Negotiated Grievance Procedures

The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) defines a negotiated grievance as:

    any complaint--

      (a) by any employee concerning any matter relating to the employment of the employee;

      (b) by any labor organization concerning any matter relating to the employment of any employee; or

      (c) by any employee labor organization, or agency concerning-

        (i) the effect or interpretation, or a claim of breach, of a collective bargaining agreement; or

        (ii) any claimed violation, misinterpretation or misapplication of any law, rule, or regulation affecting conditions of employment.

Every negotiated agreement contains a negotiated grievance procedure. This is the exclusive procedure for resolving bargaining unit employees' grievances which fall within its coverage; the union is the exclusive representative under this procedure.

The negotiated grievance system is a full-scope procedure. That is, it covers all matters falling within the definition that are not specifically excluded by the Statute. (The Statute excludes from the negotiated grievance procedure claims regarding retirement, life insurance or health insurance, or the classification of any position which does not result in the reduction in grade or pay of an employee.) Management and the union can, through collective bargaining, exclude any additional subject matters from coverage of the negotiated procedure. For example, if the parties agree that grievances over performance appraisals are to be excluded from the negotiated procedure, these types of grievances would then have to be raised under the administrative grievance procedure or some other alternative system developed by the parties.

Having a negotiated grievance procedure is beneficial in that it provides an established mechanism of communication for the parties. The grievance procedure allows for the concerns/complaints of the employees and the union to be heard and addressed by management. Employees know that they can raise issues of concern to management and management is kept informed of problems in the organization.

Employees filing grievances under the negotiated procedure can elect to have the union represent them or they can represent themselves. They cannot hire their own representatives unless the union states that the private representative is acting for the union. (That is what's meant by the union being the exclusive representative.) Even if the employee represents him or herself, the union must be invited to attend any grievance meetings as these are considered formal discussions.

The negotiated grievance procedure usually begins with the grievant or his or her representative presenting an informal grievance to the first-line supervisor. If not resolved, the grievant can raise the matter up through the chain of command. (Each negotiated agreement details the administrative steps of the grievance process.) Once the final decision has been issued, the matter can be raised to final and binding arbitration by the union--an employee cannot raise a matter to arbitration.

The goal of any grievance system is to resolve complaints as quickly as possible and at the lowest possible level. Allowing grievances to fester has a negative impact not only on the grievant but with co-workers as well. It is always best to resolve employee complaints informally without ever reaching the formal stages of the negotiated grievance procedure.

An area related to negotiated grievances is alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Under an ADR program, alternate means are introduced to resolve employee complaints before a grievance reaches the final stage. Some ADR processes include mediation, peer-panel reviews, facilitation, etc. The goal of ADR is to provide an informal, local method for amicably resolving disputes at the lowest possible level without the need for invoking third party arbitration. Headquarters, Department of the Army, strongly supports the local implementation of ADR initiatives.

Content last reviewed: 11/15/2016-DAH