Policy VII-8.00-GC

UMGC Policy on Grievances for Nonexempt and Exempt Staff Employees

(Approved by USM BOR on April 21, 2017; UMGC President on July 1, 2017)

  1. Purpose and Applicability

    This policy establishes the employee's right to file a Grievance and applies to University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) Nonexempt and Exempt Staff employees on Regular Status. The policy fully incorporates the requirements of the Education Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. Nonexempt Staff employees who are included in the representation of the collective bargaining unit are subject to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and applicable UMGC HR Policies; where there is a conflict between the two, the MOU will prevail.

  2. Definitions

    The following terms and definitions shall apply for purposes of this policy:

    1. Grievance: Any cause of dispute arising between an employee and UMGC on a matter concerning discipline, alleged discrimination, promotion, assignment, suspension, demotion, separation from employment, including charges for removal, notice of termination, rejection on probation; interpretation or application of UMGC Policies, rules or departmental procedures over which UMGC has control.

    2. Working Day: Monday through Friday, excluding days on which UMGC is closed for business, regardless of any employee's actual work schedule.

  3. Administration

    1. Need for a Grievance Process

      UMGC recognizes that legitimate disputes and Grievances may exist in the daily relationship between UMGC as an employer and its employees. It is the responsibility of all supervisors, administrators, managers, faculty and employees to establish and maintain a work climate within which an employee dispute or Grievance will be promptly identified, presented, discussed and given fair, timely consideration.

    2. General Obligations

      UMGC's management and each employee have an obligation to make every effort to resolve employee relations disputes as they arise.

      1. In any case where this effort fails, a Grievance may be submitted to a higher authority for adjudication in accordance with this policy, including neutral advisory arbitration or the Office of Administrative Hearings in Step Three Grievances, where applicable.

      2. If a Grievance is submitted, the parties shall make every effort to resolve the Grievance at the lowest possible level of the process.

      3. Decisions shall be both prompt and definitive.

      4. Department Heads shall provide employees with information regarding the channels of communication and Grievance rights in that Department.

      5. The employee shall have the right to representation at any Step of the Grievance process.

    3. Retaliation Prohibited

      Each employee utilizing the Grievance process shall have the right to make known a problem or dispute without the fear of coercion or reprisal. During any stage of a Grievance or other administrative or legal action that concerns employment, an employee may not be subjected to coercion, discrimination, interference, reprisal, or restraint by or initiated on behalf of UMGC solely as a result of that employee's pursuit of or participation in a Grievance or other administrative or legal action that concerns UMGC employment.

      An employee may not intentionally take or assist in taking an act of coercion, discrimination, interference, reprisal, or restraint against another employee solely as a result of that employee's pursuit of or participation in a Grievance or other administrative or legal action that concerns UMGC employment. An employee who violates the provision of this subsection shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

    4. Consistency with Other Laws and Policies

      No decision shall be made at any Step of the Grievance process which conflicts with or modifies any policy or procedures approved by the President or the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland (USM), any applicable statute, or any applicable administrative regulation issued under appropriate statutory authority.

    5. Monetary Relief

      1. The President or designee, Chancellor or Administrative Law Judge appointed by the Office of Administrative Hearings, as appropriate, shall have the power to award back pay in any Grievance, and the CHRO or designee shall enforce such order.

      2. In a case where an employee has been misclassified, the President or designee, Chancellor or Administrative Law Judge may, as appropriate, in his/her discretion, award back pay to the employee for a period not to exceed one (1) year prior to the initial filing of the Grievance, as appropriate.

    6. Non-Grievable Matters

      1. Employees may not file or continue to pursue a Grievance on any matter that is the subject of:

        1. A previous complaint filed by the employee under Title 5 of the State Personnel and Pensions Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Subtitle 2 (Equal Opportunity Program) or Subtitle 3 (Maryland Whistleblower Law) regarding facts and circumstances raised in the previous complaint; or

        2. A previous complaint filed under another UMGC or applicable USM policy intended to protect the rights of employees regarding facts and circumstances raised in the previous complaint.

      2. Employees may not file or continue to pursue a Grievance on any issues that are not grievable by law, including issues pertaining to the general level of wages, wage patterns, fringe benefits or to other broad areas of financial management and staffing.

      3. If an employee files a Grievance containing non-grievable matters, the decision-maker may dismiss the Grievance without holding a conference or addressing the merits of the Grievance.

    7. Nothing in the section shall prohibit an employee from filing a complaint in accordance with the appropriate law or UMGC policy or from filing a Grievance regarding an issue that was not specifically decided under an earlier complaint process used by the employee.

    8. Final Disposition

      Any party who elects to use this Grievance process for the resolution of a problem shall be presumed to agree to abide by the final disposition arrived at in this Grievance process, and the final disposition shall not be subject to review under any other policy or process within UMGC or USM.

  4. General Procedures

    1. Representation of the Employee

      An employee may be represented at every Step in the Grievance process as follows:

      1. At any point in the Grievance process, the employee may elect to obtain, change, or dismiss a representative by providing written notice of name of the employee's representative (Representative) to the decision-maker at the current Step of the Grievance process. An employee may not be represented by more than one individual at any given time during the Grievance process.

      2. If the employee obtains, changes or dismisses the Representative during the course of the Grievance process, the employee will not be permitted to return to a previous Step in the process or otherwise delay the Grievance.

      3. An employee designated as a Representative in any informal or formal stage of the process shall not suffer any loss of pay for investigating, processing or testifying in any Step of the Grievance procedure. If an employee represents him/herself, the employee will not suffer any loss of pay for testifying in any Step of the Grievance procedure but may not use work hours to investigate or process his/her Grievance.

    2. Documentation Requirements

      1. A Grievance must be filed in writing on UMGC's Employee Grievance Form.

      2. Employee Grievance Forms shall be available in UMGC's Office of Human Resources and on the UMGC website.

      3. The employee must sign the Employee Grievance Form at each Step of the Grievance process. The employee or the Representative shall submit the form to Office of Human Resources or the Department Head with a copy to the Office of Human Resources.

      4. The employee who filed the Grievance is responsible for keeping a copy of the Grievance Form submitted by the employee at each Step of the process for possible future reference.

      5. At Step One and Step Two, after the conference is held, the decision- maker shall provide the Office of Human Resources with his/her written decision. The Office of Human Resources shall deliver a copy of the decision to the employee who filed the Grievance in person, to the employee's last known address via a delivery method that allows for delivery confirmation and/or to the employee's last known email address with a method that allows for delivery confirmation.

      6. The Office of Human Resources shall maintain copies of all Grievance Forms received, any evidence submitted to the decision-maker for consideration during the conference, and decisions rendered at each Step of the Grievance process in accordance with UMGC's applicable records

    3. Rules and Standards for Proceedings

      1. Similar Grievances may be consolidated and processed together as a single Grievance. Where a number of individual Grievances have been reduced into a single Grievance, not more than three (3) employees selected by and from the group of employees who filed individual Grievances may be excused from work to attend a Grievance conference called by the Department Head at Step One, and not more than five (5) employees may be excused from work to attend a Grievance conference or hearing at Steps Two and Three, unless prior permission is granted by the CHRO or designee.

      2. Each Step of the Grievance procedure shall be processed as quickly as feasible within the specified time limits.

      3. Failure to timely request that a Grievance proceed to the next Step of the process at any Step constitutes acceptance of the decision. UMGC's failure to timely respond to a Grievance constitutes a denial of the Grievance at that Step. By mutual written agreement of the parties, the time limits and/or Steps may be waived.

      4. Any question concerning the timeliness of a Grievance or whether a complaint is subject to the Grievance procedure shall be raised by UMGC, the employee or by the decision-maker and resolved promptly, unless the decision-maker for that Step of the Grievance process determines that the decision shall be deferred pending a conference or hearing on the merits.

      5. Requests to proceed to the next Step of the Grievance process shall be timed from the employee's receipt of the written opinion of the decision-maker or from when such opinion is due, whichever comes first.

      6. At each Step of the Grievance process, the decision-maker for the Grievance may exclude incompetent, irrelevant, immaterial and unduly repetitious evidence or witnesses.

      7. All Grievance hearings shall be open hearings unless either party requests that the hearings be closed.

      8. At any Step of the Grievance process either party may require that witnesses be excluded from the hearing room until called to testify.

      9. The original Grievance that has been considered on the merits will be considered de novo, in its entirety, at each successive Step of the Grievance process. De novo review means that the decision-maker at each Step in the Grievance process will make an independent determination of the issues, without deference to the conclusions made at an earlier Grievance Step. A Grievance going forward on a procedural issue will be remanded to the lowest appropriate Step of the Grievance process (i.e., where the procedural error is to have occurred) to be heard on the merits if the procedural dispute is found in favor of the employee who filed the Grievance.

      10. Unless granted permission from the employee's designated supervisor, an employee shall not engage in Grievance activities during work hours.

      11. UMGC shall grant release time from normal work schedules to the employee who filed the Grievance and all witnesses to attend Grievance conferences and hearings. Expenses incurred, in connection with attendance by employees at Grievance hearings shall be borne by the employee's Department.

  5. Grievance Process

    1. The following procedures apply to all Grievances as follows:

      1. If a dispute remains unresolved following informal discussion with the supervisor, the employee and/or Representative may submit a Grievance, using the Employee Grievance Form signed by the employee with the Office of Human Resources.

      2. The employee and/or Representative must submit the Grievance within 30 calendar days of the action(s) giving rise to the Grievance, or within thirty 30 days of the employee having reasonable knowledge of the action(s) giving rise to the Grievance.

    2. There are three Steps in the in the UMGC Grievance process:

      1. Step One: Department Head

        1. An aggrieved employee and/or Representative may submit an Employee Grievance Form in writing to the Office of Human Resources or the Department Head with a copy to the Office of Human Resources. Within five (5) working days after receipt of the written Grievance, the Department Head shall hold a conference with the aggrieved employee and/or Representative.

        2. If, at Step One, a Department Head and/or the Office of Human Resources believes that the Grievance concerns a Systemwide issue, as defined in Section V.B.2, the Department Head or Office of Human Resources may submit the issue to the President or designee to determine if the Grievance should be submitted to the Chancellor.

        3. Within five (5) working days after the conclusion of the conference, the Department Head shall render a written decision.

        4. The CHRO or designee shall be available to serve as a resource to answer any questions by either the Department Head or the employee. Consulting with the CHRO or designee shall not relieve the Department Head of the responsibility for issuing a written decision at Step One of this procedure.

        5. The Department Head will use judgment in keeping superiors informed of the status of each Grievance and, as necessary, may request guidance, advisory committees or other assistance in reaching a decision.

      2. Step Two: The President or Designee

        If the dispute is still unresolved or the aggrieved employee is dissatisfied with the decision at Step One, the aggrieved employee and/or Representative may submit an appeal in writing to the President or designee with a copy to the Office of Human Resources within five (5) working days after the employee's receipt of the Department Head's written decision at Step One or, if no decision was issued, within five (5) working days from when the decision was due to be issued. The President or designee shall determine the appropriate forum for the conference based upon the nature of the Grievance as indicated below:

        1. UMGC issues may include, but are not limited to: application of a Department or UMGC Policy, procedure or practice; administrative actions such as Reprimands, Suspensions, Charges for Removal, Involuntary Demotions and Rejections on Probation.

        2. UMGC issues shall be heard by the President or designee. The President or designee shall hold a conference with th aggrieved employee and/or Representative within ten (10) working days of receipt of the written Grievance appeal and shall render a written decision within fifteen (15) working days after the conclusion of the conference.

        3. Systemwide issues are issues, which may affect more than one Institution in the USM. These issues may include, but are not limited to, the general policies of the USM and broad classification issues not limited by law, regulation or policy. Grievances involving Systemwide issues shall be submitted to the Chancellor or designee to be heard, in accordance with USM policy.

      3. Step Three: The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) or Arbitration

        1. If the dispute is still unresolved or the aggrieved employee is dissatisfied with the decision at Step Two, the aggrieved employee, after exhausting all available procedures provided by UMGC, shall have the right to appeal the Grievance to either arbitration or to the Chancellor, who may delegate the Grievance to the OAH to be heard. In either case, the appeal must be submitted to the appropriate body within ten (10) working days after the employee's receipt of the Step Two decision, or if no decision was issued, within ten (10) working days from when the decision was due to be issued.

        2. If the grievance is arbitrated, any arbitration award will be advisory to the Chancellor or Administrative Law Judge, as applicable.

        3. In the event of arbitration, the parties shall select an arbitrator by mutual agreement. If the parties are unable to reach mutual agreement, an arbitrator shall be supplied by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) using AAA procedures. Any fees resulting from arbitration shall be assessed by the Arbitrator equally between the two parties. In cases that go before an arbitrator, each party will be responsible for any expense incurred in the preparation and presentation of its own case, and for any record or transcript it may desire.

        4. The Chancellor or Administrative Law Judge, as applicable, shall make the final decision which shall be binding upon all parties.

  6. Additional Grievance Procedures for Certain Actions Pertaining to Nonexempt Staff Employees

    These procedures apply to disputes regarding major personnel actions involving a Suspension, Demotion or Separation from Employment, including Disciplinary Separations and Rejections on Probation. The employee and/or Representative may submit a Grievance, using the Employee Grievance Form signed by the employee with the Office of Human Resources within five (5) working days of the action taken by UMGC, or within five (5) working days of the employee having reasonable knowledge of such action.

    1. Unpaid Suspensions Pending Charges for Removal for Nonexempt Staff Employees

      1. If an employee is suspended without pay pending Charges for Removal, the CHRO or designee shall notify the employee in writing of the reasons for the suspension at the time of the notice of suspension. The CHRO or designee shall deliver a copy of the notification to the employee in person or to the employee's last known address via a delivery method that allows for delivery confirmation.

      2. The employee who is suspended pending Charges for Removal may, within five (5) working days from the date on which the employee receives the notification of suspension, request in writing through the CHRO or designee that the President or designee conduct a preliminary hearing to determine whether or not the employee may continue to work with pay during the disposition of the charges. The date the notification of suspension is received shall be evidenced by a return receipt or other proof of delivery of notification to the employee.

      3. The President or designee shall conduct a preliminary hearing within five (5) working days after the CHRO or designee receives in writing the request from the suspended employee for the preliminary hearing.

        1. The preliminary hearing shall be limited to the issues of:

          1. Whether suspension without pay is necessary to protect the interests of UMGC or the employee pending final disposition of the charges; and

          2. Whether other employment and status alternatives should be considered.

        2. At the preliminary hearing, the employee may:

          1. Rebut the reasons given for the suspension;

          2. Allege mitigating circumstances; and

          3. Offer alternatives to the suspension including:

            1. Return to the position with pay;

            2. Transfer to another position with pay; or

            3. Suspension with pay.

        3. Within five (5) working days after the preliminary hearing is completed, the President or designee shall render a written decision that is conclusive as to the issue of whether or not the employee may continue to work with pay pending the disposition of the charges.

    2. Charges for Removal from Employment for Nonexempt Staff Employee

      1. An employee who is notified of Charges for Removal may request an opportunity to present a defense within five (5) working days from the date on which the employee receives the Charges for Removal, as evidenced by the return receipt or other evidence of delivery of the charges to the employee. A Grievance of Charges for Removal shall be referred by the CHRO or designee to the President.

      2. The President or designee shall, within 30 working days, if possible, investigate the charges and give the employee an opportunity to be heard. Testimony shall be taken under oath and both parties shall have the right of representation by counsel and the right to present witnesses and give evidence.

      3. Within 15 working days following the conclusion of the hearing, a written decision shall be rendered to the employee.

      4. In case no hearing is requested by the employee within the prescribed time, the CHRO or designee shall act upon the charges or order such other actions as may be indicated by the findings in the case.

      5. If a hearing is requested within five (5) working days and the removal is upheld, Step Three of the Grievance procedure, as provided above, is available to the removed employee. The Grievance shall be submitted within 10 working days after receipt of the written UMGC decision or the date upon which the decision was due to be issued, whichever comes first.

      6. In cases where the employee has appealed both the Suspension Pending Charges for Removal and the subsequent Charges for Removal, both hearings can be combined in a single hearing upon the agreement of the parties.

    3. Involuntary Demotions for Nonexempt Staff Employees

      1. An employee who is notified of Demotion may, within five (5) working days of written notification, file a written Grievance on the Employee Form with the CHRO or designee and request an investigation of the Demotion.

      2. Within 20 working days, if possible, after receipt of the Grievance, the President or designee shall investigate the Demotion and give the employee the opportunity to be heard. Within fifteen (15) working days following the conclusion of the investigation, the written decision shall be rendered to the employee.

      3. If an investigation is requested within five (5) working days and the Demotion is upheld, Step Three of the Grievance process, as provided above, is available to the employee. The request for Step Three shall be submitted within 10 working days after receipt of the written decision or from the date upon which the decision was due to be issued, whichever comes first.

    4. Rejection on Probation for Nonexempt Staff Employees

      1. Rejection on Original Probation (See VII-1.01-GC – UMGC Policy on Recruitment, Selection and Probation)

        1. A Nonexempt employee who is rejected on Original Probation may, within five (5) working days of the rejection, file a written Grievance on the Employee Grievance Form with the CHRO or designee for a conference at Step Two of the Grievance process, as provided above. Rejection for cause is not required in the case of an employee rejected on original probation.

        2. Within 20 working days, if possible, after receipt of the request, the President or designee shall conduct a hearing. Within 15 working days following the conclusion of the hearing, a written decision shall be rendered to the employee.

        3. If the rejection is upheld, Step Three of the Grievance process is available to the employee. The appeal shall be submitted within 10 working days after receipt of the written decision or from the date upon which the decision was due to be issued, whichever comes first.

      2. Rejection on Status Change Probation

        1. The employee's supervisor after a Status Change bears the responsibility for preparing the justification when there is a Rejection on Probation of an employee who has satisfactorily completed an Original Probation and is serving a Status Change Probation.

        2. An employee who is rejected on Status Change Probation, and for whom no vacancy in the former classification is available may appeal, within 10 working days of receipt of the recommendation of rejection by the employee's supervisor after a Status Change, to the President or designee and request an investigation of the proposed rejection.

        3. Within 20 working days, if possible, after receipt of the appeal, the President or designee shall complete an investigation of the recommended rejection. Within 15 working days following the conclusion of the investigation, the written decision shall be rendered to the employee.

        4. If the rejection is upheld, Step Three of the Grievance process, as provided above, is available to the rejected employee. The appeal shall be submitted within 10 working days after receipt of the written decision or from the date upon which the decision was due to be issued, whichever comes first.

    5. Disciplinary Suspension for Nonexempt Employees (Does not apply to suspension pending Charges for Removal)

      1. Any alleged infraction shall be investigated by the appointing authority or designee at the earliest opportunity following knowledge of the alleged infraction, and completed as soon as possible. All suspensions of employees shall be implemented within three (3) working days of the alleged infraction or knowledge of the alleged infraction by the responsible Department Head. All suspension days shall be consecutive according to their work schedule.

      2. The employee and/or Representative may submit a written appeal on a disciplinary suspension:

        1. To Step One of the Grievance process within five (5) working days of notification of the suspension. In such event, Department Head or designee must hear the case within three (3) working days from the receipt of the written appeal. Should the appeal be unheard or unanswered within three (3) days as a result of management delay, the employee shall be reinstated with full back pay. A written record of the disciplinary event shall be maintained; or

        2. Directly to Step Two of the Grievance process within five (5) working days of notification of the suspension.

      3. Any further appeals must proceed through the Grievance process within the prescribed time limits. If the suspension is upheld by the President or designee, Step Three of the Grievance process is available to the employee.

Implementation Procedures

The UMGC President has designated the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) to administer this policy; to develop procedures as necessary to implement this policy; to communicate this policy to the UMGC community; and to post the policy and any applicable procedures on the UMGC website.

Replacement for:

  • USM BOR VII-8.00: Policy on Grievances for Nonexempt and Exempt Staff Employees