A grievance is a formal complaint made by a faculty member about a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Its purpose is threefold: to enforce the Collective Bargaining Agreement, defend the rights and protect the working conditions of individual faculty and of the bargaining unit as a whole, and protect the academic and professional integrity of the university.
Examples of grievable actions
Incorrect annual or third-year evaluations; not following the process for tenure or promotion (or SPP); improper layoff; change in workload and assignment (e.g., significant increase in course size or the number of courses).
Who can grieve?
All members of the bargaining unit can grieve. UFF-UF members can be represented by UFF-UF grievance officers and arbitration specialists at no cost (Membership must have been active at the time of the perceived violation of the CBA). Faculty who are not UFF-UF members must either represent themselves or hire a lawyer at their own expense.
How do grievances proceed?
If evidence of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement or past practice is shown, trained grievance representatives investigate the case and begin drafting a formal grievance. In the meantime, they attempt to achieve an informal resolution, which is always preferable.
There are three stages to a grievance. In the first phase (step 1, Grievance Hearing) the grievance is heard at the level of the college dean’s office. If the grievance is not resolved to the satisfaction of the grievant, s/he can file for a Grievance Review (step 2) at the university provost level.
The last appeal is to a neutral arbitrator whose decision is binding on both UFF and the University.
There are critical deadlines involved in filing a grievance. A grievance must be filed within sixty days of the date that the grievant became aware of the contract violation. A step 2 is filed within thirty days of a Step 1 decision.
Step 1 — Grievance Hearing: a meeting with the dean or designee of the dean
The grievant or UFF representative presents evidence of the grievance. The grievant, the UFF grievance officer, and the dean discuss the grievance.
Within 15 days, the dean must give a written decision, stating the reasons for the decision. If the grievant is not satisfied with this decision, s/he may move to step 2.
Step 2 — Grievance Review: a meeting similar to the hearing, but at the provost level
The provost must produce a written decision, stating the reasons for the outcome. If the grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved, UFF may proceed to arbitration.
Step 3 — Arbitration: The arbitrator is selected jointly by UF and UFF from a pool of arbitrators UF and UFF have previously agreed upon (for more details see article 31.9.c). The arbitrator’s decision is legally binding and cannot be appealed.
Each side –the administration and the union—presents its case (i.e., documents, witnesses) at a hearing. After the hearing, both sides typically present briefs to summarize the evidence and present arguments. The neutral arbitrator makes a final binding decision based only on the evidence and the contract language.
What do I do if I think I have a grievance?
Contact the grievance chair, email@example.com, who will be happy to discuss any questions and concerns you may have.
Why does the grievance process work?
It allows for a thoughtful presentation of the issues and gives faculty a chance to have their concerns heard. Further, when disputes are not resolved at the UF level, it provides legally binding arbitration and a hearing from someone who is an independent expert in collective bargaining and grievance disputes.
What kind of resolution can I expect?
We find resolutions satisfactory to the grievant in the majority of cases. It is possible for grievances to be resolved in favor of the grievant at any of the three steps. UFF cannot, and will not, file grievances that have no merit, so you will find out early on from grievance representatives if the case is worth pursuing.
How widely is it known that a grievance has been filed?
UFF is committed to protecting the privacy of an individual and keeps all information about grievances confidential.
Are there retaliations?
The contract protects grievants from retaliation.
Are there deadlines?
If you believe you have a grievance, you must contact the grievance chair in a timely fashion. Grievances concerning disciplinary action against faculty must be filed within fifteen days. Other grievances have a sixty-day deadline, though grievances that involve work assignments go on a fast track, because they need to be resolved quickly before the contested assignment would go into force.
Can UFF help me if I have a legitimate problem with my supervisor or another administrator that is not technically a grievance?
Yes, the grievance officer will 1) discuss possible solutions with you; 2) meet with your chair or relevant administrator to discuss resolutions; 3) work toward an agreement that is satisfactory to both parties and put it in writing; 4) maintain confidentiality.
Do I have other protections from actions by my chair and other administrators?
The contract gives faculty the right to have a grievance officer with them at meetings with their chair and members of the administration even if there is no grievance in progress. Federal labor law (NLRB v J. Weingarten, Inc. US 251, 1975) also guarantees employees the right to union representation at a meeting with a supervisor “if an employee has a reasonable belief, based upon factual circumstances, that disciplinary action may result from an interview” (This is called the Weingarten Rule).
What usually happens?
Most grievances are resolved informally without going through the official process. In fact, the grievance officer also often resolves complaints that are not grievances. The grievance officer speaks with the relevant administrator(s) and often finds a solution. For instance, chairs or associate deans not infrequently agree that an evaluation has been unfair or its language inappropriate. The original evaluation is removed and a more appropriate one is filed. If a faculty member has had difficulty with one supervisor, the department may agree to have another administrator in the department determine that faculty member’s assignment and work with him/her in other matters.
Is it true that UFF-UF protects negligent and underperforming faculty via the grievance process?
UFF-UF is legally obligated under “Duty of Fair Representation” as the bargaining agent to enforce the contract and ensure due process. It is not our place to determine an individual’s competence or innocence, but rather to ensure that faculty are given access to a fair process that follows the rules agreed to in the CBA. In fact, faculty can be, and have been, fired for cause at UF, but the administration must follow the proper steps and rules in the agreement and faculty have a right to a fair hearing.
How are grievance officers selected?
UFF holds training sessions for prospective grievance officers. Contact a grievance officer to discuss the role you can play in this important UFF function.