Understanding the grievance process

One of the most useful tools a contract provides you with is the grievance procedure. Often employees think filing a grievance will label them as a "troublemaker," but really the grievance process is just that—a process, which we use to resolve violations of our rights in a professional, orderly manner.

What is a grievance?

Typically, CSEA contracts define a grievance as a "formal written notice" that an employee has been adversely affected by "misapplication or incorrect interpretation" of the contract. Some contracts also allow you to grieve violations of law and of past practice.

Your right to union representation

You have the right to have a union representative present at all levels of the grievance procedure. Employees should take advantage of this right because, just as you wouldn’t go into court without a lawyer, you shouldn’t file a grievance without the benefit of representation.

CSEA representatives (Union Stewards and Labor Relations Representatives) have the necessary training and experience to help you plan the best strategy for resolving your problem. They know if there have been similar problems elsewhere and they have the technical knowledge of the contract and the laws to help you protect your rights.

The grievance process protects our rights

Most CSEA contracts contain a three-step grievance process. However, some contracts state that before filing a formal written grievance, you should attempt to resolve the matter through an informal conference with your immediate supervisor.  Remember, every contract is different, so you should consult your contract to understand the grievance process and timelines.

Level I—Within a certain number of days after the violation occurs (or after you know or you should have reasonably known it occurred) you must present your grievance in writing—usually to your immediate supervisor.

Level II—If you’re not satisfied with the Level I decision, you may appeal the decision—usually to a mid-level manager or to the superintendent or his designee.

Level III—In some contracts, chapters have negotiated arbitration with a neutral third party. If you’re not satisfied with the decision at Level II, you may request in writing that CSEA appeal the grievance. CSEA will notify the district whether we intend to submit the grievance to arbitration. The decision of the arbitrator is either binding (the parties are obligated to accept the arbitrator’s decision) or "advisory," wherein the parties are free to decide whether or not to accept the arbitrator’s recommendation.

Review your contract

As you can see, the grievance procedure is there for us—but only if we use it. Take a moment to review the grievance procedure in your contract.