When the grievance meeting is complete, you will need to prepare a response. You have given the grievant a fair chance to share their concerns, and have gathered the information you need to make an informed decision.

Considerations when responding:

  • Take a few days to think about the grievance. Kick it around for a while and see if your perspective changes. Try putting yourself in the employee’s position. Would you have grieved this issue?

    Generally, City of Madison contracts allow for five days to respond following the grievance meeting. Although you should always respond in a timely manner, use the time you are given to assure a well-thought-out decision.
  • Don’t cut deals or swap issues. Anytime a grievance is settled, it sets a precedent. If you feel that there is a possibility for settlement that addresses the concerns of the grievance and preserves the rights of management, contact the Labor Relations Office for advice on the settlement. Get the facts and make a decision; do not negotiate.
  • If you are wrong, admit it and move on. Everybody makes mistakes; blaming others or making excuses is not the way to handle these situations. If you cannot own up to your mistakes, don’t expect the employees you supervise to do any differently.
  • Investigate. Don’t believe everything you hear; check it out for yourself. Read the grievance, the contract, and departmental policies one more time. Talk to other supervisors and check for past practices. If you are unsure, contact Labor Relations to discuss any issue.
  • Err on the side of management. The grievance procedure works kind of like baseball in that we get three cracks at the ball, unless we hit a high fly ball into right field. In other words, if you are unsure, deny the grievance and we will figure it out at the next step. Even if your decision to deny the grievance makes no sense whatsoever, we have built in protection in that we will look at it at least once more. You cannot hit a home run every time you get up to the plate.
  • Be consistent. Similar circumstances should lead to similar outcomes.
  • Provide a timely response. Each collective bargaining agreement contains specific time requirements for responding to grievances. It is essential these timelines are met.
  • Keep it simple. You do not have to write a 10-page brief in response to a grievance. A simple “no contract violation, grievance denied” or “grievance not disputed” will do the trick if you want to give verbal explanation. You may prefer to explain the basis for your decision in writing, but be concise and to the point.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Consider the precedent. Many managers begin their careers believing that they are going to keep every employee happy all of the time and will therefore never have to deal with grievances. Although this may seem innocent, it can have dangerous consequences. By allowing even your best employee to “get away” with things, you might be setting a precedent that can be very hard to reverse.
  • Obey now and grieve later. The grievance procedure allows the City and union to investigate and discuss problems without interrupting the continuing, orderly operation of the City. It is a fundamental principle that the employee obeys now and grieves later.
  • Innocent until proven guilty. It is incumbent upon the union to identify some contractual provision that prohibits, restricts, or limits management’s right to take the action. Supervisors need not point to a particular contractual provision that gave them the right to take action.
  • The contract, ordinance, or APM decides what is fair. Don’t ever settle a grievance based on what you believe to be fair or unfair. If the contract has not been violated, the grievance should be denied.
  • Know the contract or pertinent ordinance language. Collective bargaining agreements can take on different meanings in different situations so you must know the contract and check it often.
  • Honesty is the best policy. This is important in all aspects of employment. Credibility is hard to come by, easy to lose, and it is essential to the employer/employee relationship.
  • Maintain consistency. If you want the actions you take to stand up to the grievance/arbitration process, they must be made consistently.