Municipal Law Alert, September 2011
As we reported in the last issue of the Municipal Law Alert, one of the provisions in Act 10 (the Budget Repair Bill) requires that municipalities without a civil service system (most of you) must establish a grievance procedure no later than October 1, 2011. The procedure must address at a minimum, the following three situations:
- Employee terminations;
- Employee discipline; and
- Workplace safety.
Although Act 10 does not identify specific penalties for failure to comply with the October 1st deadline, if your municipality hasn’t already done so, it should take action as soon as possible to enact a grievance procedure. You don’t want to be in the position of having an employee wishing to file a grievance, and your municipality either has no grievance policy at all, or has one that doesn’t comply with the new requirements, now codified in Wisconsin Statute § 66.0509.
Although § 66.0509 provides a municipality with a great deal of flexibility in drafting its grievance procedure, there are several minimum elements that must be present.
- There must be a written document specifying the process that a grievant and an employer must follow;
- There must be an opportunity for a hearing before an impartial hearing officer; and
- There must be an appeal process in which the highest level of appeal is the governing body.
Other than these minimum elements, municipalities are left to define the terms and provisions of their local procedures. As Attorney Adam Jarchow noted in the July 2011 edition of the Municipal Law Alert, “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.”