Grievance Process (2021 Update)

I-2021-41


Effective Date: Expiration Date: Chapters:
Nov. 30, 2021 When Superseded 16  

Overview

Agencies should resolve complaints that arise in the workplace fairly and promptly. District government employees can bring certain workplace concerns to management for potential resolution through the grievance process, and District government agencies must process grievances (employee concerns or complaints) pursuant to law, regulation, and agency policies. For certain complaints, the grievance process may be an employee’s only opportunity to formally challenge an agency’s action at an administrative review level, or at all.


Filing a Grievance

Employees and applicants who wish to file a grievance must:

  1. Ensure that their matter is subject to the grievance procedure;
  2. File a grievance within the time provided for their matter type; and
  3. Complete the required paperwork to submit to the grievance official, which includes a concise account of the alleged violation.

Matters Subject to Grievance Procedures and Time Requirements

Applicants or employees may grieve any agency action if:

  1. The action violated a provision of the District personnel regulations; and
  2. The action caused the applicant or employee to suffer harm as a result of the agency action that is neither trivial nor speculative.

Applicants and employees may not grieve:

  1. Agency actions that are not grievable or appealable by law or regulation (including disciplinary actions taken pursuant to Chapter 36);
  2. Actions taken to implement the lawful order of a court or other tribunal; or
  3. Actions agreed to by the applicant or employee.

Timely Filing

The following table represents matters that are subject to grievance procedures and the time requirements for filing a grievance.

Matters Subject to Grievance Procedures

Type of Action

Time Requirements

Reprimand

Corrective

Within 10 business days of the issue date of the final decision

Involuntary reassignment

Corrective

Suspension of fewer than 10 workdays

Corrective

Enforced leave of fewer than 10 days[1]

Enforced leave

 

 

Violations of the personnel regulations

 

 

N/A

Within 45 business days from the date of the alleged violation, knowledge of the events or actions that are the basis for the alleged violation, or the final action, whichever is later

[1] NOTE: For enforced leave actions of ten (10) or more days and adverse actions, the employee may appeal the final agency action to the Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) no more than thirty (30) days after the effective date of the final agency decision.

Employees and agencies should pursue an alternative formal process instead of the grievance process when appropriate, such as using the EEO Counseling process for EEO complaints. Employees should grieve issues only outlined in a collective bargaining agreement and not in the District personnel regulations in accordance with the procedures provided in the applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Filing Deadlines

A grievance is considered filed when received by the grievance official. The burden of establishing the date of receipt rests with the employee or applicant. Employees should file grievances with the grievance official by e-mail, or by mail, or hand delivery to the grievance official’s principal business address. E-mail is recommended to ensure proof of delivery and decrease delays.

Required Documentation

Employees and applicants must use the attached Grievance Form (Attachment 1) to file a grievance. At a minimum, the grievance should include:

  1. The name, e-mail address, and phone number of the applicant or employee seeking relief;
  2. For employees, the name, e-mail address, phone number, and agency of their immediate supervisor;
  3. The name of the agency at issue;
  4. A concise written statement of facts, including dates, that establishes the alleged violation;
  5. A written statement of the applicant’s or employee’s injury; and
  6. The relief sought by the applicant or employee.

Individuals wishing to file a grievance should submit the form directly to the grievance official with any supporting documentation attached.

Applicants

Applicants seeking employment with agencies under the authority of the Mayor, or independent agencies following the District personnel regulations can file a grievance if they believe the District government improperly executed hiring procedures to their detriment. For example, an applicant may file a grievance if the hiring agency did not correctly apply their selected preference points during the applicant ranking process.

Applicants who believe an agency representative violated any of the policies related to applicants contained in the D.C. personnel regulations and who wish to file a grievance must do so within 45 business days of the notification of the hiring decision, the date the applicant knew or should have known of the hiring decision, or the effective date of the selectee’s appointment, whichever occurs first.

The grievance official for applicants seeking employment at agencies under the authority of the Mayor is the Director of DCHR or their designee. The grievance official for applicants seeking employment at an independent agency is the independent agency head or their designee Decisions made by the grievance official for applicant grievances are final and not subject to further administrative review.

Grievance Officials

For employees, the grievance official is their immediate supervisor or the immediate supervisor’s direct superior if there is a conflict of interest. For example, generally, when the action being grieved was initiated by the immediate supervisor, the immediate supervisor’s superior will serve as the first-level grievance official. Agency HR staff or labor liaisons may determine who the appropriate grievance official should be in the event of potential conflict. A grievance official may dismiss a grievance at any point if the grievant is uncooperative or obstructs the grievance process.


Initial Grievance Review

Grievance officials must make a preliminary determination as to whether the grievance meets the filing criteria. This includes determining if the matter addressed in the grievance materials is subject to grievance procedures and verifying that the employee filed the grievance before the relevant deadline. Within five business days of receipt, the grievance official must do one of the following:

  1. Deny the grievance as being untimely and/or as being a matter not subject to review;
  2. Request the grievant supply additional information; or
  3. Acknowledge receipt and begin processing the grievance in preparation for the first level grievance review.

The Director of DCHR or their designee serves as the grievance official for all applicants seeking employment in agencies under the authority of the Mayor. Thus, all grievances from applicants received by a subordinate agency will be transferred within one business day of receipt to DCHR for review.

Evaluation

Grievance officials should first determine whether the grievance is timely. If this criterion is met, the grievance official should then evaluate the content of the grievance to determine if the matter is subject to review. If there is uncertainty, the grievance official should prepare a list of questions that would help them identify the core issue or incident that led to the alleged violation.

Requesting Additional Information

When additional information is requested, grievance officials should provide the grievant a reasonable amount of time to respond to the inquiry. It is recommended that the grievance official allow the grievant at least 10 business days from the date the information was requested to respond. Once the grievant responds, the grievance official will have an additional five business days to make an initial determination. If after receiving the information the grievance official determines the matter is not subject to review, the grievance official must provide a written notification to the grievant notifying them of the outcome within five days of receipt of the additional information.

Acknowledging Receipt

The initial acknowledgment of receipt should include a summary of the alleged violation and the preliminary determination. If the preliminary determination is to advance the grievance to the first level grievance review or request the grievant supply additional information, an overview of the next steps in the process, meeting dates, or a timeline for receiving additional information should be included. If the matter is not subject to review or was received in an untimely manner, the grievance official should indicate the reasons why the grievance is being dismissed. The acknowledgment of receipt should be sent by e-mail to the e-mail address provided by the grievant, or by mail or hand delivered to the grievant’s address of record, within five business days of receipt of the initial grievance. For recordkeeping purposes, grievance officials are advised to send information by e-mail with a read receipt, or by certified mail or another shipping mechanism that provides proof of delivery.

Initial Grievance Review at a Glance

  1. Review the information presented and verify the grievance was filed in a timely manner.
  1. Make the preliminary determination to process as a first level grievance, request additional information, or deny the grievance.
  1. Notify the grievant in writing of the preliminary determination.
  1. Review any requested information received and notify the grievant of the resulting outcome.

 


First Level Grievance Review

Within five days of determining a matter is timely and subject to review, the grievance official must schedule an interview to start the first level grievance process.

 

Interviews with Grievants

The initial interview with the grievant gives the grievance official an opportunity to learn about specific allegations, facts supporting those assertions, and the relief being sought by the grievant. During the interview, the official should take careful notes and prepare a summary of their findings in writing.

Mediation

Unless a grievant has already attempted to pursue mediation, at the initial interview the grievant should be informed of their rights to elect mediation. If the grievant declines mediation, the grievance official should make note of such and proceed with the interview. If at any time during the initial interview a grievant opts for mediation, the grievance official must immediately end the interview, refer the grievant to mediation, and have the grievant complete an “Agreement to Mediate” form.

The goal of mediation is to fashion a solution agreeable to all parties. If the parties reach a mutually agreeable solution, the mediation process is documented and terminated successfully. If no agreement is reached, the grievance official will continue the process at the next applicable step.

Interviews with Other Subjects and Information Gathering

The grievance official must interview the subject of the grievance and any additional witnesses deemed appropriate for the grievance. Discretion should be used in the selection of additional witnesses. Generally, witnesses should be persons who have direct knowledge of the alleged violation(s). Grievance officials should collect documents relevant to the allegations as applicable.  Information disclosed during the grievance process will be kept confidential to the extent possible.

First Level Grievance Report or Decision

Within five days of the initial grievant interview, the grievance official will issue a first level grievance decision and report based on the facts. If the grievance official is unable to provide a decision or response within the required five days, they must notify the grievant immediately. If the official finds that the grievance is substantiated by the facts, they will specify the remedy and the date the remedy will be implemented. If the official finds that the grievance is not substantiated, they must deny the grievance. For recordkeeping purposes, grievance officials are advised to send information by e-mail with a read receipt to the e-mail address provided on the grievance form, or by certified mail or another shipping mechanism that provides proof of delivery. If the grievance official is unable to provide a decision and response within the five-day timeframe, they should notify the grievant and provide a response as soon as possible. Any confidential information provided by e-mail should be password-protected, as appropriate.

 

Grievant First Level Response

Grievants have five days from the issuance of the first level grievance decision to notify the grievance official if they are not satisfied with the decision. The notification must include any additional arguments and documents that support their position. Within two days of receipt of this notification, the grievance official will advance the grievance to the second level review along with any documents related to the grievance proceedings.

First Level Grievance Review at a Glance

  1. Schedule interview.
    • Schedule the initial interview with the grievant within five days of acknowledging the grievance.
  1. Explain mediation rights.
    • At the start of the interview, explain mediation rights.
    • If the grievant elects mediation and completes an "Agreement to Mediate” form, stop the interview and notify grievant that mediation will be scheduled before proceeding with first level grievance review.
    • If the grievant declines mediation, make note of the declination and continue the interview.
  1. Conduct interview.
    • In the interview, note the grievant’s specific allegations, the facts supporting those assertions, and the relief being sought.
  1. Interview additional subjects.
    • Interview the subject(s) of the grievance or witnesses as appropriate; summarize each interview in writing.
  1. Issue a decision within five days of the initial grievant interview.
    • Either: substantiate the grievance and specify the remedy and effective date; or, deny the grievance.
    • Prepare a decision and report based on the totality of the facts gathered.
  1. Forward grievance documents.
    • If the grievant requests a second level grievance review, forward all grievance materials within two business days of receiving the notification to the second level grievance official for resolution.

Second and Third Level Grievance Reviews

Should a grievant notify the grievance official in writing they are not satisfied with the outcome of the first level grievance review, the second level grievance review will commence and will follow the steps below. If the grievant is not satisfied with the outcome of the second level grievance review, they may request a third level grievance review within five days of the issuance of the second level grievance decision. The third level grievance official will also follow the steps below and issue a decision.

 

 A second level grievance official is generally a person in the grievant’s chain of command who reports directly to the agency head. The third level grievance official is typically the agency head.

Second and Third Level Grievance Review at a Glance

  1. Review all materials provided by the first (or second) level official.
  2. If deemed necessary, conduct any additional or follow-up interviews with the grievant or any other individual necessary within 10 days of receiving the grievance.
  • Create an interview summary for each interview.
  1. Conduct any additional investigation (such as document or other fact collection) deemed appropriate in order to make a determination, and complete the investigation.
  1. Issue Report and Decision.
    • Prepare a second or third level grievance report and decision based on the facts: specify the remedy and effective date if substantiating the grievance, or deny the grievance, within 21 days of receiving the second or third level grievance.
    • A second level grievance decision should inform the grievant they can seek a third level review, as applicable.
    • A third level grievance decision should inform the grievant of their right to seek a final review.
  1. Forward grievance documents.
  • If the grievant requests a third level grievance review within five days of receiving the second level decision, forward all grievance materials to the agency head or other third level grievance official for resolution within two days of receiving the notification.
  • If the grievant requests a final grievance review, all materials should be forwarded to DCHR or the appropriate personnel authority, as applicable, within two days of the notification.
  • Materials include the official’s decision and report, any interview summaries, any records reviewed by the second level official that were used to render a decision, and the notification requesting third level or final review.

Reports and Decisions

The second and third level officials review all information forwarded from the initial and subsequent reviews and render a decision based on the totality of the facts. If the official finds that the grievance is substantiated by the facts, they will specify the remedy and the date the remedy will be implemented. If the official finds that the grievance is not substantiated, they will deny the grievance. All grievance decisions should outline the facts leading to the decision and, if applicable, any information requiring additional review. Second- and third-level grievance decisions should be sent to the grievant’s provided e-mail address, or to their provided principal address, within 21 days of receipt of the request for review. For recordkeeping purposes, grievance officials are advised to send information by e-mail with read receipt, or by certified mail or another shipping mechanism that provides proof of postmark and/or delivery. Any confidential information provided by e-mail should be password-protected, as appropriate.

Grievant Responses

Grievants who do not agree with the outcome of a second or third level grievance decision must notify the original (first level) grievance official in writing within five days that they are not satisfied with the decision and request a third or final review, respectively. Within two days of receipt of this notification, the grievance official will advance the grievance to the third level grievance official or, for final grievance review, the official will forward the grievance materials to DCHR or the relevant personnel authority for review.

As with the initial filing of the grievance, the burden of establishing the date of receipt of a request for a second, third, or final review rests with the grievant. Responses and requests for higher level reviews should be submitted to the grievance official by e-mail, mail, or hand delivery to the official’s D.C. government e-mail address or principal business address.

 

 


Final Grievance Review

The personnel authority will review and make a final decision if a grievance is escalated to a final grievance review. Agencies under the personnel authority of the Mayor will have their grievances reviewed by DCHR. If the grievant is an employee of DCHR, the grievance will be reviewed and decided by the City Administrator or their designee.

When the grievance is received by the personnel authority, all information obtained in previous reviews including interviews and other documentation will be examined thoroughly. After reviewing all documentation, the personnel authority will issue a decision outlining the facts. If the official finds that the grievance is substantiated by the facts, they will specify the remedy and the date the remedy will be implemented. If the official finds that the grievance is not substantiated, they will deny the grievance. The decision of the personnel authority will be final and not subject to any further grievance or appeal before any administrative body or court.

The personnel authority will deliver the decision to the agency and the grievant no more than 30 days after receiving the final grievance review request.


Collective Bargaining Agreements

Employees covered under a collective bargaining agreement may initiate a grievance pursuant to the valid, negotiated grievance procedure in that agreement, or Chapter 16 of these regulations, but not both.


Authorities

Chapter 16 of the D.C. personnel regulations, Corrective and Adverse Actions; Enforced Leave; and Grievances.


Applicability

The information in this instruction applies to all applicants and employees of all District agencies except the Mayor; members of the Council; sworn members of the Metropolitan Police Department; employees in the Executive and Excepted Service; the District of Columbia Superior Court and Court of Appeals; the University of the District of Columbia; the District of Columbia Public Schools; members of District boards and commissions; and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.


Attachments

  1. Sample Grievance Form
  2. Sample Ack. Of Grievance
  3. Sample Grievance Transfer
  4. Sample Grievance Substantiated
  5. Sample Grievance Dismiss
  6. Agreement to Mediate
  7. Mediation Agreement

Issued by Interim Director E. Lindsey Maxwell II, Esq., D.C. Department of Human Resources on Nov. 30, 2021, 3:31 p.m.