28.4 Grievance Procedures for Professional and Scientific Personnel

(Regents amended 6/19/91; amended 7/1/99; 3/1/02; 2/16; 7/1/17)

Effective July 1, 2017, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version.

  1. 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.
  2. Definitions. As used in this policy:
    1. "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 Officer, or his or her designee.)
    2. "Hearing officer" means the person selected as provided in paragraph i of this policy.
    3. "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.
    4. "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.
    5. "Grievance" is defined as an allegation or complaint involving a perceived harm or injury and consistent with the scope of the policy outlined below.
  3. 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:
    1. 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;
    2. involves the wrongful interpretation or application of established University, collegiate, and departmental policies governing terms and condition of employment;
    3. results in disciplinary action, including discipline, demotion, or dismissal; or
    4. 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.
    5. 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 and on sexual harassment and consensual relationships also provide alternate complaint procedures available to all staff.
    6. 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.
  4. Rights of staff members.
    1. No retaliatory action shall be taken against a staff member because he or she utilized these regulations or was a witness in a proceeding.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. The staff member may be accompanied by legal counsel of his or her choosing in lieu of a witness observer or support person in all proceedings provided for in this procedure after Step One.
    5. 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.
    6. As provided by state law, a staff member may have access to his or her personnel file.
  5. Time periods.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Time limits may be waived in writing by mutual consent of the parties.
  6. Pre-hearing procedures.
    1. 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.
    2. 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 his or her understanding of the facts. The written response also will state whether or not the requested remedy will be granted.
      1. the events concerning which the grievant feels aggrieved;
      2. the date or dates on which the events complained of occurred;
      3. the remedy requested; and
      4. include a copy of the response from Step One.
    3. 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.
  7. 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, he or she 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.
  8. 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, 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.
  9. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Burden of proof.
      1. 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.
      2. 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.
    5. 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.
  10. Reviewing officer's review (see also III-31).
    1. 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.
    2. 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.)
    3. 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.