Handle a Grievance
A grievance is a complaint, a deviation or a misapplication of past practice involving a work situation that you believe violated: an article of the Union Contract, CPS Board Policies and Rules, or (in some cases) state or federal laws.
“Smile and File”
It’s only natural to be angry if your principal or supervisor orders you to do something that you know to be against the rules. It’s important to remember, however, that disobeying an order from your principal or supervisor— even if they’re wrong —is considered “insubordination” under the law. That’s why your rule of thumb in these situations is to “smile and file.” You should let your boss know that their order isn’t right, but go ahead and carry it out while documenting the problem. Then, as soon as you’re off the clock, talk to your delegate or contact the union to pursue the grievance process. You can’t stop your boss from doing the wrong thing once, but you can prevent them from ever doing it again!
Document, Document, Document
When you realize that there may be a problem with your work conditions or you have an interaction that you think is problematic, be sure to document the situation right away. You may send an email to yourself just to keep a note on file. You may also send an email to your administrator. When emailing your administrator, be sure to stick to facts. While the administrator might realize their error on reviewing your email or might rescind their erroneous order, you shouldn’t count on this email to resolve the problem and you definitely shouldn’t use it to vent. Instead, you might begin your email with a phrase like, “Dear [administrator]: I am just writing to ensure that I correctly understood our exchange at [the date and time]. When [event] happened, I heard you tell me [what they said],” etc. Make a detailed narrative. This may become formal evidence later, but at the very least you will ensure that the problem didn’t result from a misunderstanding.
Resolving a Grievance at the School Level
When you contact your delegate or field representative about your grievance, they may decide to pursue a formal grievance. They may also decide to try resolving the issue with an administrator at the school level. This process may involve bringing your grievance up at a meeting of your school’s Professional Problems Committee. Each school’s PPC should meet monthly with the school principal in order to resolve contract and other school issues that arise from month to month. Your delegate or field rep may also decide to hash out the issue with a principal in a private meeting before pursuing a formal grievance. Beginning the grievance at the school level may help you find out if others at your school are facing the same problem and may provide an important opportunity for educators to band together to resolve it. When pursuing a grievance in this informal manner, it’s important to be mindful of the time limits laid out below.
The Formal Grievance Process
Filing grievances is a union’s formal process to defend its members. Without this process, we have no way short of an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge to enforce our contract. With a grievance, the employee and union inform the Board that a member’s rights were violated and provide the employer a good-faith opportunity to make it right. If they don’t do so, the union can appeal to arbitration and court, but only after following this legally established process. If you believe that a formal grievance may be necessary to resolve a work situation, download the Grievance Authorization form and send it to us along with supporting documentation.
Two Different Grievance Procedures
In a “3-6 level grievance” the member alleges that there was a violation of the contract at their work location (school, district office, etc.). In general, these grievance are grievances about a situation under the control of your principal or head administrator. Examples of a 3-6 grievance are: missed prep periods, programming, summer school, not enough supplies, and unsafe or unsanitary conditions. These grievances are filed against the principal or unit administrator . That administrator has five school days to schedule a hearing with the school’s field representative. Then the member, the field representative and the principal or department head meet to discuss the matter. The principal or unit administrator must then submit a written decision to the Union within five school days.
The other grievance is called a “3-8 grievance.” This is a grievance filed against the Board of Education itself. Examples of these grievances are: not implementing lane change adjustments, missing benefit days, improper lay- off, or tenure and seniority issues. The Office of Employee Relations has fifteen school days to give the member a written answer to 3-8 grievances. Grievances have a robust appeals process.
You Have Only 45 School Days to File
Grievances can only be filed within 45 school days. After that time, your complaint becomes time-barred. The only exception to the 45 day rule is if the grievance involves salary issues. Examples of salary grievances are: not being paid correctly, not receiving after school or athletic salary, and missing benefit days.
CTU is fighting for quality pay and benefits (including health care), full staffing in our schools, smaller class sizes and justice for students and families. Get updates and resources for our contract fights here.