§1 Ways to Resolve Workplace Disputes
Complaints arising in the workplace should be resolved fairly and promptly. In selecting a suitable alternative to resolve a workplace issue or concern, an employee may obtain information and guidance from the Department of Employment Dispute Resolution (“EDR”) and the Human Resources Office at the employee’s agency.
For specific questions about the grievance procedure and its requirements, it is advisable to contact EDR, the state agency charged by statute to establish and administer the grievance procedure. EDR is located at Main Street Centre, 600 East Main Street, Suite 301, Richmond, VA 23219 and can be reached by telephone at 786-7994 from Richmond, or toll free at 1-888-23-ADVICE (232-3842) from elsewhere in Virginia. Additional information is available on EDR’s Web site, www.edr.virginia.gov.
Many workplace issues can be resolved through discussion. Other alternatives include the following:
One alternative for resolving disputes is the statewide mediation program administered by EDR. Mediation is a voluntary process through which neutral third persons (mediators) assist people in conflict to explore their differences and develop their own solutions to these concerns. A decision to mediate a dispute does not prevent an employee from initiating a grievance later. Where the parties have entered into an agreement to mediate, the time requirements of the grievance procedure may be extended by mutual agreement. TO BE ENFORCEABLE, THIS AGREEMENT MUST BE IN WRITING.
If an employee thinks that she has been discriminated against, she may file a formal complaint with the Office of Equal Employment Services (“OEES”) at the Department of Human Resource Management (“DHRM”). OEES investigates complaints of employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender (including sexual harassment), age, national origin, religion, political affiliation or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities. An employee may not pursue both an OEES complaint and a grievance on the same matter. OEES may be reached by telephone at 225-2136 from Richmond, or toll free at 1-800-533-1414 from elsewhere in Virginia.
EDR administers the grievance procedure under which most workplace disputes can be grieved to three successive levels of agency management. Agencies must designate, in writing, their management step-respondents and submit the list to EDR for approval. Once the list is approved by the EDR Director, the agency must make it readily accessible to all employees. If the employee disagrees with agency management’s resolution of the grievance, the employee may seek to have the grievance resolved by an independent hearing officer. Only certain types of grievances, however, will qualify for such a hearing. The grievance procedure has strict rules that must be followed by all parties. State law prohibits retaliation against employees for using or participating in the grievance process.
An employee may ask EDR to investigate allegations of retaliation as the result of the use of or participation in the grievance procedure or for reporting, in good faith, an allegation of fraud, waste or abuse to the State Employee Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline. Where EDR determines that the request merits further review, EDR’s authority is limited to investigating the complaint and advising the agency head of its findings. EDR is authorized to provide no other relief. An employee may not pursue both a retaliation investigation and a grievance on the same matter.
Other resources may be available for resolving workplace disputes. These resources may include: agency human resources or equal employment opportunity officers, ombudsmen, or the services of other agencies and organizations such as the Virginia Council on Human Rights or the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (VOPA). However, for answers to questions regarding the grievance procedure, the appropriate source for information is EDR.
Revised August 30, 2004