Step 1 grievances
Filing a Step 1 grievance
If you decide that a matter is grievable, it is your responsibility to assist the member in filing the grievance and to represent the member and the union at the Step 1 conference. In order to determine if a matter is grievable, make sure to check the appropriate contract (remember you represent all UFT titles in your school) and contact your UFT district representative. Even if you determine, in consultation with your DR, that a matter is not grievable, the member has the right to file a Step 1 grievance. However, only the union has the right to proceed to Step 2.
In order to file the grievance properly you must have as much information as possible. Facts are ammunition: Be sure you get all the facts from the grievant. Explain to the grievant that you are asking questions so that you will both be prepared for whatever questions or arguments the DOE presents. Cover all the weaknesses of his or her case as well as the strengths. Do not be satisfied with generalities.
Check the appropriate contract; some functional chapters (guidance counselors, secretaries, paraprofessionals etc.) have separate contracts. Make note of the article number of those sections which are being violated. If you believe there is a violation and cannot find a contractual Article that corresponds to the situation, it is possible that the situation is covered by regulations, rulings, resolutions, directives, etc. issued by the DOE that govern or affect salary and working conditions. It is also possible that there is a violation of a Department of Education policy and practice. Violations of policy and practice or regulations, rulings, etc., are grievable under Article 20 of the Teacher’s Agreement. Contact your UFT district representative if you need assistance.
It is your responsibility to assist the member in filing the grievance and to represent the member and the union at the Step 1 hearing.
Step 1 grievances must be filed via the UFT’s electronic filing system. As chapter leader, you are the only person in your school with access to this system, so it is your responsibility to file grievances for any member who approaches you. You must have the member’s payroll name and Social Security number in order to file a grievance on her or his behalf. Carefully follow the prompts and instructions to input the grievance. Remember to print copies of the grievance to give to the principal or other appropriate supervisor, as well as keeping a copy for yourself, the grievant, and your district representative. You must give the appropriate supervisor a copy of the grievance within the specified contractual time frame! Remember that you have not filed a grievance by filing online! The grievance must be submitted to your principal or appropriate supervisor!
The specified time frames for filing a grievance are as follows:
- Regular grievance: within 30 school days after the employee has knowledge of the act or condition which is the basis of the complaint.
- Per session selection, retention or reduction of positions grievances: within two workdays after the employee has knowledge of the act or condition which is the basis of the complaint.
- Salary and leave grievances: within three months after the employee has knowledge of the act or condition which is the basis of the complaint.
- Reorganization grievances: within two school days after the employee has knowledge of the act or condition which is the basis of the complaint.
Once the principal has received the grievance, it is his or her obligation to arrange for a grievance conference.
Explain to the grievant why it is important that you represent him or her and to let you do the talking. She or he may harm herself or himself. You have the right and obligation to be at the Step 1 conference even if you do not represent the grievant.
Before meeting with the principal, prepare the grievant. Discuss possible remedies with the grievant and explain what is and isn’t an appropriate remedy. Decide on strategy, how to present the grievance, what facts to use and how to answer arguments you anticipate from the principal. Discourage the grievant from doing the talking. You are there as a buffer between the grievant and the administration. You should present the arguments. Grievants should write notes to the chapter leader during the conference if additional arguments need to be raised. Take notes at the grievance hearing. Note the principal's arguments and responses.
The chapter leader may not initiate a grievance on behalf of other members except in matters of class size. The chapter leader can file for the chapter for program deadlines, postings and mandated consultations.
Presenting your grievance at a Step 1 hearing
The grievance conference should be conducted at a time and place which affords a fair and reasonable opportunity for all persons entitled to be present to attend.
At the conference with the principal, much depends on the manner in which you present your arguments. In the process of presenting a grievance, a chapter leader and the principal are equals. The principal may have the backing of the superintendent, but you have the UFT behind you. Keep notes of the grievance hearing for use at the next step, stating the principal’s position.
Start by telling the principal the contractual clause and language that you are relying on. Simply state state the basis for the grievance.
Present your case and tell the principal how the union wants this grievance settled. Ask for a specific remedy. Remember that the remedy is limited to correcting the contract violation and cannot be punitive. If the principal gives you an argument, don’t retreat. Stick to your guns and show him or her that the contract supports your position. If the principal offers a possible resolution to the grievance, take the grievant outside and discuss it.
Keep the following rules in mind:
- Don’t lose your temper. Few people can think straight when they’re angry. This isn’t personal, it’s about a contract violation.
- Don’t let the principal sidetrack you. If it is attempted, talk it through and then come back to the facts of the grievance.
- Don’t be talked into a trade where you lose on one grievance and win on another. This is unfair to the grievant involved. It will boomerang against the union. Settle each case on its own merits.
However, if a compromise is possible and appropriate, find out before the meeting what the grievant would accept. If it becomes evident that a compromise is being offered that you did not discuss with the grievant, you may ask for a brief recess and step outside with the grievant to discuss it. Do not accept a compromise with which the grievant disagrees or one that would violate another member’s rights. If you are not sure about a compromise or a resolution, check with your district representative to make sure that the agreement is appropriate.
Don’t let the principal break up the united front between you and the grievant. If a disagreement arises, take time to straighten it out in private. Make sure that the grievant is prepared for this in advance.
Awaiting a decision
Don’t let the principal stall. Keep the time limits in mind. Remind the principal of these limits. Ask for a written decision if a resolution is not reached. Remind the principal that she or he has five school days to respond with a written decision from the date of the filing of the grievance. Make duplicate copies of all of your grievances. Keep a copy for your own records and have the grievance appeal, notes of the conference, and Step 1 decision and all documents related to the grievance sent to the district representative. These will be invaluable in several ways:
- in pursuing the grievance further.
- in reducing later disagreements on the facts and merits of the case
- as suggestions to the union for future negotiations
- as a way of showing non-believers how the union helps members
If the grievance is sustained, you have performed a great service for the member. If the grievance is denied, discuss with the member whether or not he or she wishes to proceed to the next step. If the grievant wishes to go forward to the next step, notify your district representative immediately and forward all documents to him or her.
Step 2 grievances
Once a decision has been rendered at Step 1, the grievance has either been sustained or denied. The denial must be reviewed by the union.
Only the union may appeal or initiate grievances at Step 2 and arbitration. The UFT’s borough grievance committee meets with the district representative to consider proceeding to Step 2 on all denied cases. The grievance committee discusses the merits of the case, reviews precedents and considers the possible effect of the grievance on the members of the bargaining unit. (If the grievance has been filed by a member of a functional chapter, the chapter leader is called and consulted.)
After a Step 1 decision has been issued, the union has 15 school days to file a Step 2 Chancellor’s Level grievance.
If the grievance committee finds that the case has merit, an appeal is filed with the chancellor by the UFT borough office, c/o Office of Labor Relations. The borough office will assign a grievance advocate, who may be either the district representative or a special representative, to represent the member at Step 2. The chapter leader also has the right to be present at the Step 2 conference and should attend.
If the grievance committee declines to press the case further, the grievant is notified. Someone from the borough office can explain to the grievant why it is not being pursued to the next step. The grievant is informed of the internal appeals process in the letter she or he receives indicating that the grievance is not being pursued to the next level. The grievant then has the right to appeal the decision of the borough’s grievance committee. This appeal is filed with the UFT Grievance Department. If the Grievance Department upholds the decision of the borough’s grievance committee not to proceed, the member may appeal to the Administrative Committee (Ad Com) of the UFT officers. This is the final level of appeal.
Following the hearing, the Chancellor's representative will issue a written decision. The decision is usually issued via email to the member’s DOE email address.
Step 3 arbitration
A grievance which was not resolved at the level of the chancellor under the grievance procedure may be submitted by the union to an arbitrator for a decision if it involves the application or interpretation of the Agreement.
The grievant must proceed through the union. The UFT Grievance Department reviews each case not resolved at the chancellor’s level. Should the UFT decide that a case does not have sufficient merit to be taken to arbitration, the grievant will be notified and entitled to an internal appeal process similar to the one described above. The grievant will also be notified if their case will be scheduled for arbitration and the arbitration process will be explained to him or her.