Carnegie Mellon University

Formal Process for Resolving Work Related Problems

When a work-related issue that involves an alleged violation of university policy cannot be resolved through discussions between the individuals concerned, the staff member can file a grievance. Staff members can 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. This page provides a summary of the formal grievance procedure; for full details, please refer to the Staff Handbook [pdf].

Staff members who wish to file a formal charge of sexual harassment should refer to the formal complaint procedure for sexual harassment detailed in the Sexual Misconduct Policy (Interim).

To file a grievance, the staff member submits a written statement summarizing the issue to the university ombudsperson. Grievances must be submitted to the ombudsperson in a timely manner, normally within one month of the failure to resolve the issue through informal channels.

Step 1: The ombudsperson provides the respondent named in the grievance with a copy of the grievance statement, and schedules a meeting with the respondent to consider possible solutions. The ombudsperson also notifies the dean or division head for both the grievant and the respondent that a grievance has been filed.

Step 2: If the problem is not resolved at Step 1, the ombudsperson arranges to meet with the staff member's department head or next higher-level manager, whichever is higher. This process continues until the administrator at the vice president or dean level has been consulted. 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 review.

Step 3: An impartial Grievance Panel is responsible for hearing grievances that cannot be resolved at Step 2 in the grievance procedure.

The Grievance Panel is composed of six members. The selection of the three voting members is conducted as follows:

  • The provost, vice president for business and planning, vice president for university advancement, or vice president for enrollment will serve as the first panel member, in that order, on a rotating basis. 
  • The second panel member is selected by the grievant from university staff and faculty members willing to serve.
  • The third panel member is selected jointly by the two already-chosen panel members from university staff and faculty members willing to serve. 

The remaining three panel members do not vote, but serve as resources to the three voting members:

  • A Staff Council officer, usually the chair, is the fourth panel member. This panel member monitors the overall Grievance Panel review process.
  • The ombudsperson is the fifth panel member. As chairperson, the ombudsperson advises the Grievance Panel on the proper procedures to be followed. 
  • A representative from the Office of Human Resources is selected by the associate vice president for human resources and serves as the sixth panel member. This person is available to provide information about university policy to the Grievance Panel.
The Grievance Panel normally schedules a preliminary organizational meeting to determine how the panel will operate. Once the Grievance Panel has gathered and reviewed all of the information necessary to make its findings, the panel members meet to discuss the grievance. Following this discussion, which is a closed meeting, the voting members of the panel vote whether or not to find in favor of the staff member who has filed the grievance, including whether to grant, modify or deny what the staff member has requested as a resolution in the grievance statement. A majority vote is required.

The panel's findings are communicated in writing to the staff member and the respondent within 45 working days of receiving the grievance at Step 3. The panel’s findings are also communicated in writing to the president who reserves the right to overturn the findings of the panel when deemed in his/her sole discretion to be in the best interest of the institution. The president’s decision shall be final.