Complaint & Grievance Process (FAIR)

Fast and Impartial Resolution (FAIR) Complaint and Grievance Process

Affirmitive Action and Equity Office

Introduction

The University offers a Complaint and Grievance policy and a process for pursuing either or both via the FAIR process (Fast and Impartial Resolution). This process provides a method for the fair and equitable resolution of complaints, misunderstandings, and grievances for University employees.

Employees may have concerns about work situations which they consider to be unfair or they may feel University policies and procedures are being inequitably applied to them. Ideally employees are able to discuss and resolve these concerns with their supervisors. However, if concerns remain unresolved, employees are encouraged to utilize FAIR as a formal approach to problem resolution. By working cooperatively to resolve issues as they arise, employees and other involved parties can improve and enhance the work environment within the University community.

What are the options under FAIR?

There are two components to FAIR:

  1. The COMPLAINT Process provides the opportunity for employees to have work-related problems heard and considered in a non-adversarial manner; and
  2. The GRIEVANCE PROCESS provides the opportunity for employees to resolve alleged violations of University, University System, and/or Board of Trustees policies.

These are two distinct but related processes established for the purpose of resolving work-related problems and/or misunderstandings. Eligible faculty and staff may use either procedure solely and separately, or may use the complaint procedure as the first step of the grievance procedure. FAIR is designed to assist faculty and staff in resolving problems to the mutual satisfaction of all involved in a neutral environment.

Are there advantages to first filing a Complaint instead of a Grievance?

A Complaint may be filed instead of, or as the first phase of, the Grievance Process. The Complaint process:

  • may serve as a less formal process than the grievance procedure for resolving work-related problems
  • offers facilitation as the primary problem resolution process….talking the issue out with the assistance of a third-party facilitator
  • is fast -- it allows parties to resolve issues quickly
  • has an expectation of confidentiality insofar that it is reasonable within legal requirements and organizational responsibilities. Complaint information shall be kept in a confidential file in Human Resources (HR), and it will be accessible only to those individuals engaged in the complaint process and appropriate administrators with an official need to know.
  • provides equal opportunity for involved parties to share concerns and issues
  • allows parties to create their own problem resolution
  • may be brought forward at any time. However, in order for the complaint to continue into the grievance procedure, the complaint must be filed within the 10-day time line as defined under "Complaint process" below.

How does the Complaint process work?

  • An eligible faculty or staff member may register a complaint by notifying their HR Partner of the complaint and indicating a desire to pursue a solution. If the employee wishes this complaint to meet the deadline for filing a grievance, the FAIR notice form must be completed and submitted to HR by 4:30 p.m. of the tenth calendar day from the day on which the employee became aware of the action which caused the complaint or the alleged policy violation and within one year of its occurrence.
  • After considering the nature of the complaint, the HR Partner will initiate discussion with the goal of resolution of the issue. Options to pursue resolution will include, but not be limited to, discussions with the supervisor, informal investigation of facts, and/or use of a third party to help facilitate between the complainant and the decision-maker (respondent).
  • If the option selected does not result in a satisfactory resolution of the complaint, the HR Partner may, as appropriate, require any of the following: a report from the investigator of the facts of the case; a report from the facilitator about the potential solutions; a report from the supervisor about the reasons that no resolution or settlement was reached. Human Resources will establish the appropriate time frame on any report or follow up on reports required.
  • If the complaint also qualifies as a grievance, a faculty or staff member may file a written grievance within the 10-day deadline described above. Human Resources will determine the point at which the complaint process has ended. If the complaint continues as a grievance, the grievance will continue at Step I or II as appropriate (see below).

Under what circumstances would I file a Grievance?

A grievance is a written statement alleging a violation of UNH, University System, or Board of Trustees policy. The grievance process is available to employees as a mechanism to resolve alleged violations. The grievance procedure shall not be used to review the substantive merits of an administrative judgment, performance evaluation, or other discretionary act or decision, except as may be necessary when a violation of a non-discrimination policy is alleged.

Status faculty and staff members are eligible to file a grievance, with the exception of faculty covered under the collective bargaining agreement and principal administrators. Staff members in the initial introductory period of employment are excluded from using the grievance procedure to appeal termination for the inability to meet requirements of the position.

What is the process for filing a Grievance and what is the time line?

The grievant completes a FAIR form which includes a written statement of the grievance, and submits it to the UNH Office of Human Resources. The statement will include the specific policy or policies alleged to be violated and a brief statement of the alleged violation and the resolution desired.

The deadline for filing a grievance with Human Resources shall be ten (10) calendar days from the day on which the aggrieved employee becomes aware of the action that is alleged to violate policy and within one year of its occurrence.

The filing of a grievance shall not affect the rights of an employee to seek any remedy which may be available in an external forum and does not postpone any deadlines for pursuing remedies in an external forum.

Steps to the FAIR Process

Step I:

  • Employees should first meet with their supervisor or the individual with whom they have a complaint or grievance and try to resolve the issue informally. If the issue remains unresolved, or if the employee believes it is inappropriate to address the complaint informally, he or she should contact their Human Resources Partner.
  • Human Resources will consider the nature of the issue and provide information and guidance on FAIR options. The University encourages the use of the facilitation option to resolve issues. The facilitation meeting brings together the people involved in the complaint in a neutral environment and seeks a mutually agreed upon resolution. Other options include, but are not limited to, discussion with supervisor and investigation of the facts.
  • Human Resources will seek to implement the option selected by the employee within five (5) calendar days of receiving the completed FAIR Notice Form submitted to HR within the established 10-day time frame. Completion of the form helps to define the issue or issues of concern to the employee and prompts communication between those involved with the complaint or grievance.
  • Human Resources will act as a resource to all parties involved. This assistance may include providing conflict resolution services, information gathering, documentation collection, copying, release time for witnesses, or other assistance deemed appropriate.
  • All meetings, as part of this procedure, shall be non-adversarial, and all parties will extend serious consideration to the views of all involved in an attempt to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. Resolution will be in written form, non-precedent setting as confidential as appropriate to the circumstances as determined by the University.
  • If the issue remains unresolved at the end of Step I, it may proceed to Step II if HR determines that the issue is grievable and the employee decides to continue the process. HR will notify the employee of the option to proceed to Step II and the time requirements to do so.

Step II:

  • The Step II process is available to employees who are grieving termination, continuing their grievance from Step I, or grieving through the harassment policy. The employee may continue the grievance with written notification to Human Resources which must be received by 4:30 p.m. of the fifth (5th) calendar day after the end of Step I.
  • The Step II grievance shall be heard by a Peer Review Panel unless the employee requests the President or President's designee to hear the grievance. If the President agrees to the request, he or she will notify the employee. In this instance, the employee will present the grievance directly to the President or designee who will in turn determine the hearing procedures, time limits and overall format.
  • Hearing by Peer Review Panel. The Step II hearing will be scheduled within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of notice of intent to continue the grievance unless there are unavoidable delays approved by HR or agreed to by mutual consent of the grievant and the University.

A grievant may bring an advocate to any meeting or hearing regarding the grievance. The advocate may act in an advisory capacity to the grievant, or at the grievant's request, may speak on his or her behalf. The third party must be a status USNH employee and shall not be an attorney.

  • The Peer Review Panel:

    - consists of three University status employees, one of whom may be the same occupational type as the grievant, and one may be the same occupational type as the respondent. Each party to the grievance may waive the occupational type option for him/herself. The Panel will be chosen from a list of employees appointed by the President and administered by Human Resources.
    - determines whether or not a policy violation occurred
    - will within five calendar days of hearing the grievance, make a recommendation to the President

  • The President, after receiving the recommendation of the Peer Review Panel (or designee) shall make a decision on the employee grievance. The President may accept or reject the recommendation in whole or in part or request additional information. Normally within five (5) calendar days of the President receiving the recommendation or hearing the grievance, the President will make a decision and notify the grievant and other parties involved of the decision.
  • Chancellor's Petition. After the employee has been notified of the President's decision, an employee who remains aggrieved shall be entitled to petition the USNH Chancellor for further review of the grievance. The written petition must be received by the Chancellor's Office no later than ten (10) calendar days after the day on which the University President renders the Step II decision. The employee's petition shall state clearly the grounds on which the Chancellor's review is sought. The Chancellor or his or her designee shall review the petition and determine whether further review is warranted. If the Chancellor or his or her designee determines further review is not warranted, the employee shall be so notified, and the President's decision shall be final. Otherwise, the Chancellor or his or her designee shall review the record of the grievance and make further inquiry as may be deemed necessary or appropriate. The Chancellor or his or her designee shall then decide the grievance and notify the grievant and the President. Any such decision shall be final.
  • An employee who is grieving a termination may be placed on leave of absence without pay during the time involved in processing the grievance if necessary time exceeds notice period. Under such circumstances, USNH shall continue its benefits contributions for up to ninety (90) days for a member of the Operating Staff and for up to one hundred and twenty (120) days for an exempt employee (PAT, Extension Educator, Academic Administrator, eligible faculty). If the 90 days or 120 days expire while a Chancellor level review is still under way, the USNH Benefit contributions for the grievant shall continue until the Chancellor's decision is made.

Where can I find UNH and USNH policies relative to the Complaint and Grievance Process?

For additional information, visit:

UNH policy

USNH policy

or contact Human Resources at 862-0501(voice) or 862-3227 (TTY).