additional argument or evidence shall be presented at hearing, unless the presenting party can prove that such information was not reasonably known prior to the hearing through the exercise of reasonable diligence.
- Record to be kept. Any party wishing a stenographic record shall make arrangements directly with a stenographer and shall notify the other parties of such arrangements in advance of the hearing. The requesting party or parties shall pay the cost of such record. If such stenographic record is agreed by the parties to be, or in appropriate cases determined by the arbitrator to be, the official record of the proceeding, it must be made available to the arbitrator and to the other party for inspection, at a time and place determined by the arbitrator. If no stenographic record is kept, a tape recording shall be made of the hearing, if requested by either of the parties, except that on order of the hearing officer, procedural matters may be discussed off the record. After the hearing has been completed, the tapes and all documents shall be turned over by the hearing officer to the administrator, who shall keep them. The tapes and documents will be available only to both parties and the reviewing officer. After all appeals related to the grievance have been completed, the administrator shall retain the record and documents in the University Human Resources Office for an appropriate period of time, generally not less than five years. The material will continue its status as personnel information in a confidential record and will be available only to the parties.
- Burden of proof.
- In cases in which a staff member has appealed a disciplinary action under c(3) or termination under c(4), the University shall have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it had just cause to take the action. The University will present evidence first.
- In all other claims, the grievant shall have the burden of proving that the action or non-action complained of is improper under one or more of the grounds established in paragraphs c(1) or (2) of this policy. The grievant will present evidence first.
- Hearing officer's written report. The hearing officer's written report shall be submitted to the reviewing officer as soon as reasonably possible, but not later than 30 days after the presentation of closing arguments. The report shall be confidential unless the parties mutually agree otherwise. The report shall include findings of fact, conclusions drawn from such findings, and the recommended action, if any. The reviewing officer shall distribute the report to the parties.
- Reviewing officer's review (see also III-31).
- Review. The hearing officer's report and recommendations and the record made in the case will be forwarded to the reviewing officer for review. There will be no oral argument before the reviewing officer, but either party may submit a brief in support of the party's position. Such briefs will be submitted to the reviewing officer and the other party within five days of the case being referred to the reviewing officer. The other party shall have five days to submit a response brief. If a response brief is submitted, the party who first submitted a brief will have five days to submit a rebuttal brief.
- Decision. After reviewing the report, recommendations, briefs (if any), and the record if deemed necessary, the reviewing officer will determine what administrative action, if any, shall be taken. In making a decision, the reviewing officer will give great weight to the recommendations made by the hearing officer and will not reverse the hearing officer's decision unless 1) the decision was unsupported by substantial evidence in the record made before the administrative hearing officer when that record is viewed as a whole; 2) the decision as a whole was unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, or characterized by an abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion; or 3) the procedures were not properly followed. The reviewing officer's written decision will constitute final institutional action, subject only to a decision by the Board of Regents to grant the staff member's request for review. (See III-31.)
- Within 30 days following the reviewing officer's decision, the grievant may contact the reviewing officer if the decision has not been fully implemented or if retaliation has taken place. Subsequent retaliation may be treated as a separate grievance.