Procedure: Complaint Resolution

Introduction

While the process described in this Complaint Resolution procedure is generic and therefore available to address any concerns of members of the Technical College community and employees of the Department, it is intended to be of particular use to those persons seeking to vindicate rights accorded them pursuant to the Department's policy of Equal Opportunity. More specifically, this policy constitutes the grievance mechanism called for by the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title IX (barring sex discrimination), Title VI (barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin); and Title VII (barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin).

This complaint resolution process is also intended to provide the Employee Grievance Procedure for the Unclassified Service mandated by the Governor's Executive Order, September 30, 1999 and constitutes the grievance procedure called for by the
Public Employee Hazardous Chemical Protection and Right to Know Act of 1988.

While this complaint resolution process is provided to employees as a mechanism for expressing concerns about employment, it is not intended to alter in any way the employment at-will relationship between the Department and its at-will employees.

Multiple grievances filed by an employee may be consolidated into a single grievance and separate grievances filed by two or more employees or other members of the Technical College community regarding the same issue(s) may be consolidated into a group grievance.

In pursuing a complaint, the individual may be accompanied and otherwise assisted by an advisor only from within the same Department or Technical College unit. The advisor's supervisor shall make a reasonable effort to authorize the advisor to be absent from their duties for up to four hours of work time per grievance for the purpose of assisting the grievant. Such time shall be during regular work hours, without loss of pay or leave credits. Absent extraordinary circumstances, employees may not be authorized to use work time to serve as an advisor for more than two grievances per calendar year.

A grievant will be allowed reasonable time, as determined by the Technical College or Department's Central Office Grievance Coordinator to prepare a grievance. Such time shall be during regular work hours, without loss of pay or leave credits. Preparation time shall include such activities as meeting with witnesses and reviewing the grievant's personnel file. The Grievance Coordinator shall have the authority to resolve any dispute regarding the determination of reasonable and necessary time for processing a grievance.

Confidentiality and privacy of those involved will be respected during all complaint procedures to the degree practicable. If an individual wishes to bring a complaint accusing another of misconduct and remain anonymous, the Technical College's ability to respond will be limited. Any member of the Technical College community or employee of the Department's Central Office who is particularly concerned about privacy is encouraged to discuss the matter with any person designated by the Commissioner or Technical College as a Complaint Resolution Policy advisor or any other Department or Technical College administrator with whom he or she feels comfortable. Consultations will be confidential to the full extent permitted by law.

This policy provides for policy advising and two avenues of pursing a complaint, an Informal Resolution Procedure and a Formal Resolution Procedure. An individual may utilize either or both of these avenues. The Commissioner and each Technical College shall establish a mechanism for tracking all complaints, particularly those alleging discrimination.

Any member of the Technical College community or employee of the Department's Central Office may submit a complaint alleging a violation of Technical College or Department policy to the appropriate administrator at any time except where time constraints are stipulated by contract or law. All persons are encouraged to file their complaints as promptly as possible because the ability of the Technical College or Department to effectively respond may be compromised by the passage of time. Grievances should generally be filed within 30 days of the date of the conduct complained of or within 30 days of the date the conduct was discovered. Employees who are seeking relief in accordance with the provisions of the
Employee Grievance Procedure for the Unclassified Service must normally file their grievance within ten workdays of the act complained of or within ten workdays following their learning of the act complained of.

Student academic complaints are not covered by this policy and procedure. Students seeking review of academic decisions may do so pursuant to the policy on
Academic Standards, Evaluations, and Appeals.



Policy Advising

Individuals seeking information regarding the process of complaint resolution may consult with any of the following offices or individuals for advice and assistance.

At the Department
Central Office Human Resources
Central Office Legal Services

At the Technical College
The President's Office
Any Vice President's Office
Human Resources Representative
Grievance Coordinator

Non-Grievable Issues

Performance evaluations, contract non-renewals and changes in job assignments or duties are generally not grievable under this policy. However, local policy may provide otherwise. Complaints regarding sexual harassment shall be handled in accordance with the procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints.

Informal Resolution Procedure

Complainants are encouraged to seek informal resolution of their grievances or concerns. This informal procedure is intended to encourage communication between the parties involved, either directly or through an intermediary, in order to facilitate a mutual understanding of what may be different perspectives regarding the complained of act or directive.

Absent extraordinary circumstances, the complainant's immediate supervisor will be responsible for the informal resolution procedure. If the immediate supervisor is the subject of the grievance the complainant may file the informal complaint with another person in the administrative chain of command. When a student is the complainant, the academic Department Head, Dean or Vice President for Student Services shall be responsible for the informal resolution procedure. The Grievance Coordinator at each Technical College or at the Department's Central Office shall assist employee-complainants in having their informal grievances heard and shall assist in fashioning an informal resolution upon the request of the complainant, the respondent or the supervisor.

If the informal process does not result in the resolution of the complaint to the satisfaction of the complainant, the complainant may utilize the formal complaint procedure. For monitoring purposes, a record of any complaint alleging discrimination or any other violation of law shall be reported to the Department or Technical College Grievance Coordinator, even when the complainant is using the informal process.


Formal Resolution Procedure

A formal complaint shall be in writing and shall set forth a statement of the facts, the Technical College or Department policy(ies),procedure(s) or law allegedly violated and the specific remedy sought. Employees who are seeking to vindicate their rights pursuant to the
Employee Grievance Procedure for the Unclassified Service shall utilize the State Personnel Department's Standardized Grievance Form

The formal complaint normally shall be filed as follows:

If the complaint alleges illegal discrimination, the complaint shall be filed with the Technical College's Director of Equity, and in the case of the Department's Central Office, with the Director of Human Resources. If the complaint concerns a non-academic student issue, the complaint shall be filed with the Vice President for Student Services. All other complaints shall be filed with the Technical College's Human Resources Representative or in the case of a Department Central Office employee, with the Director of Human Resources. These individuals or their offices shall also continue to monitor and coordinate the complaint's resolution.
Note: Each Technical College may select a representative, other than the one designated in this paragraph, to handle these complaints; however, employees and students must be notified of such changes. Notices shall be distributed in a manner to ensure that they are available to students and employees.

These Technical College or Department offices shall forward the complaint to the appropriate Director for Step 1 resolution. For the sake of clarity, the term "Director" in this procedure shall mean the appropriate individual for referring such complaints to. If the complaint is against appropriate Director, Step 1 of the complaint procedure shall be by-passed and the grievance shall be filed with the appropriate Vice President or Assistant Commissioner.

If the complaint is against a Vice President or Assistant Commissioner Step 1 and Step 2 of the complaint procedure shall be by-passed and the complaint shall be filed directly with the President or the Commissioner.

If the complaint is against the President or the Commissioner, Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 of the complaint procedure shall be by-passed and the complaint shall be filed in accordance with the Appeals procedure.

HEARINGS

Step 1

Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Director to whom the complaint was forwarded shall, within five (5) business days, conduct a formal conference with the complainant, permitting her or him to provide any necessary information relevant to the complaint. The Director shall also meet with the respondent and conduct such additional investigation as he or she deems necessary. Absent extraordinary circumstances, a written recommendation shall be rendered within five (5) business days of the formal conference unless an extension is mutually agreed to by the parties. The recommendation shall be sent to the complainant and respondent. The written recommendation shall state the background information, the rationale for the recommendation, and the recommended remedy (if any). No transcript or recording of the conference shall be made by either party. For monitoring purposes a copy of the report shall be sent to the Technical College or Department officer who received the initial complaint. In those cases where the grievant is seeking to vindicate rights pursuant to the
Employee Grievance Procedure for the Unclassified Service, the Director shall function as the Agency Grievance Coordinator as well as the Agency Grievance Review Official.

Step 2

If the complaint is not resolved at Step 1, the complainant or respondent may, within ten (10) business days of receipt of the Step 1 recommendation, appeal to the appropriate Vice President, President or Assistant Commissioner administratively responsible for the unit of the Technical College or Department in which the alleged policy violation/s occurred.

Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Vice President, President or Assistant Commissioner shall hold a hearing within fifteen (15) business days of receipt of the appeal or complaint. Absent extraordinary circumstances, a written recommendation shall be rendered within ten (10) business days of such hearing. The complainant and the respondent shall be afforded the opportunity to testify, to call witnesses and to introduce documentary evidence. No transcript or recording shall be made of the hearing. For monitoring purposes a copy of the report shall be sent to the Department or Technical College officer who received the initial complaint.

Step 3

In the event that the complaint is not resolved at Step 2, the complainant or respondent may file an appeal with the President or Commissioner, as appropriate, within ten (10) business days of the receipt of the Step 2 recommendation.

Absent extraordinary circumstances, the President or Commissioner shall, within five (5) business days refer the complainant or respondent to a Grievance Hearing Officer. The Step 3 hearing shall be held as soon as practicable and normally within twenty (20) business days of referral of the complaint to the Grievance Hearing Officer by the President or Commissioner. The complainant and the respondent shall have the right to call witnesses, to testify and to present relevant documentary evidence. The complainant and the respondent shall have the right to cross-examine all witnesses. A tape recording of the proceeding shall be made and a copy shall be provided, at cost, to the complainant and to the respondent. Following the hearing, the Grievance Hearing Officer shall, absent extraordinary circumstances, render a report and recommendation to the President or Commissioner within twenty business days following the hearing. The report shall contain specific findings of fact and recommendations. Upon consideration of the report and recommendation, the President or Commissioner shall render a decision in writing and communicate the same to the complainant, the respondent, and to the Technical College or Department Central Office monitoring officer.

Mediation

At any point in the procedure, a grievance may be referred to mediation upon the concurrence of the parties. The Grievance Coordinator shall assist the parties in locating either an in-house or external mediator.

APPEALS

Absent extraordinary circumstances, the President's or Commissioner's decision shall be final. However, a grievant may file an appeal of a President's decision to the Commissioner and thence to the State Board and a grievant may file an appeal of a Commissioner's decision to the State Board. Provided further, however, that all student appeals will be final upon the decision of the President, unless the Technical College elects to allow a final appeal to its Local Board of Directors. In addition, the decision of a President to non-renew a employee's contract may not be appealed.

The Commissioner and Board's consideration of any appeal shall be entirely discretionary and shall, absent extraordinary circumstances, be confined to an appellate-standard review of the record. The Commissioner or Board may decline to consider the appeal or may affirm, reverse or modify the decision below. The Commissioner or Board may also refer the appeal to a Hearing Officer for an evidentiary hearing and recommended action. Appeals by tenured employees and contract employees terminated during the contract period shall be referred for such an evidentiary hearing.

References

Procedure for Classified Employee Grievances

Standardized Grievance Form

Employee Grievance Complaint Procedure (Department of Labor Rules, 300-3-19-.05) issued pursuant to O.C.G.A. 45-22-7, Public Employee Hazardous Chemical Protection and Right to Know Act of 1988

III. M. 1. Complaint Resolution

V. R. 2. Complaint Resolution

Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedures



Created: October 3, 2001