Don’t Forget to Adopt a Grievance Procedure

Municipal Law Alert, July 2011

Now that Act 10 (the Budget Repair Bill) has taken effect, municipalities without a civil service system (most of you) are required to establish a grievance system that addresses employee terminations, employee discipline, and workplace safety no later than October 1, 2011. Any grievance procedure a municipality creates must contain: (1) a written document specifying the process that a grievant and an employer must follow; (2) a hearing before an impartial hearing officer; and (3) an appeal process in which the highest level of appeal is the governing body. It should also be noted that even if you have a union contract that has not expired, you are still required to comply with the law by adopting a grievance procedure even though that procedure likely will not apply to those covered by the union contract until the existing contract expires.

There are a number of methods that comply with the law. The grievance procedure can be short, it can be long, it can be complex or it can be relatively simple. There are a number of thoughts and theories floating around about what ought to be done, but at this point, they are just that–thoughts and theories. No one really knows how the grievance procedures will work in practice or how the courts will view them. What we do know, however, is that this should not be a one-size-fits-all document. A grievance procedure for a large city or school district obviously will be different than a grievance procedure for a town with one employee. Because of the various considerations associated with adopting a grievance procedure, it is recommended that you work with your municipal attorney to develop a procedure that will work for your particular circumstance.

Ed. Note: The League of Wisconsin Municipalities has posted some sample grievance procedures on its website, which can be viewed by clicking here.

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