SECTION ONE: GENERAL PROVISIONS
The intent of this policy is to resolve employee grievances in a fair and consistent manner while fostering a campus culture that values and respects all employees and encourages collaboration to address employee concerns. The college will ensure employees who file a grievance are not subject to discrimination or retaliation for doing so. All complaints will be treated as confidential to the extent allowed by law, and to the extent possible for the college to investigate issues and concerns related to complaints. In this policy, the terms “complaint” and “grievance” have the same meaning. “Grievant” means the employee who initiates the procedures set forth in this policy.
Student complaints or grievances are addressed in Local Policy FLD – Student Complaints. Employee complaints or grievances against students should be referred to the Dean of Student Affairs for investigation and resolution.
1.01 Employee Rights
Employees have the right to present grievances concerning their wages, hours of employment, or conditions of work. The right to present grievances is satisfied if employees have access to a person or persons in a position of authority to address their grievances. However, that authority is under no legal compulsion to take action to rectify the matter.
1.02 Freedom from Retaliation
Neither the Board nor any College employee shall unlawfully retaliate against an employee for appropriately expressing a concern or complaint informally or for filing a formal grievance.
1.03 Communication with Trustees
Employees are not prohibited from communicating with a Trustee regarding College operations except when communication between an employee and a Trustee would be inappropriate because of a pending hearing or appeal related to the employee.
1.04 Other Complaint Processes
Formal employee complaints shall be filed in accordance with this policy, except as required by the policies listed below. Some of the policies listed below require appeals to be submitted in accordance with the relevant complaint process:
1. Complaints alleging discrimination, including violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (gender), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (sex, race, color, religion, national origin), Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (age), or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended (disability), shall be submitted in accordance with the Employee Freedom from Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation regulation (see: DIA Regulation in the AC Policy and Procedure Manual).
2. Complaints concerning retaliation relating to discrimination and harassment (see: DIA Regulation in the AC Policy and Procedure Manual).
3. Complaints concerning a commissioned peace officer who is an employee of the College shall be submitted in accordance with state law.
1.05 Informal Complaint Process
The College encourages employees to discuss informally concerns with their supervisors or with an appropriate supervisor who has the authority to address the concern. Concerns should be communicated as soon as possible to allow early resolution with the direct supervisor. Informal resolution is encouraged but shall not extend any deadlines in this policy, except by mutual written consent.
1.06 Formal Complaint Process
An employee may initiate the formal grievance process described below by timely filing a written complaint form (see: DGBA Exhibit). Even after initiating the formal complaint process, the grievant is encouraged to seek informal resolution of his/her concerns. A grievant whose concerns are resolved may withdraw a formal complaint at any time. The process described in this policy does not create new or additional rights beyond those granted by law or Board policy. This policy does not require a full evidentiary hearing or “mini-trial” at any level.
1.06 Whistleblower Complaints
Employees shall file “whistleblower complaints” limited to adverse employment actions taken against the employee which are alleged to be based on the employee’s good faith report of a violation of a law by the College or a College employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority within the time specified by law. Whistleblower complaints shall be filed with the College President or designee. Timelines for the employee and the College set out in this policy may be shortened to allow the Board to make a final decision within sixty (60) calendar days of the initiation of the complaint.
1.07 Complaints against Supervisors
Complaints alleging a violation of law by a supervisor may be made to the College President or designee. The College President may delegate the investigation and resolution processes to an appropriate administrator. Complaint forms alleging a violation of law by the College President may be submitted directly to the Board President.
1.08 Filing Complaint Forms and Appeal Notices
Complaint forms and appeal notices (see: DGBA Exhibit) may be filed by hand-delivery; by electronic communication, including email and fax; or by U.S. Mail.
• Hand-delivered filings shall be timely filed if received by the appropriate supervisor or designee by the close of business on the deadline.
• Filings submitted by electronic communication shall be timely filed if they are received by the close of business on the deadline, as indicated by the date/time shown on the electronic communication.
• U.S. Mail filings shall be timely filed if they are postmarked by U.S. Mail on or before the deadline and received by the appropriate supervisor or designated representative no more than three (3) days after the deadline.
1.09 Scheduling Conferences
The College shall make reasonable attempts to schedule conferences at a mutually agreeable time. If the grievant fails to appear at a scheduled conference, the College may hold the conference and issue a decision in the grievant’s absence.
Below the Board level, “response” shall mean a written communication to the employee from the appropriate supervisor. Responses may be hand-delivered, sent by electronic communication to the employee’s e-mail address of record, or sent by U.S. Mail to the employee’s mailing address of record. Mailed responses shall be timely if they are postmarked by U.S. Mail on or before the deadline.
1.11 College Business Days
“Days” shall mean College business days according to the official College calendar, unless otherwise noted. In calculating timelines under this policy, the day a document is filed is “day zero.” The following business day is “day one.”
1.12 Employee Representative
The grievant may designate a representative on the Employee Complaint and Appeal Form (see: DGBA Exhibit) at any level of this process. If the grievant fails to identify a representative when the form is submitted, a representative shall not be allowed to attend the conferences at that level; however, the employee may designate a representative if he/she appeals the administrative response to the next level.
“Representative” shall mean any person who or organization that does not claim the right to strike and is designated in writing by the employee to represent him or her in the complaint process. The representative may participate in person or by telephone conference call. The College may be represented by counsel at any level of the process.
1.13 Consolidating Complaints
Complaints arising out of an event or a series of related of events shall be addressed in one complaint. Employees shall not file separate or serial complaints concerning any event or series of events that have been or could have been addressed in a previous complaint. When two or more complaints are sufficiently similar in nature and remedy sought to permit their resolution through one proceeding, the College may consolidate the complaints.
1.14 Untimely Filing of Complaints and Appeal Notices
All time limits shall be strictly followed unless modified by mutual written consent or by this policy. If a complaint form or appeal notice is not timely filed, the complaint may be dismissed, on written notice to the grievant, at any point during the complaint process. The grievant may appeal the dismissal by seeking review in writing within ten days from the date of the written dismissal notice, starting at the level at which the complaint was dismissed. Such appeal shall be limited to the issue of timeliness.
1.15 Costs Incurred
Costs of any complaint shall be paid by the party incurring them.
1.16 Complaint Forms
Complaints and appeals under this policy shall be submitted in writing on a form provided by the College (see: DGBA Exhibit). Copies of any documents that support the complaint should be attached to the complaint form. If the grievant does not have copies of these documents, the documents may be presented at the initial conference. After the initial conference, no new documents may be submitted by the grievant unless the grievant did not know the documents existed before the Level One conference. A complaint or appeal form that is incomplete in any material aspect may be dismissed, but may be refiled with all the required information if the refiling is within the designated time for filing.
1.17 Audio Recordings
As provided by law, a grievant shall be permitted to make an audio recording of a conference or hearing under this policy at which the substance of the grievant’s complaint is discussed. The grievant shall notify all attendees present that an audio recording is being made prior to the start of the conference.
The following concerns are not subject to this policy:
• Contents of employee performance evaluations;
• Allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation (see: DIA Regulation -Employee Freedom from Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation), except for allegations of retaliation for filing or participating in a grievance that does not involve alleged discrimination or harassment; however, an employee disciplined following a discrimination or harassment investigation may use this policy to challenge the disciplinary action;
• Reduction in force terminations;
• Program change;
• Challenges to ownership of intellectual property; and
SECTION TWO: FORMAL GRIEVANCE AND APPEAL PROCESS
2.01 Level One: Supervisor
An employee may initiate the formal complaint process by timely filing the complaint in writing on a complaint form provided by the college (see: DGBA Exhibit). Complaint forms must be filed:
a) Within ten (10) days of the date the employee first knew, or with reasonable diligence should have known, of the decision, action, or incident giving rise to the complaint or grievance; and
b) With the lowest level supervisor who has the authority to remedy the alleged problem; in most circumstances, employee complaints shall be filed with his/her immediate supervisor. If the only supervisor who has authority to remedy the alleged problem is above the level of the immediate supervisor, the complaint may begin at the next level following the procedure, including deadlines, for filing the complaint form at the first level.
If the complaint is not filed with the appropriate supervisor, the receiving supervisor must note the date and time he/she received the complaint form and immediately forward the complaint form to the appropriate supervisor.
The appropriate supervisor shall conduct an investigation as necessary and schedule a conference with the grievant within ten (10) days after receipt of the written complaint. The supervisor may set reasonable time limits for the conference.
Absent extenuating circumstances, the supervisor shall provide the grievant a written response within ten (10) days following the conference. The written response shall set forth the basis of the decision. In reaching a decision, the supervisor may consider information provided at the conference and any other relevant documents or information the supervisor believes will help resolve the complaint.
The supervisor shall develop a record of the Level One process that includes the following documents and files, and submit the entire record to the Office of Human Resources:
• The original complaint form and any attachments;
• All other documents submitted by the grievant;
• The written response issued by the supervisor and any attachments;
• All other documents relied upon by the supervisor in reaching the initial decision; and
• Any audio or video recordings of conferences.
2.02 Level Two: Next Level Supervisor
If the grievant did not receive the relief requested at Level One or if the time for a response has expired, the grievant may appeal to the next level supervisor in writing, on a form provided by the College, within ten (10) days of the date of the Level One written response or, if no response was received, within ten (10) days of the response deadline.
After receiving the Level Two Appeal notice, the next level supervisor shall request the record of the Level One conference (see above). The grievant may request a copy of the record if he/she agrees to bear the expense of providing that copy of the record.
The next level supervisor or designee shall schedule a conference within ten (10) days after the Level Two Appeal notice is filed. The conference shall be limited to the issues and documents considered at the initial conference. At the conference, the grievant may provide information concerning any documents or information relied upon by the administration for the initial decision. The supervisor or designee may set reasonable time limits for the conference.
The next level supervisor or designee shall provide the grievant a written response within ten (10) days following the conference. The written response shall set forth the basis of the decision. In reaching a decision, the next level supervisor or designee may consider the record, information provided at the second conference, and any other relevant documents or information the supervisor or designee believes will help resolve the complaint.
The supervisor shall develop a record of the Level Two process that includes the following documents and files, and submit the entire record to the Office of Human Resources:
• The full record of the Level One process;
• The original completed appeal form;
• The written response issued by the next level supervisor and any attachments;
• All other documents relied upon by the administration in reaching the decision; and
• Any audio or video recordings of conferences.
2.03 Level Three: College President
If the grievant did not receive the relief requested at Level Two or if the time for a response has expired, the grievant may appeal to the College President. The appeal notice must be filed with the College President in writing, on a form provided by the College, within ten (10) days of the date of the written response from Level Two.
After receiving notice of the appeal, the College President shall request the Level Two Appeal record. The grievant may request a copy of the Level Two Appeal record and must agree to bear the expense of providing that copy of the record.
The College President or designee shall schedule a conference within ten (10) days after the appeal notice is filed. The conference shall be limited to the issues and documents considered at the previous conference levels. At the conference, the grievant may provide information concerning any documents or information relied upon by the administration for the initial decision. The College President or designee may set reasonable time limits for the conference.
The College President or designee shall provide the grievant a written response. The written response shall set forth the basis of the decision. In reaching a decision, the College President or designee may consider the record, information provided at any previous conferences, and any other relevant documents or information the supervisor or designee believes will help resolve the complaint.
The College President shall retain a record of the Level Three Appeal process that includes the following:
• The full record of the Level One process.
• The full record of the Level Two Appeal process.
• The written response issued by the College President and any attachments.
• All other documents relied upon by the administration in reaching the decision.
• Any recordings of conferences.
2.04 Level Four: Board of Trustees
A grievant may appeal the Level Three response to the Board of Trustees if the grievant alleges a procedural irregularity in the administration of the College Policy on Employee Complaints/Grievance, or alleges a violation of a Local Policy adopted by the Board. If a grievance does not allege a procedural irregularity in the administration of the grievance process or a violation of Local Policy, the grievant may present the complaint at the Citizen Participation portion of a regular Board meeting.
The appeal notice must be filed with the College President in writing, on a form provided by the College, within ten (10) days of the date of the latest written response. The administration shall inform the grievant of the date, time, and place of the Board meeting at which the complaint will be on the agenda for presentation to the Board.
The administration shall provide the Level Three record to the Board. The grievant may request a copy of the full record and must agree to bear the expense of providing that copy of the record.
The College administration shall determine whether the complaint will be presented in open or closed meeting in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act (Texas Gov. Code § 551.074) and other applicable law.
The Level Four appeal shall be limited to the issues and documents in the record, except the administration may present evidence not included in the record to the Board during the hearing. If the administration decides to present evidence not included in the record, the administration shall provide the grievant notice of the nature of the evidence at least three (3) days before the presentation.
The Board President may set reasonable time limits and guidelines for the hearing, including an opportunity for the grievant and administration to each make a presentation and provide rebuttal and an opportunity for questioning by the Board. The Board shall hear the complaint and may request that the administration provide an explanation for the decisions at the preceding levels.
In addition to any other record of the Board meeting required by law, the Board shall prepare a separate record of the Level Four Appeal. The Level Four Appeal hearing, including the presentation by the grievant or the grievant’s representative, any presentation from the administration, and any questions from the Trustees with responses, shall be recorded by audio recording, video/audio recording, or court reporter.
The Board shall then consider the complaint. It may give notice of its decision orally or in writing at any time up to and including the next regularly scheduled Board meeting (excluding special board meetings). If the Board does not make a decision regarding the complaint by the end of the next regularly scheduled meeting, the lack of a response by the Board upholds the administrative decision reached prior to the appeal to the Board.