When a work-related issue cannot be resolved through discussions between the individuals concerned, the staff member may file a grievance. The grievance procedure is available to all staff members who have completed an initial six-month provisional period of employment. Staff members who have not completed an initial provisional period cannot file a grievance unless the issue involves alleged discrimination. Faculty and union-represented staff are not covered by this procedure. However, any staff member (including those represented by a union and faculty) may be subject to this procedure if they are named a respondent in the grievance.
Staff members may use the grievance procedure without fear of reprisal or retaliation. It is a clear violation of university policy for a supervisor to retaliate against a staff member who uses the grievance procedure.
The grievance procedure applies to problems involving employment (e.g., hiring, salary, job classification, promotion, discipline, probation and termination); failure to apply university policy; or any attribute covered by the university's statement of assurance.
If there is more than one grievant on a particular matter, each grievant is required to file a separate grievance. Staff members who wish to file a formal charge of sexual harassment should refer to the formal sexual harassment complaint procedure.
Staff members may have another university staff member or faculty member assist them in preparing a grievance statement or accompany them at any time during the grievance process. This individual can be from the staff member's department, Human Resources, Equal Opportunity Services, or a member of Staff Council or the Faculty Senate. Since the grievance procedure is provided for the internal resolution of problems and is not a legal forum, staff members may not be accompanied by outside counsel.
Information about the Staff Council Grievance Committee—founded to support and accompany staff members who are investigating and participating in the grievance process at Carnegie Mellon—is available on the Staff Council website.
To file a grievance, the staff member must submit a written statement summarizing the issue to the university ombudsman. Grievances must be submitted to the ombudsman in a timely manner, normally within one month of the failure to resolve the issue through informal channels. The following information should be included:
- Grievance Statement—A description of the issue, including the policy or rule that the staff member alleges was violated, if applicable, and the name of the respondent. (For information about university policies and rules, please see http://www.cmu.edu/policies.)
- Background—A statement of the relevant facts supporting the staff member's position, including information about the impact the issue has had or is having on the staff member.
- Requested Resolution—A statement of what the staff member is requesting as a satisfactory resolution to the grievance.
Staff members cannot modify or expand a grievance once it has been submitted for consideration. If a staff member who has already filed a grievance wishes to pursue new issues, a new grievance must be filed. Staff members can, however, supplement their initial grievance statement with additional information in order to clarify the issues further. The staff member can stop the grievance process at any time by giving written notice to the ombudsman.
Grievance Resolution Procedure
The ombudsman schedules individual meetings with the staff member and the respondent named in the staff member's grievance statement within five working days of receiving the written statement from the staff member. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the issues raised by the staff member and to consider possible solutions. Another staff or faculty member may accompany the grievant at this meeting or at any time during the grievance process.
Prior to this meeting, the ombudsman arranges for the respondent named in the grievance to receive a copy of the staff member's grievance statement. In addition, the ombudsman notifies the dean or division head administrator of both the grievant and the respondent that a grievance has been filed.
The respondent named in the grievance is required to respond in writing to the staff member within five working days following the meeting with the staff member and the ombudsman. The respondent also gives a copy of this communication to the ombudsman.
If the respondent named in the grievance refuses to attend the meeting or does not respond to the staff member's grievance in writing within five working days following the meeting with the staff member and the ombudsman, the staff member can orally request that the ombudsman refer the grievance to the supervisor of the respondent named in the grievance.
If the grievant does not agree that the grievance has been satisfactorily resolved, the grievant can request in writing to the ombudsman that the grievance be referred to the supervisor of the respondent named in the grievance. This request must be submitted to the ombudsman within 10 working days of the Step 1 meeting and include the reasons for referring the grievance to the next step. Otherwise, the grievance is considered to be resolved.
If the respondent named in the staff member's grievance is the staff member's immediate supervisor and the staff member believes that it is not appropriate for the grievance to be referred to that person, the staff member can request that the ombudsman bypass this step.
In response to the staff member's written request, if the problem is not resolved at Step 1, the ombudsman arranges a meeting with the next higher-level manager. This process continues until the administrator at the vice president or dean level has been consulted. At each level, the procedures and time limitations stated in Step 1 apply.
If, after consulting with the highest-level manager as stated above, the staff member judges that the grievance has not been resolved satisfactorily, the staff member can request that the grievance be referred to the Grievance Panel for final review. This request must be submitted to the ombudsman in writing within seven working days after the meeting with the highest-level manager and the ombudsman.
An impartial Grievance Panel is responsible for hearing grievances that cannot be resolved at Step 2 in the grievance procedure. The decision of the Grievance Panel is reached by a majority vote and is communicated to the staff member within 20 working days of receiving the grievance from the staff member.
This decision is final unless additional information is discovered that would cause the case to be reconsidered. If this occurs, the staff member or the respondent named in the grievance can request in writing to the ombudsman that the grievance be referred to the Grievance Panel again for further consideration.
Note: In certain circumstances, as determined by the ombudsman, the time limitations imposed at Steps 1, 2 and 3 may need to be revised to accommodate unforeseen situations, such as travel commitments or the illness of the grievant, the respondent, or others involved in the grievance process.