Human Resources

Grievance Policy

In any organization, there will occasionally be conflicts and misunderstandings that require clarification or resolution. Amherst College believes that the best way to resolve problems is to address them fully and fairly. To that end, employees are encouraged to immediately discuss with their supervisor, department head or chair any problem or perceived unfair treatment.

However, if such informal methods do not resolve the problem, a formal, four-step grievance procedure is available. The issues which may be addressed in the procedure are the interpretation and application of the provisions of the handbook, disciplinary actions, terminations, any type of discrimination, and matters related to environmental and work safety conditions at the College. Regular performance reviews are not subject to the grievance procedure. If there is a question as to whether a particular matter is subject to this procedure, the determination will be made by the Director of Human Resources.

Regular employees may use all four steps of the grievance procedure. Procedures for grievances involving discrimination or harassment are explained in Step Two below. Procedures for grievances involving termination of employment are explained in Step Three.

An employee shall not be penalized for using or participating in the grievance procedure in good faith. If a grievance is directed at an individual who is assigned to consider a grievance or appeal under this procedure, the employee may file the grievance or appeal at the next higher step in the procedure.

Step One: Department Supervisor or Chairperson

If informal procedures are not effective in resolving an issue with an immediate supervisor, the employee must, within 10 working days of the event or occurrence which is the subject of the grievance, present the grievance in writing to the department supervisor or chairperson. Failure to file the grievance within the required time limit shall mean that the employee is barred from proceeding further with the grievance. Grievances filed due to sexual harassment are not subject to this 10 day limit.

The department supervisor or chairperson may (but is not required to) meet with the parties involved, including the grievant and any witnesses, to investigate the complaint. He or she will issue a written response to the grievant within 10 days of the filing of the grievance.

Step Two: Director of Human Resources

If the employee is not satisfied with the outcome of the grievance at Step One, he or she may appeal in writing to the Director of Human Resources within five working days of receipt of the decision by the department supervisor or chairperson. If the department supervisor or chairperson fails to issue a response within 10 working days, the grievant may immediately appeal to the Director of Human Resources. Failure to file the appeal within the required time limit shall mean that the grievant is barred from proceeding further.

The Director of Human Resources shall try to resolve the matter through the use of fact finding and information gathering, including interviewing the principal parties involved in the matter and any relevant witnesses. The Director shall issue a written decision on the matter within 10 working days of receipt of the appeal.

If the grievance involves alleged discriminatory or harassing treatment of the employee, the College's Special Assistant to the President for Diversity will be involved at Step Two. In such case the Director of Human Resources and the Special Assistant to the President for Diversity shall jointly try to resolve the matter and shall issue a written decision within 10 working days of receipt of the appeal. If the grievance involves alleged sexual harassment the employee should use the College's Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedure.

Step Three: Senior Administrative Officer

If the employee is not satisfied with the outcome of the grievance at Step Two, he or she may file an appeal in writing to the appropriate senior administrative officer of the College within five working days of receipt of the Step Two decision. Failure to file the appeal within the required time limit shall mean that the grievant is barred from proceeding further. For purposes of this provision, the senior administrative officers of the College are the Dean of the Faculty, the Treasurer, the Chief Advancement Officer, the Dean of Students, and the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid. Any appeal at this step should be directed to the officer responsible for the department in which the grievant is employed. When the grievant's responsibilities cross departmental or divisional lines, the Director of Human Resources shall decide to which administrative officer the appeal should be directed.

The senior administrative officer shall review the substance of the grievance, including the information gathered at the Step Two appeal, and at his or her discretion may (but is not required to) meet with the principal parties and relevant witnesses. The officer shall issue a written response to the grievant within 10 working days of receipt of the appeal. Except for grievances involving the termination of employment, the decision of the senior administrative officer shall be final.

Grievances of Employment Termination: An employee who wishes to grieve a decision by the College to terminate his or her employment may initiate a grievance immediately at Step Three. The senior administrative officer will hear the matter and, at his or her discretion, may choose to appoint a three-member panel to hear the facts and offer opinion as to the merits of the grievance. That panel shall be made up of three non-faculty employees, one appointed by the Director of Human Resources, one appointed by the senior administrative officer and the third selected by the other two so appointed. Any opinion issued by this panel shall be deemed advisory only.

Mediation: With the consent of the grievant, the senior administrative officer may refer the matter to mediation prior to deciding the matter. The mediator shall be selected by the College and shall conduct and conclude the mediation within 30 days. If resolution of the matter is not achieved by that time, the mediator will be dismissed and the senior administrative officer shall proceed with a decision on the matter.

Step Four: President of the College

If a grievance involving the termination of employment is not resolved to the satisfaction of the grievant at Step Three, he or she may file an appeal in writing to the President of the College within five working days of receipt of the Step Three decision. Failure to file the appeal within the required time limit shall mean that the grievant is barred from proceeding further. The President shall review the prior record of the grievance and in his or her discretion may (but is not required to) meet with the principal parties and relevant witnesses. The President shall issue a decision to the grievant in writing within 20 working days of receipt of the appeal. The decision of the President shall be final.