FEDweek

Administrative Grievances

There are two types of grievances, administrative and negotiated. The former type applies to all employees of agencies that have established such procedures—virtu-ally all of them—while the latter type applies only to employees who are within union bargaining units (see Labor-Management Relations above in this chapter). For union-represented employees, if a matter is grievable through a negotiated grievance process, it is not grievable through the administrative process. However, although all contracts must contain provisions for negotiated grievance procedures, those contracts commonly exclude certain matters; in that case, those matters would be eligible for an administrative grievance.

Administrative grievance procedures range from very informal to formal among different agencies and the subject matter covered varies as well. The government has set only broad guidance on procedures and subject matter, but in general, administrative grievances cover subjects not appealable elsewhere—such as minor disciplinary actions, challenges to performance ratings and denials of training requests. These grievances typically are filed by individual employees on their own behalf, but in some cases group grievances are raised.

Administrative grievance procedures guarantee a type of formal review process at which an employee may state his or her case and present any evidence to back it up. However, generally there are few guarantees of formal due process rights such as the right to cross-examine witnesses, receive a formal written decision and so on. For example, while there typically is some provision for fact-finding, there may or may not be a formal hearing. Policies regarding issues such as time limits, to whom the grievance must be submit¬ted, the right to question others or obtain documents, any requirement for decisions to be put in writing, the number of grievance stages available, and the available relief also vary.

Because of this variation, the supervisor’s role in administrative grievance differs from agency to agency. For example, an initial grievance might be filed with the first-level supervisor and that person will be responsible for the agency’s initial response—of¬ten an informal process. However, in some cases the grievance will be filed at a level up, and the first-line supervisor is called on to justify the decision.

Commonly, administrative grievance procedures as¬sure review by someone other than the supervisor who made the contested decision—usually, but not always, someone at a higher level—and many provide for an appeal to a higher level as well. But generally decisions are not appealable to bodies outside the agency.