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SECTION V. GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES.
(Adopted 11 July 2006 (Motion 06-13) and 22 August 2006 (Motion 06-13a))


Introduction: When a conflict arises between two members of The USGenWeb Project that cannot be resolved informally, either party has the option of requesting a review of the dispute by the Grievance Committee. The final decision of the Grievance Committee is binding on all parties.


A - Committee Membership, Qualifications & Appointments.

Membership:


The Grievance Committee shall consist of seven members of The USGenWeb Project in good standing. The panel must include a State Coordinator and a member of the Special projects and three County Coordinators/Local Coordinators who have not served as State Coordinator or in a national level position within the last three years. The National Coordinator is an ex officio member of the Grievance Committee and is not eligible for assignment as the committee member overseeing an accepted grievance. In the event that a member of the Grievance Committee is one of the parties involved in the dispute or has a personal interest in the dispute, that Committee Member shall retire from involvement with any aspect of that grievance.

In the event that a Grievance Committee member changes positions in the USGenWeb Project during their term, they may remain as a representative of the position for which they were appointed until the end of their term. This does not apply in the case of the committee member's election to the USGenWeb Advisory Board, at which time they would be required to resign and a new representative appointed after a call for volunteers from within the project to fill the seat.

A Grievance Committee member may be temporarily removed, upon a vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the committee, for unwillingness to serve in the capacity for which the person was accepted, releasing information on a grievance presently before the board and/or not answering three (3) roll calls.

The member will be sent a letter by the Grievance Chair stating the reason for the temporary removal. During this time the member will be unsubscribed from the Grievance Committee mail list. The member will then be given 72 hours in which to respond. If no answer is received then the member will be removed without recourse. If a response is received, after reading the reply and discussion of said, the Grievance Committee will vote on whether or not to permanently remove the member.

Qualifications:

Volunteers for the Grievance Committee will be required to meet certain minimum requirements for service.

Volunteers must have a minimum of one year's continuous service as a Member in Good Standing of either a State Project or a recognized Special Project of the USGenWeb Project.

Volunteers may not have been a party in a grievance for a minimum of two (2) years prior to volunteering for the Grievance Committee nor be currently involved in a grievance.

Appointments:

The Advisory Board will vote to make the initial appointments to the Grievance Committee after soliciting volunteers for the committee, posting their qualifications for comment by USGenWeb Project members on the BOARD-L, each of the Regional lists, and any other official project lists deemed necessary. Of the initial appointments four (4) will be for two-year terms, and three (3) for one-year terms. The Advisory Board will appoint the Grievance Chair for the initial term for a period of one year.

Future vacancies within the Grievance Committee will be filled by USGenWeb Project members in the following manner: The Chair will solicit volunteers for the position, and post their qualifications for comment. Volunteers will be chosen by a vote of Grievance Committee members, and presented to the Advisory Board for approval.

Future appointments as Chair will be by vote of the Grievance Committee members. Elections will be for a two-year term.


B - Committee Business

Two e-mail lists will be established for Grievance Committee business. The first list will be archived, and will be available for all interested project volunteers to subscribe to on a read-only basis. The list will be used to announce committee vacancies/appointments, to request volunteers for open positions, and for discussions of policy and/or procedures related to the Grievance Committee. This list will also be used for Grievance Committee assignments and announcements. No discussion of specific grievances will be held on the public list.

The second list will not be archived and is considered strictly confidential. Only Committee members and the National Coordinator (NC), as ex-officio member of the committee will be subscribed to this list. (The NC will be subscribed in read-only mode.) Any questions or concerns related to specific grievances will be raised ONLY on the confidential list. The confidential list may NOT be used for public business, or in an effort to avoid public disclosure. To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest or impropriety in the case of a grievance being filed against the National Coordinator, the NC would be unsubscribed from the confidential list and another Advisory Board (AB) member will be subscribed until the grievance process is completed. The National Coordinator will not be eligible to vote on matters related to specific grievances, but will have full voting participation in other Grievance Committee business.


C - Duties of Grievance Committee Members.

Grievance Committee members act as administrators/advisors to volunteer mediators and arbitrators, following complaints assigned to them throughout the grievance process. Should a complaint progress to an arbitration hearing, the Grievance Committee member will be responsible for acting as Chair for the hearing. Grievance Committee members will not take direct part in mediations under their guidance, and will not have a vote in hearings they may chair. Grievance Committee members are responsible for tracking the progress of complaints until resolved, and making status reports to the Chair and/or Committee as may be necessary, with a final status report upon resolution of the complaint.

Additional duties of the Grievance Committee include:

1. Recruit and train volunteer mediator/arbitrators;
2. Review incoming grievances to determine compliance with Sections F2 and F3 of these procedures to determine if they should be assigned to volunteers;
3. Review the outcome when a process is completed.


D - Duties of Chair.

The Chair will be responsible for receiving complaints, numbering them, and assigning them to a Grievance Committee member to administer. The Chair will also be responsible for maintaining a list of volunteer members to act as mediators, as well as a list of volunteer arbitrators, and assigning them to complaints as needed. The Chair will make a Quarterly Report to the Advisory Board on the number of complaints received and resolved, and provide other information as needed by the Board.


E - Confidentiality.

Because grievances are considered personnel matters, all volunteers (committee members, mediators and arbitrators) must state that they are willing to abide by strict confidentiality requirements.

Confidentiality begins when the grievance is filed with the Committee. All discussion regarding the issues during the grievance process is to be considered privileged and private, and shall not be disclosed during or after the process by either the team or either party, except as allowed by these procedures.

The mediation process is confidential, and parties involved must agree to uphold that confidentiality unless ALL parties agree to the contrary.

The arbitration process is considered confidential, and parties involved must agree to uphold that confidentiality unless ALL parties (including volunteer arbitrators and witnesses) agree to the contrary.

Members of the Committee must also state that they understand that violation of this confidentiality agreement will mean immediate expulsion from the Grievance Committee and may result in determination of Member Not in Good Standing by the Advisory Board. Once declared a MNIGS, the former Grievance Committee member may not serve on the Grievance Committee again.

In the event of a party to the grievance breaking confidentiality, for a first violation, the party will be sent a letter by the Grievance Committee Chair reminding the party that there can be no discussion of the grievance from the time that the grievance has been filed. A second violation will terminate the process and a finding will be made against the violator. If the Grievant is the one who has breached confidentiality, the grievance may not be re-filed in any form.


F - Grievance Process

1 - Who may file: The grievance process is initiated, when a complaint is made by any of the following:

1. A member of the USGenWeb Project, filing on his/her own behalf, within 30 days of incident, or discovery of incident;
2. A former USGenWeb member within 30 days of termination of membership either with the Project, or within a specific State or Special Project;
3. A transcriber or an accepted contributing researcher, within 30 of incident, or discovery of incident.

In the case of two or more individuals forming one party, the group will select one spokesperson to act on behalf of the others.

2 - Types of grievances: The following types of grievances will be handled by the Grievance Committee:

1. Grievances against the USGenWeb Project, the standing committees or Special Projects of the USGenWeb Project, or the USGenWeb Project Advisory Board. Grievances by a State Project or Special Project against another State Project or Special Project. Grievances against USGenWeb Project standing committees must be against the Chair or a specific member of the standing committee.
2. Grievances by a USGenWeb Project member against another USGenWeb Project member who is not located within the same State or Special project.
3. Grievances by a USGenWeb Project member against another USGenWeb Project member located within the same State or Special Project when there is no local Grievance Procedure to follow in that State or Special Project.
4. Grievances against the local grievance project of a State or Special Project having its own member-approved process for resolving grievances. 1. The Grievance Committee is limited to reviewing the determination made by the local grievance process and entering a determination whether the local procedures for the grievance process were followed within that State or Special Project. The Grievance Committee will not re-hear the complaint once it has been handled at the local level.
5. Other specific grievances on a case-by-case basis when there may not be a reasonable alternative at the local level for resolution of the dispute, solely at the discretion of the Grievance Committee as a whole.

3 - Required information: The initial complaint should be brought to the Chair, and must include the following information:

1. Full name & project affiliation of the member bringing the complaint;
2. Full name & project affiliation of the member the complaint is against;
3. The exact nature of the complaint, including the date that the incident occurred;
4. What steps or actions the member has taken to this point, if any, to resolve the situation outside of the grievance process;
5. What actions/reparations that the project member desires as a result of the grievance;
6. A specific citation or reference to the USGenWeb Project Policy, Procedure, or By-Law, or XXGenWeb Project, Policy, Procedure, or By-Law which is alleged to have been violated.

4 - Committee Review. Upon receiving the initial complaint, the Chair will assign it a number, and appoint one of the permanent committee members to review the complaint to determine whether it meets the requirements outlined in subsections 1 - 3 of this section. The review of the complaint will result in an "accept" or "reject" determination from the Committee Member assigned. The recommendation and the reasons therefore, shall be provided to the Grievance Committee as a whole, and voted upon.

The review at this level should assume that the facts stated in the complaint are true, and the determination of the viability of the grievance made based upon the assumption that the complaint is true and a review of the by-laws, policies, or procedures alleged to have been violated.

If rejected, the member filing the grievance shall be informed that the grievance was not accepted and the reason(s) that it was not accepted. If the grievance was not accepted due to the initial complaint not fulfilling the requirements of subsections 1 - 3 of this Section, the member will have ten (10) days from the date of notification to amend or correct any deficiencies in the initial complaint and resubmit it to the Grievance Committee Chair.

* No third-party grievance will be accepted. The member who is aggrieved must be the one to file the grievance.
* Non-specific complaints, those that do not allege a violation of a specific by-law, policy, or procedure, will be rejected with prejudice.
* Any member filing two (2) non-specific and/or third party grievances within a one (1) year period will have their name submitted to the Advisory Board with a recommendation that they be declared a Member Not in Good Standing for a period of one year.
* Any member who files two (2) non-specific and/or third party grievances within any one (1) year period for a third time will not be allowed to file any grievance for a period of five (5) years.

If accepted as a viable grievance, the parties shall be so informed and a Committee Member, a volunteer mediator and two volunteer arbitrators assigned. The Chair shall advise the parties of the identity of the members of the team once they are assigned.

5 - Objections: It shall be the responsibility of the parties to the dispute to raise the issue of bias or conflict by a mediator or arbitrator. This shall be done privately to the assigned Committee Member. All claims of bias or conflict must be raised prior to the beginning of the mediation process, and before the mediation/arbitration team members are subscribed to the mail list. If either party objects to more than one member of the team, that party must lodge all objections at the same time.

If an objection is raised to a team member, that member or members shall be dismissed and a new team member or members assigned without the necessity for any proof of bias or prejudice. The identity of the party raising the objection shall not be revealed to any team member. The replacement team member(s) will be the final members of the team and will then be subscribed to the mail list unless the opposing side lodges an objection to a replacement member. Once the team is seated on the list and the process initiated, no further objection may be raised as to partiality, bias, or conflict, and a team member may only be removed on his or her own request.

There can be no objection filed against the Grievance Committee Representative as that person is there to aid the mediator and arbitrators in the rules of the Grievance Committee and does not take an active part in the mediation/arbitration processes.

6 - The duties and responsibilities of the team shall be:

1. To provide a full and fair opportunity for both parties to present their side of the dispute and present relevant material in support of their position.
2. To review the material provided by both parties, to ask questions of the parties, and seek clarification to further understand the issues in dispute.
3. To assist the parties in identifying the source of the dispute, the options for resolution, common ground between the parties, and to explore the possibility of an amiable agreement for resolution of the dispute that will benefit both parties and The USGenWeb Project.
4. To notify the Grievance Committee that mediation has been successful and the exact nature of the agreement the parties have come to and have agreed to abide by.
5. Or, to notify the Grievance Committee that mediation has not been successful.

7 - Mediation: When the team is seated, the parties shall be so advised by the Mediator. The parties shall have seventy-two (72) hours to submit to the Mediator a written statement of their position on the issues of the dispute. The mediator shall provide the position statements to the team members for their review. Upon receipt of the position statements, the volunteer arbitrators shall be unsubscribed from the discussion list during the mediation process.

The issues raised in the initial complaint and in the position statements of the parties shall be the sole issues for discussion in either mediation or arbitration. Prior precedent may be considered, but issues not raised in the complaint or in the position statements will not be considered.

The mediator may meet with each party separately, discussing the issues raised and prompting suggestions for a solution, short of the party receiving their requested goal that would be acceptable. All correspondence will be accessible to the permanent committee member.

If an amiable agreement is achieved between the parties in the mediation process, the members of the team shall retire to closed session to insure that the resolution is appropriate in view of the goals and requirements of The USGenWeb Project. If no conflict is found, the resolution agreement will be forwarded to the Grievance Chair with a recommendation for approval, and the parties so notified by the mediator. If the resolution agreement is not consistent with the goals and requirements of The USGenWeb Project after review in closed session, the team will reconvene with the parties for further discussion.

Mediation will continue until the matter is resolved, or until it is apparent to the mediator that there will be no resolution forthcoming, but for a period of no more than ten (10) days once mediation has begun without approval of the Grievance Committee. The mediator may request additional time from the Grievance Committee if it is the the opinion of the team that a resolution is at hand.

If, after the mediator has worked with both parties for a reasonable amount of time, and the mediator determines that the movement of one or both parties will not be sufficient to produce a mediated resolution, the mediation process is terminated. The Mediator will make a final recommendation to the Chair as to whether the matter should proceed to arbitration or whether the matter should be closed. The Committee must vote on a recommendation to close the grievance without proceeding to arbitration.

Failure of either party to proceed with mediation in good faith is grounds for terminating the process.

8 - Arbitration: If the mediation process fails, and the grievant wishes to continue with the complaint, the mediator will so advise the volunteer arbitrators. The mediator and the arbitrators, along with the overseeing committee member, will conduct the arbitration hearing, with the committee member acting as a non-voting chair.

The volunteer arbitrators will be re-subscribed to the mail list and both parties to the grievance will remain subscribed to the list. Both parties will be given the opportunity to present statements or evidence. The volunteer arbitrators may request additional information if they feel it is necessary, or may ask further questions of the parties involved.

After hearing both sides of the issue, the parties shall be given an additional seventy-two (72) hours to provide to the chair a written summation of their position in view of the discussions held.

The chair will provide these summations to each member of the team. The team shall retire to closed session and come to a recommendation of the course of action to be taken by the parties to resolve the dispute. The arbitrators may find for either party, or reach a decision that is a compromise between the two positions. The arbitrators will make a recommendation as to what action, if any, should be taken.

The burden of proof of a violation of the by-law, policy, or procedure cited in the initial complaint is on the person making the allegation. The decision of the arbitration team will be based on the information and evidence submitted and applicable USGenWeb and XXGenweb Project by-laws. Failure of either party to participate in the arbitration process will result in the decision being made against the non-participating party in accordance with the information presented.

The recommendation of the Arbitration Team shall be submitted to the Chair for approval of the Grievance Committee. Upon approval, a written decision will detail to the parties the findings of the Team and the actions to be taken by the parties in light of the findings.

The decision of the Arbitration Team becomes the final resolution of the dispute upon approval of the their recommendation by the Grievance Committee. Failure of either party or other USGenWeb Project member to comply with the decision is a violation of the USGenWeb Project Bylaws and subject to action by the USGenWeb Advisory Board.

9 - Appeals: A party aggrieved by a decision of the Grievance Committee may make an appeal to the USGenWeb Project Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will review the appeal to determine if the Grievance Procedures were followed as set out herein. An appeal to the Advisory Board is not a rehearing of the issues and the outcome is either to affirm the determination made by the Grievance Committee, or a return to the Grievance Committee for reconsideration.

The decision in a grievance may be appealed only once and that appeal must be  filed within 15 days of the decision made by the Grievance Committee.  A notice of intent to file does not change the 15 day deadline for filing the actual appeal.

A decision by the Committee to reject a grievance may not be appealed if the Grievant breaks the confidentiality procedures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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