Most labor-management agreements list a few simple items that must be addressed to file a valid grievance, e.g., 1- name of the grievant, 2- agreement article and section violated, 3- date of violation, 4- brief description of the violation, 5- remedy requested, and 6- name and contact number of union rep. So, an inexperienced union rep might think it is therefore easy to draft a grievance, but the experienced rep knows that there are some serious strategy issues to decide under each of those six items.  This is the first in a six-part series that will explain what those strategic issues are. Part I deals with the Name of the Grievant. What is so complex about that you might be asking yourself?  Well, to borrow some famous words from our childhood, “Gather around and you shall hear.”

Let’s start with an example. Imagine that a big promotion decision was announced yesterday and this morning one of the union’s members, Joe Hill, asked you to file a grievance on his behalf.  He pointed out that he knows he was on the seven-person Best Qualified list, but was never interviewed as some were despite the contract provision requiring that all those on the BQ list be treated uniformly. Which of these options do you choose for naming the grievant?

  1. List Joe Hill as the sole grievant
  2. List Joe Hill and all similarly situated employees
  3. List Joe Hill and a co-worker named Eve Dubinsky
  4. List just the union on behalf of all BQ members not interviewed without mentioning Joe.

Here are the strategic issues to consider with each choice.

Option (1) – This is very good for Joe because by citing only him labor law limits any remedy awarded only to him—even if three other employees also were denied interviews improperly. See Dept. of Transportation, Maritime Admin, 61 FLRA 816 (2006).

Option (2) – This enables the union to enforce the rights of everyone denied an interview, which means the union will be able to publicize that it is protecting employees even if they don’t know their rights were violated. Maybe that motivates some non-members to join.  But it also means that should an arbitrator award priority consideration to those denied interviews the agency can pick any of the BQ members not interviewed for the next vacancy as opposed to only being able to consider Joe under Option (1).  In the worst case, management could select the only non-member of those entitled to priority consideration over Joe and the other union members.

Option (3) – Suppose the union wants to find out if any other members want to join the grievance?  It could call a short union meeting about the recent promotion and ask if any other member thinks s/he was mistreated just like Joe.  If there was someone, the union can list that person by name and, therefore, at least limit the remedy to the two people who came to the union looking for help.

Option (4) – Like Option (b) this opens the door to an unknown and unlimited group of people getting in on the remedy. But it also likely permits Joe and any other employee to file their own complaint in another forum.  Consequently, even if Joe started the grievance by complaining to the union, so long as he is not a named grievant he most likely can file his own EEO complaint if he thinks he was not interviewed due to discrimination or ULP if it was due to union animus. That can be an attractive option to Joe and the union if the union does not want to push an EEO or ULP issue to arbitration or hopes that the problem will be solved in one of those forums so it does not have to arbitrate the dispute.

If you want to read a little more about these options, check out “Behold, The Mega-Grievance Option

(Originally posted June 30, 2021)

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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One Response to

  1. New Labor Guy says:

    Thank you for sharing great insights. Nicely formatted for easy understanding. Looking forward to reviewing and sharing future parts of this series.

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