Section 5 - Conditions of Employment

Policy Number: 5.6 - APPEAL AND GRIEVANCE

SCOPE: STAFF Issued: 4/1/00

Revised: 2/21/03; 1/01/07

1. Purpose: To provide standard procedures whereby a staff member, with the exception of administrative staff member, may seek relief and satisfaction from disciplinary actions imposed by the supervisor.

2. Policy: It is the policy of Lamar University to afford staff members the opportunity for fair and prompt consideration of appeals and/or grievances, including allegations of discrimination.

3. Applicability: Regular staff members are eligible to use either the appeal procedure or the grievance procedure as defined herein. Probationary and temporary staff members including hourly paid student assistants, work study students, and other hourly paid employees, are eligible to use the grievance procedure, but are not eligible to use the appeal procedure, except in cases involving alleged discrimination under the law.

4. Definitions:

4.1 Appeal: An appeal is an employee's formal expression of dissatisfaction or disagreement with the following personnel actions: performance/disciplinary probation, demotion, decision making leave with or without pay, and/or discharge.

4.2 Grievance: A grievance is an employee's informal expression of disagreement or dissatisfaction with aspects of employment such as working conditions, hours of work, work environment, relationship with supervisor and other employees, or policies or decisions of the department considered by the employee to be inappropriate, harmful or unfair. Cases involving alleged discrimination under federal and state law and cases of alleged sexual harassment must also be reported directly to the Director of Human Resources.

5. Staff Member's Rights: No staff member shall be disciplined, penalized, restrained, coerced or otherwise prejudiced in his or her employment, in any manner whatsoever for exercising the rights or remedies provided for in this appeal or grievance policy. Employees who follow the appeal or grievance procedures shall be allowed time off from regular duties, with pay, for attendance at scheduled meetings and hearings. Employees, who use this policy procedure to purposely disrupt the operation of the work unit of the University, are subject to disciplinary action.

6. Management Rights: It is not the intent of the Appeal or Grievance Policy and Procedure hereby established to prohibit, or in any way obstruct, a manager or supervisor from prudently exercising his or her management rights. "Management rights" are defined as, but not necessarily limited to, the right of a manager or supervisor to hire employees within established University policies; set work schedules, lunch hours and breaks; assign work activities, transfer, promote or demote an employee to achieve optimum use of the employee's skills and talents; discipline or discharge an employee; redesign jobs to insure operational efficiency.

7. Grievance Procedure: The Director of Human Resources shall guarantee and insure that staff members subject to these procedures are afforded fair, equitable and expeditious review of matters of grievance. The decision of the appropriate vice president shall be final.

The grievance will process through the established administrative channels. When a grievance is presented, it should be presented in writing to the Director of Human Resources with a requested course of action.

Failure of an employee to process a grievance to the next step within the prescribed time limit will constitute abandonment of the grievance. Failure of management to give an answer within the prescribed time shall authorize the employee to proceed to the next step. Time limits include working days only. Any extension of the time limits must be approved by the Director of Human Resources.

7.1 A staff employee shall present in writing any matters of grievance to the Director of Human Resources. This should be done within five (5) working days from the grievable occurrence. Upon receipt of the grievance, the Director of Human Resources shall have the appropriate supervisor consider all of the facts of the case and report the decision in the matter in writing to the employee within three (3) working days after receipt of the grievance.

7.2 If the matter is not satisfactorily resolved in the eyes of the grieving, he/she may continue to have the grievance reviewed and adjudicated by each level of supervision in the regular administrative channel until the level of the vice president is reached. At each level above the first supervisor, the request for grievance review must be made by the grieving and should be submitted in writing within three (3) working days from the delivery of the decision of the lower supervisor. At each level, the supervisor shall review all the facts of the case and the decisions rendered by the lower supervisors, and then he/she should render a decision in writing to the grieving within three (3) working days after receipt of the grievance.

7.3 If the matter continues to be unresolved in the eyes of the grieving, he/she may then submit the grievance in writing to the appropriate vice president. This shall be done within three (3) working days after receipt of the decision of the lower supervisor. The Vice President shall conduct an investigation of all the events leading up to the grievance, he/she shall review all decisions rendered by lower supervisors, and he/she shall render the decision in writing as soon as possible after the investigation is complete (not to exceed thirty (30) days). The decision of the Vice President shall be final in all cases of grievance.

7.4 At any step or level of the grievance procedure, the Director of Human Resources may be requested by the grieving or the supervisor to serve as consultant to the grievance review. In such cases, the Director of Human Resources shall serve in the capacity of an information-gathering and advisory member only, and shall not have the power of making binding decisions.

8. Appeals: Staff personnel who have at least six (6) months of continuous service and who holds a staff position will have the right to appeal any matter of (1) performance/disciplinary probation, (2) demotion, (3) Decision making leave , or (4) dismissal from employment by the department or other administrative subdivision by whom the person is employed.

Each notice of (1) performance/disciplinary probation, (2) demotion, (3) Decision Making Leave, (4) dismissal from employment will be given to the affected staff employee in writing with a copy to be filed in the Office of Human Resources.

8.1 Procedure for Processing Appeals

8.1.1 A staff employee desiring to make an appeal following a probation, demotion, decision making leave period, or dismissal from employment will advise the Director of Human Resources or the Assistant Director in writing within five (5) working days of the action of his/her desire to initiate an appeal. The written request identify the reason(s) why the employee feels that he or she was treated unjustly or suffered discriminatory action.

8.1.2 The Human Resources Office shall determine if the notice of intent to appeal has been filed in a timely manner and if there is cause for appeal. The Director of Human Resources will work with the staff member and the management staff to assure a swift resolution of the appeal.

8.1.3 The regularly established administrative channels will be the route of all matters of appeal. The procedure shall be the same as for matters of grievance as stated in the grievance procedure until the matter reaches the level of the appropriate vice president.

8.1.4 The appellant shall be advised by the appropriate vice president of the appellant's right to select the method of the last state of appeal adjudication from the following options: Adjudication by vice presidential review as outlined in grievance procedure. Adjudication by hearing before an ADVISORY AD HOC APPEALS BOARD.

8.1.5. If so optioned by the appellant, the appropriate vice president will appoint an Ad Hoc Appeal Board composed of not less than three (3) members to serve as an advisory body to the vice president. The Ad Hoc Appeal Board will not have the power to make a decision or an agreement binding upon the University. The Ad Hoc Appeal Board will be composed of at least one (1) faculty member, one (1) administrative or professional staff and at least one (1) member from the classified personnel. One (1) member of the above categories will serve as Chairman Pro Tempore of the Appeal Board.
8.2 Rights of an Appellant

In presenting an appeal, each employee has the right to the following:

8.2.1 Be dealt with impartially and objectively.

8.2.2 Be free from restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal.

8.2.3 Be given a reasonable amount of time to prepare and present the case.

8.2.4 To seek advice and counsel from a legal counsel retained by the employee or supporting employee.

8.2.5 The Ad Hoc Appeal Board will be appointed as soon as possible after the receipt by the vice president of the option chosen by the appellant. The Director of Human Resources will serve as advisor to the Board and will make the necessary arrangements for a hearing room, secretarial assistance to the Board, and all other physical arrangements deemed necessary and proper.

8.2.6 It shall be the functions of the Ad Hoc Appeal Board to conduct hearings, investigations, and all other activities that will bring to light all of the facts of the case and to otherwise take whatever necessary actions to insure a complete, fair, and impartial hearing for the benefit of all parties concerned. After completion of all hearings, investigations, etc., the members of the Appeal Board shall meet in executive session to deliberate the findings and they will prepare and submit in writing to the vice president their recommendation for adjudication of the case.

8.2.7 The Vice President shall render his/her decision in the matter of appeal as soon as possible after the receipt of the findings and recommendations of the Ad Hoc Appeal Board, and shall take steps to notify the appellant accordingly.

8.2.8 In those rare instances in which there is no vice president within the normal administrative channel or if the area vice president requests to be removed from the decision-making role, the President may appoint any of the vice presidents of the University to hear the findings of the Ad Hoc Advisory Board, to render a decision and serve as the administrator of record.

8.2.9 The decision of the vice president will be binding unless the President decides to review the case for further consideration.

8.3 Scheduling and Notice of Hearings

The hearing officer contacts the employee filing the grievance either directly or through the Office of Human Resources, setting a date for an appeal hearing within the framework as stipulated in the University Human Resource Policy and Procedure Manual. The notice should include:
8.3.1 A statement of time, place, and nature of the hearing;

8.3.2 A short, simple statement of the grieved action and the requested resolution.

8.3.3 The hearing officer may grant one postponement at the written request of one of the parties. The hearing officer may grant an additional postponement if satisfied that the basis for the request justifies further delay. A postponement usually should not exceed two (2) weeks from the date of the previously scheduled hearing.

8.4 Filing of Document Before the Hearing

The following written information should be made available to the hearing officer before the hearing date.

8.4.1 A copy of the employee's written request and justification for a hearing.

8.4.2 A copy of any department documents recommending an adverse personnel action which precipitated the appeal.

8.4.3 A copy of all applicable documentation submitted by the supervisor and/or a copy of the personnel record upon which the adverse personnel action was based.

8.4.4 Any documents or written statements which the employee provides and wants made available at the hearing.

8.4.5 Any additional information or recommendation of the Office of Human Resources.
8.5 Conduct of Hearings

Appellate hearings will not be open to all University employees or the public. By consent of both parties, however, persons other than those listed below may be permitted to attend.

These persons present at the hearing may include:
8.5.1 The aggrieved employee

8.5.2 One or more department representatives, including the employee's supervisor or the person in the administrative structure who made the decision which resulted in the appeal, the Director of Human Resources or Assistant Director of Human Resources. Where there is more than one department representative, a spokesman is designated to serve in oral and written presentations.

8.5.3 Employees who are to appear as witnesses at the hearing. However, these employees will remain outside the proceedings until called by the chair.

8.5.4 Legal counsel or the employee representative may be present and give guidance and advice to the employee. This person may not address committee members, witnesses, or departmental representatives or be entitled to act in an advocacy role. An advocacy role will only be permitted if the administration uses legal counsel in such a role.
8.6 Hearing Schedule

The order of the hearing usually follows this schedule:

8.6.1 The hearing officer calls the meeting to order, states the purpose of the meeting, and identifies the employee(s) filing the appeal, the department and University representative(s), and other persons in attendance.

8.6.2 Presentation by the employee(s) and witnesses. During the presentation the employee will present reasons for requesting the appeal of the action and desired resolution.

8.6.3 Presentation by a representative of the department and witnesses.

8.6.4 Petitioner may present a rebuttal case.

8.7 Authority of Hearing or Administrative Officer

The hearing officer has the authority:

8.7.1 To exclude irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious evidence and note any objections to evidence in the record.

8.7.2 To specify and enforce maximum time limitations on all phases of the hearings.

8.7.3 To invoke "the Rule" when determined appropriate, that is, excusing all witnesses from the hearing except when called to give testimony and cautioning them not to confer with one another concerning their testimony. Invoking "the Rule" does not require removal of the grieving or University/Department representative although they may be witnesses. However, they still may not confer with other witnesses concerning their testimony.

8.7.4 To receive documentary evidence in the form of copies or excerpts if the original is not readily available. To give the parties an opportunity to compare the copy with the original.

8.7.5 To take official notice of undisputed facts commonly known among the general public, such as historical events, courses of nature, and main geographical features. In addition, notice may be taken of generally recognized facts within the area of the hearing officer's specialized knowledge, such as the organization of the Department. Parties are notified during the hearing of the material officially noticed, including any staff memoranda or data. The parties will be afforded an opportunity to contest the material so noticed. The special skills or knowledge of the Department or University Campus may be used in evaluating the evidence.

8.7.6 To take any other action indicated to maintain decorum and to ensure a fair hearing.

8.7.7 To close the hearing after all evidence is heard. In considering the evidence, the hearing officer will determine the weight, reliability, and credibility of the evidence presented.

8.7.8 To reopen the hearing if appropriate after deliberation, to receive further information if deemed necessary. To conduct other investigations as needed necessary to reach an informed decision and recommendation.

8.7.9 To prepare a recommendation including the reasons for such a decision. The decision shall be based exclusively on the evidence presented and on matters officially noticed.