If you have an employment dispute that you do not believe is attributable to discrimination base on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, age, and/or reprisal for EEO activity or reprisal for whistleblowing, you may want to consider filing a grievance through the agency grievance process or the negotiated grievance procedure.

If you are a represented by a union, you typically have a procedure for deciding disputes available to you through the grievances process outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. This procedure is known as the “negotiated grievance procedure.” You must be in the bargaining unit covered by that union contract in order to avail yourself of that procedure. Generally, you may file the grievance on your own or with the assistance of a union official. If the grievance is not satisfactorily resolved, the union may invoke arbitration regarding your dispute. Arbitration is the process in which an outside neutral party decides the merits of your grievance and issues a binding decision. It is important to determine in advance whether the union will be willing to take your case to arbitration at the time the initial grievance is filed. Once you file your written grievance, you cannot opt out of the negotiated grievance procedure for another procedure, even if the union is not willing to take your case to arbitration.

Many collective bargaining agreements do allow you to file a grievance alleging discrimination. Consult your collective bargaining agreement to learn about the specific matters covered by the negotiated grievance procedure, as well as the procedures and applicable deadlines for filing and processing your grievance through the negotiated grievance procedure.

If you are not a member of the bargaining unit, the negotiated grievance procedure will not be available to you. However, you do have the option to file an administrative grievance through your agency’s administrative grievance system. The administrative grievance provides an internal agency review and resolution of any dispute you may have concerning employment matters that arose in the agency that is not covered by some other appeal process (for example, EEO complaints and adverse action appeals). Your agency should have a copy of its grievance procedure, outlining the specific procedures and applicable deadlines for filing and processing an administrative grievance.

The major difference between the administrative grievance procedure and the negotiated grievance procedure is that the administrative grievance procedure is an in-house procedure. That is, the grievance will not be decided by a neutral third party not employed by the agency. The agency grievance will be decided by an agency official who, in reality, is likely to be disposed to support another manager’s decision and rule in favor of the agency. Unfortunately, the agency grievance procedure should be viewed as a procedure of “last resort,” and utilized only when some other process permitting for binding decisions by neutral third parties in unavailable.

** This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation of federal employees worldwide. For more information on Passman & Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com. **