Employees are legally entitled to representation throughout the grievance process. Eligible ATPE members may contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department at (800) 777-ATPE (2873) for advice and assistance.
Timeline for filing
The most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about grieving a particular issue is that there are almost always strict and mandatory deadlines included in the grievance policy. The timeline for an employee to file a grievance can be found in the district’s local grievance policy, along with how the district defines “days” for purposes of that timeline (e.g., calendar days or district business days).
In most districts, the grievance timeline is quite short. Typically a grievance must be submitted within 10 or 15 calendar or business days from the date the employee first knew or should have known of the problem about which the grievance is being filed. Verbal notice of an action, such as a reassignment or pay cut, is often sufficient to trigger a grievance timeline.
Along with timeline information, the grievance process for the district should also be outlined in detail in that district’s local grievance policy. Grievance policies commonly require employees to submit grievances in writing to a certain administrator within the specified timeline using a form provided by the district.
Most district policies provide for a three-level grievance process after a grievance is submitted:
It is important to note that the Texas Constitution and the Texas Government Code provide only that employees have the right to “present” the grievances.
The first level is a conference with the employee’s principal or immediate supervisor at which the employee or representative presents the grievance. The policy will also generally state a specific timeline for the supervisor to respond. If there is no response within that timeline, or if the employee is not satisfied with the response, he may then appeal to level two of the process.
The second level is usually a conference with the superintendent or the superintendent’s designee. Again, if there is no response within the specified timeline, or if the employee is not satisfied with the response, he may appeal to level three of the process.
At the third level, the employee or representative presents his grievance to the school board.
The only legal requirement is that someone with the authority to remedy the situation “stop, look and listen” or, actually listen and pay attention to the complaint. There is no actual legal requirement that there even be a response; however, many local district policies do require a response at each level.
A school board’s refusal to act on a grievance upholds the prior administration decision. A hearing before the local school board is the final step in any local grievance process. Depending on the issue, it might then be possible for the employee to appeal a school board decision to the commissioner of education for review or proceed to court.
Again, the process outlined above is common but not necessarily applicable in all districts. Employees should carefully review their district’s grievance policy each school year to find specific information about the process and to see if any changes have been made since the previous school year.
Conclusion of a grievance
A grievance is concluded if the employee is granted all of the relief requested at any stage of the process. If all requested relief is not granted, a grievance may be concluded if the employee completes the entire process or does not appeal the decision at any level within the required timeline. Finally, a grievance may be concluded if the claim is rendered moot at any stage of the process, meaning that the resolution would no longer be relevant to the party or parties involved.
It is important to note that an employee resigning or otherwise leaving employment with the district prior to completion of the grievance process does not automatically make an issue moot.
For example: An employee might claim that the district owes him money or an employee may be grieving a negative appraisal that could affect future job opportunities. In such cases, there is still a viable remedy that could be granted to the employee even after he/she has left the district.