Policy gives employees forum to air concerns

by Jessica Steeno

The University has detailed procedures to help prevent the kind of employee frustration that apparently led Jennifer Joan May to fire a handgun in the reception area of University President Nils Hasselmo’s office last week.
The University provides employees and students with two ways to file complaints against co-workers, the University or its policies. Grievances may be filed under the University Grievance Policy or with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, but not with both.
May reportedly filed a sexual harassment grievance, which would generally be handled by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
To file a complaint through the University Grievance Policy, a written statement must reach the office of University grievances within 30 work days after the action being grieved took place.
The grievance must identify the person who has the complaint, the action that caused the complaint, the University rule or policy it pertains to, the person responsible for the action and a proposed solution to the problem.
“It’s directed toward helping U employees feel that they can make a grievance and be heard,” said University Grievance Officer Nicholas Barbatsis.
A University grievance officer then sets an informal meeting with the person filing the grievance and the person against whom the grievance is being filed within 10 working days.
If this meeting does not resolve the issue, the grievance may go through three other phases consisting of meetings and hearings, the final phase being arbitration.
The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action resolves complaints in a different manner.
The office tries to prevent discrimination within the University, and it can only handle complaints related to discrimination.
A person may file a formal complaint with the office, or one may work with the office to solve the problem informally.
If the matter cannot be solved through informal communication facilitated by the equal opportunity office, then a formal panel hearing will be arranged.
Despite all the procedures available to work out problems, Tuesday’s incident illustrates that people are not always satisfied with grievance procedures.
“There’s a lot of people in this world that I don’t know that the grievance process would help,” Barbatsis said.