Employees are legally entitled to representation throughout the grievance process.
Timeline for filing
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 timelines are 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.
- The grievance process 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. The form will usually ask for the grievant’s contact information, a description of what occurred or what the complaint is about, the names of anyone else involved, the dates that things occurred, and what remedy or resolution the grievant is asking to receive.
Most district policies provide for a three-level grievance process after a grievance form is submitted:
- 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 deadline for the supervisor to respond. If there is no response by the deadline, or if the employee is not satisfied with the response, the employee may then appeal to level two of the process by submitting a form and the documentation submitted at level one to the person or department designated in the policy.
- The second level is usually a conference with the superintendent or someone designated by the superintendent who again hears the grievance. Again, if there is no response within the specified timeline, or if the employee is not satisfied with the response, the employee may appeal to level three of the process by again submitting a form and the proper documentation to the person or department designated in the policy.
At the third level, the employee or representative presents the grievance to the school board at an official school board meeting. The school board may hear the grievance in open or closed session, depending on the specifics of the complaint and the requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The board may vote to grant or deny the grievance. Any vote must be taken in open session. A school board’s denial or 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. If the grievance involves a claim that a law has been violated, 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.
The Texas Constitution and the Texas Government Code provide only that an employee has the right to “present” the grievance. 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 presentation. There is no legal requirement for a response; however, many local district policies do require a response at each level.
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 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 the resolution would no longer be relevant or mean anything 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 them money, or an employee may be grieving a negative appraisal that could affect future job opportunities. In such cases, a viable remedy could still be granted to the employee even after they have left the district.