Constitution & Bylaws

Bylaws of Northern Illinois University


ARTICLE 11:
GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES FOR FACULTY AND STAFF


11.1 Preamble

11.1.1 Northern Illinois University has a tradition of collegiality and shared governance and strives to maintain that as a mainstay of its institutional culture. This University is a community of those whose varied functions, responsibilities, and contributions are supportive of the instructional, research, and service mission of the institution. Civil and professional interactions among all faculty and staff are essential to support that mission in an effective, efficient, and ethical manner.

11.1.2 Therefore, it is crucial for the University to ensure the right of all faculty and staff (supportive professional staff and operating staff) to perform their individual and collaborative roles in an environment that is free from incivility, misuse of authority, intimidation, retaliation, and infringement upon personal and academic freedoms. In order to provide recourse for allegations of inappropriate treatment by other faculty and staff, the following procedures will be used. This is intended to be consistent with the Preamble to the Northern Illinois University Constitution, which declares, "Respect for the intrinsic dignity of each member of the University community, both by the University itself and by each member of that community, is the basic cornerstone governing all community activities." The purpose of these procedures is to provide for orderly disposition of disputes and to facilitate reasonable resolution of matters considered.

11.1.3 Throughout these procedures, all persons involved should exercise discretion in receiving and transmitting information pertaining to the complaint.

11.1.4 These grievance procedures are not applicable to faculty and staff governed by collective-bargaining agreements or student employees, including graduate assistants. Persons in employment categories covered under collective-bargaining agreements shall be limited to filing grievances in accordance with the provisions of those agreements.

11.1.5 In employing these procedures, the definitions in Section 11.11 (Appendix) of this document will apply.


11.2 A Summary of Time Lines for the Grievance Process


Note: A grievant or respondent may request an extension of the time lines stated in these procedures, and this request will be granted if warranted (Section 11.10(c)).

11.2.1 Informal Complaint (Section 11.4): Identification and discussion of grievable treatment as defined in Section C.

11.2.2 Initiating Formal Grievance (Section 11.5.1): Submit formal grievance form and documentation within 40 work days of the time the grievant knew of or should have known of the grievable act, or within 10 work days after being informed of the formal dismissal of the complaint by a University body for want of jurisdiction.

11.2.3 Response to the Initiation of Formal Grievance (Section 11.5.1): Respondent(s) report on attempts to resolve the matter, within 10 work days. A move to the University level, as described in section 11.5.2, may be made at any time after this step.

11.2.4 Appealing to Higher Level (Section 11.5.2): If the grievance is not resolved, written appeal may be made to the person next highest in the respondent(s)’ administrative chain, within 10 work days after receiving the response to the initial appeal.

11.2.5 Response to Appeal (Section 11.5.2): The person appealed to is to respond within 15 work days.

11.2.6 Non-response (Section 11.10(c)): Failure of a respondent to comply with response timelines allows the grievant to advance to the next step of the
procedures within 5 work days after the time limitation specified in the timelines.

11.2.7 Continuing Appeal (Section 11.5.2): Steps 11.2.4 and 11.2.5 may be repeated stepwise up the administrative chain, to the vice president; the vice president may intervene earlier; and the grievant may elect to bypass the remainder of the administrative chain and appeal directly to the University level.

11.2.8 Moving to the University Level (Section 11.5.3): If the grievance has not been resolved, a grievance hearing may be requested by submitting the formal grievance form, and documentation, to the Executive Secretary of the University Council within 20 work days after exhausting the series of discussions of sections 11.5.1.and 11.5.2. The Executive Secretary immediately transmits this information to the senior administrator responsible for human resource services (SARHRS).

11.2.9 Pre-hearing Communication (Sections 11.5.3.2 (b) and (c)): The Executive Secretary forwards the grievance form and documentation to the respondents within 5 work days, and within 10 work days forwards to the grievant and respondent the names of panel members eligible to serve on the Grievance Committee.

11.2.10 Response to Potential Members of the Grievance Committee (Section 11.5.3.2 (d)): The grievant and respondent(s) have 5 work days from receipt of the panelists’ names to request the Executive Secretary to exclude people from consideration as members of the Grievance Committee.

11.2.11 Establishing Grievance Committee (Section 11.5.3.2 (e)): The Executive Secretary and the SARHRS will select the members of the Grievance Committee within 10 work days of there being a list of acceptable members.

11.2.12 Remanding by Grievance Committee (Section 11.5.3.2 (g)): The Grievance Committee may, within 10 work days, remand the matter to another party (or parties) for further consideration. The Executive Secretary immediately notifies the grievant and respondent(s) of the Committee’s decision.

11.2.13 Convening Grievance Hearing (Section 11.5.3.2 (h)): If the Grievance Committee agrees a hearing is warranted, it shall be scheduled to convene within 15 work days and, once scheduled, the Executive Secretary shall immediately notify the grievant and respondent(s) of the date, time, and location of the hearing.

11.2.14 Grievance Committee’s Decision (Section 11.5.3.4 (a)): After the Committee reaches a final decision, the chair of the Committee will transmit that decision to the President, the SARHRS, the Executive Secretary, the grievant, and the respondent(s), within 5 work days after last convening.

11.2.15 President’s Response (Section 11.5.3.4 (b)): The president will respond as expeditiously as is practical.

Note: If a grievance involves an Affirmative Action complaint, also see Section 11.7.


11.3 Grounds for Grievances


11.3.1 These procedures provide opportunity for a faculty or staff member to seek resolution of allegations of unfair treatment in the workplace by other members of the University faculty or staff. They may also be used by University staff engaged in academic activities for allegations of violation of their academic freedom. (Allegations of violation of the academic freedom of faculty are dealt with by procedures in Bylaws Article 10.) Grievances may include good-faith claims of (a) sexual harassment or discrimination, including excessive impact unrelated to professional qualifications, of the actions or inaction of others (University Affirmative Action policies and procedures may also be invoked); (b) appeal of reprimands or other records placed in an employee’s personnel file; (c) appeal of disciplinary actions including dismissal for cause of SPS employees (Civil Service employees refer to specific procedures for Operating Staff); or (d) arbitrary, capricious, or oppressive treatment pertaining to the application of benefits, terms and conditions of employment (including the creation of a hostile work environment within the employment context), personnel reviews, and performance evaluations.

11.3.2 Exceptions. These grievance procedures apply only to claims that are not expressly covered under other University, Board of Trustees, or state procedures. Alternative procedures exist for the following matters (11.3.2.1. – 11.3.2.4.), which shall not be subject to this grievance procedure:

11.3.2.1 Claims regarding faculty personnel matters involving promotion, tenure, sabbatical leave, merit salary increase, sanctions, or dismissal for cause shall be administered in accordance with academic procedures in college bylaws and policies and the University Constitution and Bylaws. A separate procedure applicable for allegations of inappropriate treatment in considerations of faculty promotion or tenure is provided in Bylaws Article 7, and a separate procedure for allegation of violation of a faculty member’s academic freedom is provided under Bylaws Article 10.

11.3.2.2 Disciplinary proceedings involving suspension, demotion, or discharge for Operating Staff employees must follow provisions established by Human Resource Services pursuant to the State Universities Civil Service System Statute and Rules.

11.3.2.3 Allegations of research misconduct shall proceed as prescribed in “Research Integrity at Northern Illinois University” (Academic Policies and Procedures Manual, Section I, item 2), except that, in addition, these grievance procedures may be followed in the case of an allegation that an instance of research misconduct caused personal harm to the complainant.


11.4 Informal Procedures


The University encourages the maintenance of a positive employee-relations environment that includes effective communication and feedback and attempts to informally resolve complaints. The University strongly encourages attempts to resolve issues through informal procedures, beginning at the lowest appropriate level. Initial attempts will normally include discussions with those alleged to have committed the action or conduct described in section 11.3. A request for mediation or alternative informal resolution options may be made to the office of the SARHRS. Where confidential mediation or alternative resolution option is agreed to by the parties, such process may be used as a substitute for this grievance procedure to conclusively resolve grievable issues. The complainant must be notified of the right to end the informal process at any time and initiate a formal grievance (section 11.5), and in some situations (such as situations involving violence or the threat of violence), informal conciliation may not be appropriate. In such cases, response should follow procedures established in accordance with Illinois state law, including workplace violence protocols, and established threat assessment procedures.

11.4.1 Facilitation. In an effort to resolve complaints without recourse to a formal hearing, those involved in the discussions are urged to invite the assistance of other University employees or offices, such as, but not limited to, the University Ombudsman, Human Resource Services, and/or the Faculty and SPS Personnel Advisor, to facilitate communication and strive toward resolution of disputes. In all discussions the complainant shall have the right to choose, and be accompanied by, any NIU faculty or staff member as a non-participating adviser, other than a person acting in the capacity of legal counsel. As these discussions look toward conciliation, no transcript or recording shall be made.

11.5 Formal Procedures.

Should the problem not be satisfactorily resolved on an informal basis, the complainant becomes a grievant and should initiate the formal grievance procedures of section 11.5.3. Reports of violations of these grievance procedures shall be directed to the SARHRS. The SARHRS (or designee) will refer reports concerning faculty to the Executive Vice President and Provost. If the person to whom this report is to be referred is the respondent, the report will be directed upward in the organizational chain to an appropriate official for action and response to the grievant.

11.5.1 Step I. If the complaint is not resolved informally to the complainant’s satisfaction, he or she may submit a formal grievance, specifically citing a grievable act as defined in section 11.3. The formal grievance shall be presented via a signed grievance form provided by the SARHRS for this purpose and shall be accompanied by any supporting documents. This form is to be submitted within forty(40) work days of the time the grievant knew of or should have known of the grievable act, or within ten (10) work days after being informed of the formal dismissal of the complaint by a University body for want of jurisdiction or after failure of informal efforts to resolve the matter. It is to be submitted to the Office of the SARHRS, and that office will immediately refer it to the named respondent(s) and to others whom that office assigns as respondents. The designated respondents may attempt to resolve the matter and/or provide a response to the allegation(s), and will report the result/decisions in writing, within ten (10) work days of receiving the form, to the grievant and to the SARHRS, who will immediately provide the grievant with notification of the next action and its time frame.

11.5.2 Step II. If the grievance has not been resolved to the grievant’s satisfaction at Step I, he/she may submit a written appeal to the next person upward in the organizational chain from a named respondent, within ten (10) work days of the receipt of the response in Step I. That person will attempt to resolve the matter and/or provide a response to the allegation(s), and will provide a written response to all parties, and to the vice president of the division of the University in which the grievant is employed, within ten (10) work days of receiving the appeal. This step may be repeated to each successive step in the organizational chain up through the level of vice president, and the vice president can intervene before the latter level is reached. In the event that a divisional committee is established to hear grievances, this committee may serve in lieu of a person in the organizational chain, at the discretion of the vice president.

Alternatively, if the grievance has not been resolved to the grievant's satisfaction at Step I, he or she may proceed directly to Step III, the initiation of a formal grievance at the University level. If this is done, the University Grievance Committee may remand the grievance to any level in the organizational chain that has been omitted.

If, at any stage, a violation of University policies, procedures, or regulations, or of legal standards is found to have taken place, the administrator identifying that violation shall direct the necessary administrative steps to resolve the matter through appropriate application of University policies or other actions as required. The written grievance of Step II shall be via the signed form and supporting documentation specified in Step I. The SARHRS is to be notified by the grievant, in writing, each time the grievance is referred to a different person.

11.5.3 Step III. If the grievance is not resolved to the grievant’s satisfaction at Step II of the formal complaint procedures (section 11.5.2), the grievant may initiate a formal grievance at the University level, by requesting a hearing by the Grievance Committee (see Section 11.5.3.2).

11.5.3.1 Representation on the Grievance Committee

(a) Three categories of employment are recognized in this document: faculty, operating staff, and supportive professional staff. Members of the Grievance Committee shall be drawn from the employment category(ies) to which the grievant and respondent(s) belong. For purposes of determining Committee composition, a faculty member who has an administrative appointment above the level of department chair will be considered in the faculty category if his or her involvement in the grievance is due to his or her actions as a faculty member and will be considered in the supportive professional staff category if his or her involvement is due to his or her actions as an administrator.

(b) At the beginning of each academic year, each of the following three bodies shall forward the names of at least 15 members of its constituency, by a method and for duration of service specified by that body: Faculty Senate, Operating Staff Council, Supportive Professional Staff Council. Each of these three groups of at least 15 persons will serve as a panel from which a Grievance Committee can be chosen for a particular grievance. If all parties in the grievance are from the same employee classification, the Grievance Committee shall be composed of five panel members from that employee classification. If the grievant and respondent(s) are from more than one employee classification, the Grievance Committee shall be composed of two panel members from each of the classifications and one member of any of the three panels designated jointly by the SARHRS and the Executive Secretary of the University Council. Members of the Committee may not include the grievant, a respondent, a person employed in the grievant’s or a respondent’s academic department or similar administrative work unit, a member of the grievant’s or respondent’s household, or a hearing witness. The grievant and the respondent(s) each have the right to request exclusion from Committee membership any panelist(s) as described in Section 11.5.3.2 (d). Also, any panelist can request to be excluded on the basis of a real or potential conflict of interest or personal relationship. The panel members to compose the Grievance Committee shall be selected as described in section 11.5.3.2 (e) and the chair of this committee will be appointed in accordance with section 11.5.3.2 (f).

(c) All formal actions of the Grievance Committee require an affirmative vote of at least a majority of the committee members.

11.5.3.2 The Pre-Hearing Process

(a) A written request for a hearing by the Grievance Committee, signed by the grievant, shall be presented to the Office of the Executive Secretary of the University Council on the form provided by that office for this purpose. The information on that form shall include (1) the names of those persons or offices that possibly contributed to the adverse situation described in the grievance, (2) a list of the specific actions(s) or inaction(s) alleged to constitute the grievable acts, (3) the names of witnesses who might provide useful information to the Grievance Committee, (4) a report of the final disposition of Step I and Step II in the grievance process (without including disclosure of the content of any settlement efforts), and (5) the requested intra-institutional actions of remedy or redress. Submission of this form shall be accompanied by any supporting documents. The signed original, and one complete copy, of the form and accompanying materials must be submitted no later than 20 work days after completing the processes described in Step I (Section 11.5.1) and Step II (Section11.5.2). Immediately upon receipt, the Office of the Executive Secretary will submit the copy of these materials to the SARHRS, who will be responsible for compiling and maintaining records of the grievance.

(b) Within five (5) work days of receipt of a request for a grievance hearing, the Executive Secretary of the University Council will forward a copy of the grievance form and accompanying materials to the respondent(s). Each respondent shall have 15 work days to submit a response to the Executive Secretary, who will forward a copy to the grievant, except that information of a confidential nature concerning parties other than the grievant and respondent(s) may be redacted by the Executive Secretary at his or her discretion.

(c) Within ten (10) work days of receipt of the request for a hearing, the Executive Secretary of the University Council will forward to both the grievant and the respondent(s) the names of all the appropriate panel members eligible to serve on the Grievance Committee.

(d) Within five (5) work days from receipt of panelists’ names, the grievant and respondent(s) may request of the Executive Secretary that persons on the list be excluded from consideration as Grievance Committee members. Reasons for exclusion from the list shall be given and may include personal or professional conflicts of interest, past interpersonal disputes, and other indicators of possible inability to serve in an objective manner. If, after exclusions, there remains on a panel an inadequate number of representatives from any constituency group to form a Grievance Committee, the Executive Secretary will contact the president of the appropriate representative body to request additional appointments in order to achieve the requisite number of people from that constituency group.

(e) Within ten (10) work days of the establishment of a pool of acceptable candidates, the Executive Secretary and the SARHRS will select the Grievance Committee from members of the appropriate panel(s), and shall convene the Committee, using such considerations as members’ availability.

(f) The members of the Grievance Committee will elect one of their number to act as chair of the Committee. The chair will be responsible for facilitating the hearing process.

(g) The Grievance Committee will review all submitted materials and return with one of the following options within ten (10) work days after first convening. It will grant the request for a hearing if it determines there are sufficient grounds and if the grievance issues have not been adequately resolved; it may request additional information from anyone it deems necessary; it may remand the matter to another individual or individuals for further consideration, including supervisory personnel who may have been bypassed in the initiation of the University-level grievance; or it may deny the request for a hearing. A denial of the request for a hearing concludes the grievance process. The Executive Secretary shall immediately notify, in writing, the grievant and the respondent(s) of the Committee’s decision. No further information shall be provided to the grievant in this case.

(h) Should the Committee decide, by a majority vote, that a hearing is warranted, it shall be scheduled to convene within 15 work days. Once scheduled, the Executive Secretary and SARHRS shall immediately notify, in writing, the Committee, the grievant, and the respondent(s) of the date, time, and location of the hearing, and shall send to the grievant and respondent(s): A copy of the pertinent policies and procedures from relevant sections of university and Board of Trustees policies, along with the University Constitution and Bylaws, and such other documents as concern the rights of the grievant; In cases involving dismissal for cause of SPS personnel, a copy of the specific charges against the grievant constituting just cause for dismissal; A summary of the principal evidence presented in support of the charge, and a preliminary list of the witnesses the university administration plans to call; The names of the members comprising the Grievance Committee; A formal invitation to attend the hearing, and notice of the right to be accompanied at the hearing by an adviser of the grievant’s and/or respondent’s choice and legal counsel; and The date by which each party shall submit to the other a list of potential witnesses and copies of the documents which each party anticipates will be used or presented at the hearing. Sufficient time shall be provided to review these documents and prepare for the hearing. A copy of the Grievance Record composed of appeals and responses completed at earlier steps of the grievance procedure, written request for the hearing, and supporting documentation.

11.5.3.3 The Hearing Process

(a) The Committee may request legal counsel support for itself concerning procedural and substantive matters related to the hearing process from the University General Counsel, or designee, and may have such counsel in attendance as an advisor at all its meetings. The grievant and respondent(s) are entitled to consult with any person(s) they choose, prior to or outside of the hearing. In addition, each party is allowed to have present during the hearing one non-participating adviser. The hearings shall be closed to all other non-participants. Witnesses shall be present only if invited by the Committee, and only when providing testimony or being otherwise involved as invited by the Committee.

(b) In the hearing proceedings, the burden of proof that a grievable act was committed shall lie with the grievant, except in cases of dismissal for cause, when the burden of proof shall lie with the university.

(c) Prior to the hearing, the grievant and the respondent(s) shall each deliver to the Grievance Committee all relevant written information and other material evidence supporting their respective positions, including a description of the original grievable act. All such information shall be made available to the grievant and respondent(s), and this information shall include the name of each person requested to be heard as a witness.

(d) The Committee will make an initial determination as to what evidence will be considered and which witnesses will be summoned. The Committee may solicit additional materials and information, and may summon additional witnesses at any time in the proceedings.

(e) A tape recording will be made of the hearing proceedings and will be maintained for no less than five years, along with associated documentation, in a secure location controlled by the office of the SARHRS.

(f) The specific hearing proceedings will be conducted consistent with these stipulations, and in a manner determined by the Grievance Committee.

(g) The grievant and respondent(s) are entitled to be present during any presentation by another party.

(h) The Grievance Committee may admit any evidence it feels may be important in addressing the issues under consideration, including written or oral testimony from any persons who might provide evidence or information relevant to the grievance. Every effort shall be made by the University administration to secure any such evidence identified by the Committee. All such evidence shall be available to the grievant and to the respondent(s).

(i) Where, for appropriate reasons, any witness is unable to appear personally at a hearing, a signed written statement may be accepted by the Grievance Committee. The Committee shall make such statements available to the grievant and to the respondent(s) and shall allow the grievant and respondent(s) to submit written or oral responses to such a statement.

(j) The Grievance Committee will adjourn and reconvene as it deems necessary to enable the presentation and consideration of necessary and appropriate evidence, in every action moving as expeditiously as possible.

(k) The SARHRS shall ensure the participation of all respondents and witnesses summoned by the Grievance Committee, including the guarantee of work-release time as necessary for participation. Any employee, other than a party in a privileged communication, who does not fully respond to a reasonable request from the Committee, may be considered insubordinate. Upon establishment of a privileged communication, testimony will be limited to what is not privileged.

(l) The grievant, the respondent(s), and each member of the Grievance Committee shall have the opportunity to question each witness. Grievants and respondents may not question each other without express permission of the chair of the Committee.

(m) Following conclusion of the presentation of all evidence and the testimony of all witnesses, the Grievance Committee shall convene in private session for closed deliberation and judgment.

(n) During the development of its decision and recommendations, the Grievance Committee may, at its discretion, consult with any person not participating in the hearing, including University administrators and legal counsel. It may not, however, accept additional evidence or witness testimony without formally reconvening and providing the grievant and respondent(s) the opportunity to attend and to hear and respond to such evidence or testimony.

(o) The Grievance Committee shall determine its findings and shall attempt to develop one or more recommendations. The Committee is charged, not with determining guilt or innocence, but, rather, with proposing what, if any, action should be taken. The Committee should decide, by consensus if possible, whether and what institutional action(s) might be taken to rectify the grievance. The Committee may also consider findings and make recommendations designed to prevent future concerns similar to those of the grievance from arising.

(p) Except as may be necessary to arrive at its decision and to prepare the formal reports required by this procedure, Grievance Committee members will not disclose to any person any information that was acquired through their participation in any stage of the grievance process, unless so compelled by a court of law. The same restriction shall apply to all individuals who may be consulted by the Committee at any stage of the hearing process. It shall be the responsibility of the chair of the Grievance Committee to inform all involved of these requirements.

11.5.3.4 The Post-Hearing Process

(a) Within five (5) work days of the Grievance Committee’s decision, the chair of the Committee shall forward a written report of its finding and recommendations to the Presisdent of the University, the Executive Secretary of the University Council, the SARHRS, the the grievant, and the respondent(s). This report need not contain negative judgment of the actions of any party and it may include recommendations for systemic change, such as modification of procedures or working conditions.

(b) After receiving the report, the President shall respond in writing, as expeditiously as is practical in one of the following ways: (1) remand the matter to the Grievance Committee for further action or consideration, indicating the issues warranting further attention, and meeting with the Committee to discuss those issues if the President or the Committee so desires, (2) issue an administrative directive designed to resolve the situation. This response shall be issued to the SARHRS, the Executive Secretary of the University Council, the grievant, the respondent(s), and the Grievance Committee. Any administrative directive will be addressed to those persons or policy-making bodies whose actions may be necessary for the directive's implementation. Those persons or bodies will also be provided with those aspects of the grievance findings necessary to understand the nature and purpose of the actions to be implemented.

(c) Except in cases involving dismissal for cause of SPS personnel, the response of the President is the final step in the University’s grievance process. In cases involving dismissal for cause of SPS personnel, if dismissal or other penalty is recommended, the grievant shall have five (5) working days from receipt of the President’s decision in which to request that the President transmit the record of the case to the Board of Trustees. If the grievant fails to respond within the five days provided, the President may forward the case to the Board of Trustees on his or her own motion, or the President may refuse to forward the case and the matter shall be considered closed at that point. The Board of Trustees is not obligated to consider the case even if forwarded to it for a decision.

If the Board of Trustees agrees to consider the case, the following procedure is recommended. The Board's review should be based on the record of the proceedings conducted by the Grievance Committee. At its discretion, the Board of Trustees may provide opportunity for argument (written, oral, or both) by the principals at the hearing, or by their representatives. Either the decision of the Grievance Committee shall be sustained, or the matter will be returned to the Grievance Committee with specific objections. The Grievance Committee should then reconsider the matter, taking into account the Trustees’ stated objections, and receiving new evidence if necessary. It is recommended that the Board of Trustees make a final disposition of the case only after studying the Grievance Committee’s reconsideration.

11.6 Conflicts of Interest

(a) In the event that a grievance is related to the actions of a supervisor, who would act as a respondent, the grievant or the SARHRS may advance the grievance to the next organizational level. Informal efforts of reconciliation should still occur. If the grievance is filed by an employee who reports directly to a vice president or the President, and circumstances prevent using Steps I or II above, then the grievant may submit an appeal directly to the President (or designee) under the procedures of Step II. If, thereafter, the grievance is still unresolved, the grievant may initiate a formal grievance at the University level in accordance with the provisions of Section 11.5.3.2.

(b) In cases that originate with a grievant or respondent in Human Resource Services or any other unit supervised by the SARHRS, all duties and roles assigned to the office of the SARHRS shall be assigned to the University General Counsel (or designee) who will coordinate the grievance process.

11.7 Affirmative Action Complaints

(a) Official University complaint procedures exist pertaining to allegations of discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, religious views or affiliation, disability or handicapped status, veteran’s status, or retaliation for having alleged (or for supporting allegations of) discrimination. Complaints of discrimination or sexual harassment may be filed with the Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity Resources, and grievances alleging discrimination or harassment may also be filed by means of this grievance procedure. It is recommended that access to affirmative-action procedures be initiated as soon as affirmative-action issues are identified. Doing so will not alter the timelines of the grievance process. However, absent waiver or extension by the grievant, all relevant timelines contained in these procedures must be complied with.

(b) In the event that a grievance involves an affirmative-action issue, the respondent(s) at any given step may consult with the Affirmative Action Officer (AAO). The vice president (or designee) in Step II, or the Grievance Committee, may also refer all or portions of a grievance to the AAO for investigation and disposition. Such a referral will indicate a specific timeframe for completion of the investigation and any related report(s), established by the AAO in consultation with the vice president (or designee) or Grievance Committee, and any relevant timelines for response under this grievance procedure will be extended to incorporate the specific timeframe provided by the AAO for an affirmative-action investigation. The AAO will inform all parties if the time frame is extended. The extension is limited to 45 work days. Should a grievance involving allegations of discrimination or harassment be filed or processed subsequent to the completing of an affirmative-action investigation, the results of the investigation (contained in an appropriate summary or final report provided to the parties) shall be considered part of the record included with the grievance. Materials and records obtained in the course of an Affirmative Action Officer’s investigation are confidential and not accessible within the grievance process. Investigator’s notes, draft reports, and documentation not included in or attached to a final report shall be considered confidential business records, not available to the parties, and will be maintained in a separate confidential file by the AAO. The University is legally required to enforce applicable legal standards pertaining to discrimination and/or sexual harassment. Therefore, immediate responses may be required when such matters are reported to a supervisor or the AAO. In the event that a grievant elects to pursue an appeal involving an allegation of discrimination pursuant to Section 7.2.5 of the Constitution and Bylaws, the outcome of any such appeal will be reported to the Affirmative Action Officer (AAO) by the respective Hearing Board. Thereafter, the AAO may consider this record in determining whether a further investigation is warranted in the event that the same or a similar complaint is filed by the grievant under alternative university procedures for complaint and investigation.

11.8 Special Cases

(a) Appeals of personnel reviews or performance evaluations for status Operating Staff employees shall be administered pursuant to these grievance procedures, except in cases where a grievant is an employee covered by a collective-bargaining agreement.

(b) Appeals of salary increases (not including faculty appeals of merit ratings) shall follow Steps I and II of these grievance procedures. Operating Staff may appeal to a Salary Review Committee in accord with University procedures. Affirmative Action appeals which include salary increase issues in relation to an allegation of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment shall follow the University Affirmative Action complaint procedures and/or successive steps of these grievance procedures.

(c) Multiple grievances, submitted by one or more grievants, on the same or similar topics and within 30 work days of the initial grievance, may be consolidated on the recommendation of the SARHRS in consultation with the Executive Secretary, and approval of the grievant(s), and presented as a package to the respondent(s) at any stage of the grievance process.

(d) Upon the recommendation of the SARHRS and approval by the grievant, a grievance may be referred directly to any higher level in the grievance process, thereby bypassing any preliminary steps as indicated. The named respondent(s), if any, shall be notified of any such referral and provided with the opportunity to place their responses in the grievance record.

11.9 Retaliation

Retaliation is strictly prohibited against any individual(s) who participate(s) in the process in the following manner(s) utilizing the grievance procedures, providing information under these procedures, cooperating in an investigation under these procedures, serving as a witness in a grievance hearing, or otherwise participating in grievance proceedings. Claims of retaliation in Steps I and II should be reported to the SARHRS, and in Step III to the SARHRS and the Executive Secretary, and proven claims will subject the offender(s) to corrective measures, including disciplinary action.

11.10 Administrative provisions relating to the grievance procedure

(a) The Board of Trustees has delegated authority to the President of the University with respect to certain matters regarding University operations. Under this delegation of authority, specific University administrators and offices are assigned responsibilities with respect to the conduct of University operations and personnel procedures. Should a grievance proceed through the process and result in a recommendation by the Grievance Committee, this recommendation shall be forwarded to the President, who will make the final determination with respect to implementing or amending the recommendation, or returning it to the Grievance Committee for additional consideration. All final dispositions of formal grievances are subject to applicable laws; University rules, policies, and regulations; and approval of the President.

(b) Grievances citing an employee’s action unrelated to supervisory actions shall be referred to the appropriate supervisor of that employee.

(c) Failure of a grievant to comply with the time limits set forth in these grievance procedures shall result in nullification of the grievance. However, the grievant or a respondent may request of the SARHRS, if in Steps I or II of the process (11.5.1. and 11.5.2), or of the Executive Secretary of the University Council if in Step III (11.5.3.), an extension of the time limits stated in these procedures. The SARHRS or Executive Secretary, as appropriate, will so inform the grievant and each respondent; will consider that request expeditiously and, if they believe that unusual circumstances warrant the extension, will approve it on behalf of the University and so inform all parties. A grievance involving the same matter or set of issues may not be resubmitted. All University administrators and supervisors are responsible for making timely responses to grievants. Failure of a respondent at a given step in these grievance procedures to comply with the response time frames shall allow the grievant to advance to the next step of the procedures within five (5) work days of the time limitation set forth in the previous step, and based upon the responses provided at prior steps.

(d) Grievants alleging violation of University policies shall identify the alleged violator(s) and shall identify or describe one or more grievable acts as defined in Section 11.3. The grievant may include a requested remedy to resolve the grievance at Step I. If requested by the grievant, supervisors and University representatives giving responses at Steps I through III shall provide additional information as necessary to further clarify or define the issues.

(e) In each case where a faculty or staff member alleges grounds for a grievance, that person shall have the responsibility for proving a case by preponderance of the evidence, in accordance with the stipulated procedures. In cases of dismissal for cause of SPS personnel, the burden of proof shall lie with the university.

(f) Grievance responses provided under these procedures shall be consistent with applicable legal standards and with official University rules and regulations.

(g) At any step in the process, the grievant and/or the respondent may consult with or otherwise enlist the assistance of appropriate individuals such as, but not limited to, the Ombudsman or – for grievants who are faculty or Supportive Professional Staff – the Faculty and SPS Personnel Advisor, in the filing of a grievance or in seeking resolution of the grievance. During any stage of these grievance procedures (Step I through a grievance hearing), the grievant may be accompanied by a non-participating adviser of his/her choosing. The presence and participation of attorneys who are of counsel to parties is limited to hearing proceedings involving discharge or other panel or hearing board or arbitration venues to which grievances may be referred. The University reserves the right to also have an attorney present in the event of such participation.

(h) During the grievance process, any party to a grievance may request official interpretations of University rules, policies, procedures, and regulations from the SARHRS. The SARHRS will refer the request to other University authorities, as appropriate, in order to obtain an expeditious official interpretation.

(i) Employees may be held responsible for maintaining appropriate standards of professional conduct, in accord with University policies and procedures, at all times. Employees may participate in conciliation efforts or grievance dispositions during periods outside their appointments if all the parties so agree. Days on full leave of absence shall be considered as time outside of the period of the appointment for purposes of these grievance procedures.

(j) A grievance may be withdrawn by the grievant at any stage during the process.

(k) Throughout the grievance process, the grievant shall fulfill her/his assigned professional responsibilities with the University.

11.11 Appendix

11.11.1 Definitions

(a) Adviser. A person present at a grievance hearing , who in no way participates in the formal proceedings but may privately advise a hearing participant to the degree that the Grievance Committee determines that such advising does not interfere with the conduct of the hearing.

(b) Complainant. A University employee presenting a complaint.

(c) Complaint. An allegation that there has been an adverse situation as described in Section 11.3.

(d) Dismissal for cause. Termination of employment prior to the expiration of an employee's contract period. Documentation sufficient to establish just cause for dismissal is required. Dismissal will not be used to restrain employees in the exercise of their constitutional and legal rights.

(e) Executive Secretary. The Executive Secretary of the University Council.

(f) Grievance. A formal, written allegation, not resolved by the informal efforts of Section 11.4, that there has been an adverse situation as described in section 11.3.

(g) Grievant. A University employee presenting a grievance.

(h) Observer. A person who is present at a grievance hearing but is in no way a participant or an adviser while the hearing is in session.

(i) Party. The grievant or the respondent(s) are defined as parties to this process.

(j) Privileged communication. Written or oral communication not subject to disclosure under these procedures because it arises from the relationships of either patient and health-care practitioner (including mental health counselor), victim and violent-crime counselor, client and attorney, source and news reporter, counselee and member of the clergy, spouse, or member of the immediate household, as well as that arising from interactions with persons in their role of University Ombudsman, Faculty and SPS Personnel Advisor, Employee Wellness and Assistance Program counselor, Employee Relations counselor, or other University employee acting in an official role as a counselor. In the event that state law changes in a fashion to expand the above or similar relationships, this definition shall be interpreted and applied so as to comply with the changes in the law.

(k) Respondent. A person whose action or inaction is identified as possibly contributing to the adverse situation described in the grievance.

(l) SARHRS. The senior administrator responsible for human resource services (whose exact title may change) or designee. As indicated in Section 11.6(b), in cases that originate with a grievant or respondent in Human Resource Services or other units supervised by the SARHRS, all duties and roles assigned to the office of the SARHRS shall be assigned to the University General Counsel (or designee) who will coordinate the grievance process.

(m) Work days. All days during which the University is normally scheduled for operations, excluding weekends, official holidays, and closure periods. For employees on appointments of less than 12 months per year, "work days" do not include any days outside of the period of their appointment.

(n) Workplace. A location in which employment duties are performed for Northern Illinois University and are subject to the direction, terms, and conditions of employment of the University.

Update approved by University Council on 4/30/08
Update approved by University Council on 4/27/11
Editorial revisions to change "Vice President for Human Resources" to "Vice President of Administration" made 12/18/12
Editorial revisions to update "Vice President of Administration" to "senior administrator responsible for human resource services" approved by University Council 04/02/14.