It is the policy of the Wilkes County Board of Education, in keeping with the ultimate goal of serving the educational welfare of children, to develop and practice reasonable and effective methods of resolving difficulties which may arise among employees. The intent is to reduce potential areas of grievances and to establish and maintain recognized channels of communications between staff and administration. Each employee, regardless of age, race, sex, religion, color, creed, national origin or handicapping conditions, shall have the right to present for solution all problems arising within his employment situation and shall be encouraged to do so without fear of recrimination. The purpose of this procedure is to secure, at the lowest possible level, equitable solutions to the problems that arise from time to time and affect employees.
A. Informal Resolution
It is desirable for an employee and his or her immediate supervisor to resolve problems through free and informal communication. Before any formal steps are taken, the employee must tell the immediate supervisor that he wishes to discuss a problem. The supervisor is responsible for arranging a suitable time and place to discuss the problem.
In those circumstances where informal procedures fail or are inappropriate or where the employee requests formal procedures, a grievance will be processed pursuant to the steps set forth below.
Days: The working days, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, vacation days or holidays, as set forth in the aggrieved employee's employment calendar. In counting days, the first day will be the first full working day following receipt of the grievance. When a grievance is submitted on or after May 1, time limits will consist of all weekdays (Monday-Friday) so that the matter may be resolved before the close of the school term or as soon thereafter as possible.
a. formal written claim by an employee against another employee or the school district that: a. there has been a violation, misapplication, or misinterpretation of state or federal law or regulation, school Board of Education policy or administrative procedure;
b. an employee has been subject to discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability; or
c. there exists a physical condition which jeopardizes an employee's health or safety or which interferes with an employee's ability to discharge his or her responsibilities properly and effectively.
The term “grievance” will not apply to any matter for which the method of review is prescribed by law, for which there is a more specific Board of Education policy providing a process for addressing the concern, or the Board of Education is without authority to act.
Grievant: The employee(s) making the claim.
Official: The person hearing and responding to the grievant.
Parties in Interest: The grievant and the person against whom the grievance is filed.
C. Timeliness of Process
Failure by the official at any step to communicate a decision within the specified time limit will permit the grievant to appeal the grievance to the next step unless the official has notified the grievant of the delay and the reason for the delay, such as the complexity of the investigation or report. The official will make reasonable efforts to keep the grievant apprised of progress being made during any period of delay. Delays may not impermissibly interfere with the exercise of any legal rights.
Failure by the grievant at any step to appeal a grievance to the next step within the specified time limit will be considered acceptance of the decision at that step, unless the grievant has notified the official of a delay and the reason for the delay, and the official has consented in writing to the delay.
D. General Requirements
1. All parties in interest and their representatives in any grievance filed pursuant to this policy will conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times during the investigation and hearing of the grievance.
2. No reprisals of any kind will be taken by the Board of Education or by an employee of the school district against any party in interest or other employee on account of his or her participation in a grievance filed and decided pursuant to this policy.
3. Each decision will be made in writing, setting forth the decision and reasons therefore, and will be transmitted promptly to all parties in interest.
4. All sessions held in connection with the processing of a grievance, including arbitration will be in closed sessions, and no news releases will be made.
5. The Board of Education and school district will consider requests to hear grievances from a group of grievants, but the Board of Education and officials have the discretion to respond to individual grievants.
6. The Board of Education and administration will cooperate with the employee(s) and his or her representative in the investigation of any grievance and will furnish the employee or his or her representative information pertinent to the grievance without cost to the grievant employee or the employee against whom the grievance is filed.
7. The employee may have a representative; including legal counsel at the grievant’s expense, at any hearing before the Board of Education. The employee must inform the superintendent of the identity of the representative.
8. The necessary steps of the grievance procedure will be followed to the convenience of all parties whenever possible. Should, in the judgment of the superintendent or designee, the investigation or processing of any grievance require the absence of the grievant and/or representative from regular work assignments, such absences will be excused without loss of pay or benefits. No employee shall receive extra pay when meetings are held at a time other than working hours.
E. Process for Grievance
Reporting a Grievance
1. A grievance must be filed as soon as possible but no longer than 30 days after disclosure or discovery of the facts giving rise to the grievance. For a grievance submitted after 30 days which claims a violation, misapplication or misinterpretation of state or federal law, including discrimination, the superintendent or designee will determine whether the grievance will be investigated after considering factors such as the reason for the delay, the extent of the delay, the effect of the delay on the ability of the school district to investigate and respond to the complaint, and whether the investigation of the complaint is necessary to meet any legal obligations.
2. All grievances will be made in writing and the written statement of grievance will remain the same throughout all steps of the grievance procedure. The written grievance will name the employee(s) against whom the grievance is filed and will set forth the facts constituting the grievance and the specific laws, regulations, policies, procedures or physical conditions involved.
3. The employee(s) will present the grievance in writing to his or her immediate supervisor or the supervisor's designee (hereinafter “official”), unless the grievance alleges unlawful discrimination in which case the grievance may be presented instead to the superintendent.
Response by Official
1. The official will arrange for a grievance file number to be assigned by the personnel office.
2. In the event the official determines at the outset that review by the official is inappropriate, the formal grievance will be investigated and a response given at the first stage of appeal provided below.
3. A meeting will take place at a mutually agreed-upon time within five days after receipt of the grievance.
4. The official will conduct any investigation of the facts necessary before rendering a decision.
5. The immediate supervisor or his or her designee will arrange for a formal discussion of the allegation and will provide the aggrieved employee(s) with a written response to the grievance within ten days after the meeting.
Response by Superintendent
1. If the grievant is dissatisfied with the official’s response, the grievant may appeal in writing the decision to the superintendent for review by the superintendent or designee within five days of receipt of the official’s response.
2. The superintendent or designee will arrange for a meeting with the employee(s) to take place within five days of the receipt of the appeal. Either party may call witnesses to help resolve the matter.
3. The superintendent or designee will conduct any investigation necessary before arriving at a decision. The superintendent or designee will provide the aggrieved employee(s) with a written decision within ten days after the meeting.
Response by the Board
1. If the grievant is not satisfied with the superintendent’s response, the grievant may appeal in writing the decision to the Board of Education within five days of receiving the superintendent’s response.
2. A hearing will be conducted pursuant to Board of Education policy 2500, Hearings before the Board of Education.
3. Resolution of the matter will be made in executive session at the regular meeting.
4. The Board of Education will provide a final written decision within 30 days of receiving the appeal unless further investigation is necessary or the hearing necessitates that more time be taken to respond.
All written and printed matter dealing with the processing of a grievance will be filed separately and away from the central office personnel files of the participants. Records on discrimination grievances will be maintained as required by policy 1710 1710/4021/7230.
Legal Reference: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq., 34 C.F.R. pt. 100; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq., 34 C.F.R. pt. 106; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's "Final Amended Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex"; Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq.; The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 706(8), 794, 34 C.F.R. pt. 104; The Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12134, 28 C.F.R. pt. 35; Office of Civil Rights, Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Students or Third Parties, 62 Fed. Reg. 12,034 (1997); Office of Civil Rights, Racial Incidents and Harassment Against Students at Educational Institutions; Investigative Guidance, 59 Fed. Reg. 11,448 (1994); G.S. 126-16
Cross Reference: Prohibition Against Discrimination Harassment and Bullying (policy 1710/4021/7230), Hearings Before the Board of Education (policy 2500)
Adopted: January 9, 2006
Revised: January 31, 2011