Grievances and Appeals of University Employment Actions

Policy number: 7.25

Policy section: Human Resources

Revised Date: September 25, 2019


1. Policy Statement

It is the intent of the University to provide a corrective action process to improve and prevent inappropriate employee behavior, address performance issues, and maintain a productive work environment.

2. Purpose

It is the policy of the University to work with employees to address all personnel problems, including employee grievances, questions, or misunderstandings. The University has developed a Grievance and Appeals Procedure which is designed to:

  1. Enhance and maintain good employee-management relations;
  2. Efficiently handle grievances at the supervisory level closest to the problem; and
  3. Maximize employee participation in problem resolution.

3. Applicability

All regular, full-time and part-time, benefit-eligible staff employees may file a grievance under this policy except for the following:

  1. The University President, vice presidents, department heads, and unclassified directors or any employee reporting directly to a vice president or the University President.
  2. Any employee working at the University pursuant to a contract.
  3. Anyone performing services on behalf of the University, who is an employee of a third-party vendor, or who is an independent contractor or consultant of the University;
  4. Any temporary, non-benefit-eligible employee.
  5. University Faculty, as defined in the University Policy on Faculty Ranks, Classifications and Terms of Appointment.

4. Grievance Defined

A grievance is a complaint of an employee (“Grievant”) arising from the employer/employee work relationships involving issues resulting from:

  1. an alleged violation or misinterpretation of applicable rules and policies of the University or unfair application of such rules and policies
  2. disputes, disagreements and complaints about decisions and actions made by supervisors; or
  3. alleged unfair treatment that is not based upon discrimination or protected class status.

5. Exclusions from the Grievance Process

The grievance process cannot be applied to the following issues:

  1. Wages and salaries;
  2. Job classifications, titles, and job descriptions;
  3. Terminations (for any reason);
  4. Any grievance that has already been presented for review under this policy or any other applicable grievance or appeal policy.

6. Grievance Procedures and University Discretion

  1. The Department of Human Resources, under the purview of the Vice President for Business and Finance, has oversight and administrative responsibility for this policy and shall promulgate departmental rules, procedures, and guidelines pursuant to this policy. Detailed administrative rules, procedures and guidelines can be found on the Human Resources website.
  2. The grievance and appeals processes are outlined in Appendix A below. However, the processes set forth in Appendix A below are general in nature and do not guarantee any specific course of conduct. The University retains the right to modify or adjust the grievance and appeals process depending on the circumstances.

7. Training and Orientation

Training will be held to advise the campus community of the University's Grievances and Appeals Procedure. New employees will be introduced to the procedure during new employee orientation.

8. Related Policies

Alleged acts of discrimination and harassment based on sex, age, race, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, or other status protected by applicable law, as well as alleged acts of retaliation, are not covered by this Grievances and Appeals Procedure. Grievances concerning these issues are processed by the procedures outlined in University Policy 3.1 Nondiscrimination, Affirmative Action, and Equal Opportunity, and University Policy 3.2, Needs of Persons with Disabilities. Grievances related to allegations of sexual harassment are addressed under University Policy 3.3 Title IX Harassment.

9. Questions

Questions regarding this policy should be directed to the Department of Human Resources at smuhr@smu.edu.

Appendix A: Grievance Process

Process Overview

  1. The first level of review is the immediate supervisor, and the final level is the President of the University or his/her designee.
  2. If an employee is considering filing a grievance, the first act should be to contact the Department of Human Resources so the procedure can be explained in detail. If an employee with a grievance or complaint first approaches supervisors or managers, the supervisor or manager should contact the Department of Human Resources to be advised about the appropriate process that should be followed. The role of the Department of Human Resources is to facilitate the various steps in the Grievance Procedure by bringing together the employee and the supervisor.
  3. The Grievant may undertake a complaint or grievance without fear of interference, retaliation or harassment from supervisors, provided that the Grievant’s actions are taken in good faith. The following four-step procedure will be used sequentially by most employees who initiate appeal of a University employment action. However, in some cases, depending on the level of the position occupied by the Grievant, the severity of the alleged event, or as otherwise deemed appropriate by the University, this process may begin at Steps 2, 3, or 4.

STEP 1 - Work Area Level

An employee should talk with his/her immediate supervisor as soon as possible. If problems are not resolved by the immediate supervisor or if the Grievant is unable to approach his/her Supervisor, the Grievant should contact the Department of Human Resources Representative to determine the next appropriate action to take.

STEP 2 - Departmental/Division Area Level

Should problems fail to be addressed within a reasonable length of time by using Step 1, the Grievant should speak with the next level of management. Before initiating this Step, the Grievant must contact the Department of Human Resources Representative, who will determine the appropriate Department/Division or Area Supervisor. The Department of Human Resources Representative will bring the Grievant and appropriate supervisor together and will attempt resolution of the problem.

STEP 3 - Vice Presidential Area

Should an employee's grievance fail to be resolved at Step 2, the Grievant must contact the Human Resources Representative. The Representative will refer the Grievant to the Vice President in whose area the problem has arisen. The Vice President will review the facts of the case and will make a determination.

STEP 4 - Appeal Level

Should an employee's grievance fail to be resolved at Step 3, the Grievant may submit the grievance for consideration of appeal.

  1. The employee must send a written request to the Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer within ten (10) working days of receipt of the Vice President’s decision to request an appeal. In consultation with appropriate University personnel, the Chief Human Resource Officer or his/her designee will review the request for appeal and make a determination whether it is appropriate for a university panel to be convened. This determination will be made in the sole discretion of the Chief Human Resource Officer or his/her designee.
  2. The President will appoint a committee of 12 members to hear grievances and appeals. The committee members shall be University personnel, broadly representative and diverse in terms of sex, age, race, and length of service and job family including, but not limited to, faculty and administration, clerical and office, service workers and skilled trades. The committee will be formed by solicitation of volunteers and nominees from the campus at large.
  3. The Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer or his/her designee will choose three of the 12 committee members to participate in each grievance and appeals case. The three persons chosen to hear a specific case will be designated as "The Grievance and Appeals Panel." At least one of the three panel members selected must be from a peer or related employee group of the Grievant.
  4. The Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer or his/her designee will serve as the non-voting chairperson of the Grievances and Appeals Panel. He or she will direct the hearing, develop facts, and summarize the findings and recommendations of the Panel. The Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer or his/her designee will present the Panel's findings and recommendations to the President.
  5. Panel members will determine by majority vote the recommendation to be presented to the President or his/her designee. The President or his/her designee will review the Panel's findings and recommendations, and will accept or reject same in part or in full. The President or his/her designee’s decision is final.
  6. Counsel or a representative may advise either party, but shall not be permitted to attend, participate directly in the proceedings, testify, or question witnesses. Southern Methodist University shall not be responsible for expenses associated with the hearing, including attorney’s fees, which are incurred by the employee or the respondent involved in the grievance.

Revised: September 25, 2019

Adopted: November 14, 2005