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Special complaints

What to do if you are being harassed by a supervisor
New York Teacher

Unfortunate though it is, at times UFT members report being harassed or subjected to intimidation by their supervisors. These acts of intimidation may take many forms, which is why it is important that you contact the union for help.

You do not have to — nor should you — tolerate such harassment or acts of intimidation. A special complaint process was expanded in the 1990s to protect you from harassment or intimidation by your supervisors.

If you believe that you are the victim of supervisory harassment, tell your chapter leader immediately. You should also notify your UFT district representative. The first thing you will need to do is to keep an anecdotal log indicating the place, time, date and any witnesses who were present during each incident. It is important to make this log as factual as possible, simply a recitation of the events as they occurred.


An expedited process

Article 23 of the UFT teachers contract and corresponding articles in other UFT bargaining agreements set out a procedure to follow in cases of special complaints. It was designed to set up an expedited process for speedy resolution of special complaints not covered by the grievance procedure.

A special complaint will be filed with the chancellor by the UFT. Within 24 hours after it is filed, the Department of Education will inform the union of its representative to the joint investigating committee and offer a date within eight school days when the committee will visit your school.

The joint investigating committee will be set up, composed of both DOE and UFT representatives. Its purpose is to reach a prompt resolution of disputes without having to resort to formal procedures.

The joint investigating committee will use a private meeting space at your school to discuss the issue and should complete its investigation in no more than one school day. The joint investigating committee will meet with you, the alleged harasser and people whom you have identified as witnesses to the alleged harassment. The purpose of these interviews is for the committee to gather enough information to help resolve the matter.

If the complaint is not resolved by the joint investigating committee, the union will determine if the matter has sufficient merit to request a hearing before the chancellor or the chancellor’s representative.


Chancellor’s-level meeting

At the chancellor’s-level meeting, the chancellor’s representative is required to “make every effort to informally resolve” the complaint. The joint investigating committee will report its findings and all persons involved will have the opportunity to be heard. According to the contract, the chancellor or his or her representative will make a decision within 72 hours of the close of the hearing.

If the complaint is not resolved by the chancellor, the union will review the matter to determine if it should be submitted for a fact-finding hearing before an arbitrator. Once the hearing has been held, the fact-finder is required to issue his or her recommendation within 72 hours.

The UFT went to arbitration to ensure that cases are completed in this expedited manner. The arbitrator agreed that the Department of Education must issue special complaint decisions within 72 hours of the close of the chancellor’s-level hearing.

If you have a special complaint, you should be prepared to answer questions that come up with the joint investigating committee and you should focus primarily on the big issues — your most serious concerns.

Always be respectful and listen to all parties. You should also have witnesses to the harassment who can speak about what they saw or heard. Be prepared to prioritize your witnesses in case time runs short.

Think of what you want the resolution of the problem to be. This can include being treated fairly and respectfully, or more specific remedies that address your particular situation.

You should be aware that the joint investigating committee has no authority to discipline the alleged harasser. The goal is to resolve the problem going forward.