Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why should I file a grievance?

There are lots of reasons you should file a grievance, but first let’s cover a few of the reasons you should not file a grievance.

1) You should not file a grievance thinking that by doing so you are punishing your manager.

2) You should not file a grievance if you have a problem with a coworker.

3) You should not file a grievance merely because a work situation is unfair.

Let’s talk about these for a bit.

Grievances are not threats you brandish in order to try to convince a boss to change her ways. Grievances are not blunt instruments you can scare people with. Grievances are not ways of harassing a manger by snowing him under with paper. Grievances are a dispute resolution process that you may use when you think the contract has been violated. Period.

You can’t file a grievance against a coworker. If a coworker is violating a policy, breaking the law, violating a work rule or discriminating or harassing you, it’s up to management to deal with it. The Union should and will assist you in getting management to do their job by taking effective action in these instances, but “grieving” a coworker is not the appropriate, or even a possible course.

We all face unfairness every day. Some unfairness is due to the random nature of the universe, some is due to the nasty or unreasonable behavior of other human beings. Neither of those situations is necessarily a contract violation. The grievance procedure exists for one reason only: to enforce the contract. If the behavior that’s bugging you isn’t a contract violation, then it’s not a grievance. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it, but filing a grievance won’t help. If there is no contract violation an Arbitrator or the Grievance Adjustment Board will not sustain the grievance no matter how unfair the situation is.

Now, when should you file a grievance?

Well, the easy answer is whenever the contract is violated, but that’s not always a helpful answer.

The contract is a large and complicated document often couched in legalese. How do you know when it’s been violated? Are you expected to memorize the thing?

No, you’re not. But you should take time to read the contract and take note of what kinds of things the contract covers. If something doesn’t feel right to you, you will know enough to start looking in the contract to see if your issue is covered. In addition, you have the KnowZone available to you.

The KnowZone is our grievance and contract question hotline. It’s monitored daily by a Lead Steward who will take your problem or question and assign it to a steward to follow up with you, usually in 24 hours. You can call the KnowZone at 503 239 9858 ext 132 24 hours a day.

In general though, some kinds of frequently occurring problems are clearly contract violations and should be dealt with by the grievance process. Some of the more common are:

Pay and overtime disputes
Scheduling problems – including vacation, holiday, job bids
Layoff and layoff placement problems
Disciplinary actions – including work plans
Work out of class and appropriate classification issues

While there are a lot more contract violations which could result in grievances, if you are experiencing problems in the above areas, you are almost certainly dealing with a contract issue, which, if not resolved, could result in a grievance.

If so, don’t wait to call the KnowZone. Do it now. You have a two week time limit to file a grievance. If you miss it, you lose.

What if your supervisor says “Well, let me look into it” and then three weeks goes by with nothing happening? You lose. You missed your two week window.

Remember, when you file a grievance, you are not punishing anybody or taking a negative action – you are simply activating a dispute resolution process.

One last word – if you receive a low level discipline such as a verbal reprimand or a written reprimand – should you file a grievance?

Many employees feel that if they really did have the problem which lead to the discipline you should just let it go. Or maybe you think it’s a small thing and not worth the trouble to grieve.

Consider this, if you don’t grieve it, you have just plead “guilty.” Now, maybe this is OK. Maybe you really are guilty and it’s not something that’s going to reoccur.

Or maybe it’s something, like tardiness, or absenteeism which is likely to happen again, at least once in while, even if you make great improvements. In that case, not filing a grievance will make winning a grievance on a second discipline that much harder if you plead guilty by default the first time. It’s something to keep in mind.

If you have any questions about the grievance process that you’d like to see me answer in my blog, please email me at:


Anonymous said...

I have receieved an undeserved performance evaluation after working for a company for six years and have always receieved superior scores, however my boss and I and a bit of a conflict over the summer and it has shown up in my eval.I am considering filing a greivance, because there is no place on the form for me to rebut her comments.

Frank Vehafric said...

Generally, evaluations aren't grievable but it could vary depending on the specific contract you are working under. I'm assuming you are not an OHSU employee. If you are - you do have the right to write a rebuttal and have it included in your personnel file even if there is no specific provision for that on the eval form.

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Anonymous said...

I work within an organization where I am a human resource assistant, I recently informed my supervisor that I will be moving to a new duty station with my husband he is military (PCSing) within the past few months he has started withholding information from me and belittling me. I am also strength and I am in charge of placing numbers into a classified system two numbers were left out and the supervisor pulled me from my position and has already replaced me with someone else I took leave due to stress can I file a grievance?

Frank Vehafric said...

A grievance is an option only for employees who are represented by a union and have a union contract. If you are represented by a union you should contact your shop steward. Whether or not your supervisor's action constitute a grievance will depend on your contract language. Your union can help you determine this.

If you are in a non union workplace, the law offers you little or no protection from this kind of behavior from your supervisor, unless you can show that he or she is treating you this way because you are a protected minority or is retaliating against you for exercising one of your rights in the workplace, such as filing a discrimination complaint or requesting ADA accomodation or FMLA leave.

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qpraiderbball10 said...

i got fired by an elected official for not helping hand out his personal election supplies. This i felt was unfair and a biased reason to be fired. It happened 3 months ago and i do not recieve unemployment from it. Since then a new highway commissioner has been elected in. All i want is my job back.

qpraiderbball10 said...

i got fired by an elected official for not helping hand out his personal election supplies. This i felt was unfair and a biased reason to be fired. It happened 3 months ago and i do not recieve unemployment from it. Since then a new highway commissioner has been elected in. All i want is my job back.