Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual - Policy 3220: Dispute Resolution Policy
Date Originally Issued: 11-01-1994
Subject to Change Without Notice
This policy provides a process by which employees’(staff, coworkers, and supervisors) work-related issues and problems can be heard, addressed, and resolved in a timely and constructive manner. All staff and supervisors (including faculty who supervise staff) may use the procedures in this policy to resolve any work-related issue or problem involving staff employees (except as limited in Section 3. herein). Emphasis is on early identification and resolution with fair consideration of all sides of an issue or problem. Dispute Resolution (DR) staff assist employees and supervisors in moving through an appropriate process to final resolution of the issues or problems. The procedures in this policy should be administered flexibly and expeditiously at the lowest possible level with the cooperation of all concerned.
Retaliation against an employee for raising an issue or participating in any way in dispute resolution under this policy is strictly forbidden and shall be cause for disciplinary action if found to have occurred. Refer to "Whistleblower Protection and Reporting Suspected Misconduct and Retaliation" Policy 2200, UBP for policies and procedures on retaliation.
Information obtained by DR staff in the course of facilitation, informal attempts at resolution, mediation, or other activities is confidential. At the initial visit, DR staff will explain any limitations to confidentiality before discussing specific issues. With permission from the employee, DR staff may seek assistance from various University offices such as the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO); Counseling, Assistance, and Referral Service (CARS); Human Resources; Risk Management; and Internal Audit to resolve issues or problems in a flexible, cooperative, and responsive manner.
This policy is intended to help employees with issues or problems that affect them in the workplace. DR staff serve in a neutral role and use alternative dispute resolution methods, described in Section 6. herein, to return the primary responsibility for resolving conflicts to the individuals involved. If an individual believes there is a conflict of interest with DR conducting the dispute resolution as defined by the ethical code as established by the Association for Conflict Resolution, a mediator selected by mutual agreement from a panel of outside mediators is available to conduct dispute resolution. DR staff assist and guide individuals or groups in their efforts to identify mutually agreeable solutions. The Faculty Dispute Resolution Office offers alternative dispute resolution methods to faculty. The DR Department may work with the Faculty Dispute Resolution Office in instances of faculty/staff disputes with appropriate consent and releases from all participants. Both programs coordinate services and protocols to assist faculty and staff.
Employees with concerns about possible violations of University policy or state or federal laws or regulations that are more general in nature (sometimes called "whistle blowing"), should report such concerns according to "Whistleblower Protection and Reporting Suspected Misconduct and Retaliation" Policy 2200, UBP. Allegations of unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment are handled by the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) in accordance with “Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action for Employees and Students” Policy 3100, UBP and “Sexual Harassment” Policy 3780, UBP. DR staff will refer such allegations to OEO.
Employees who are members of a collective bargaining unit have specific grievance procedures, some of which include participation in the DR process. These employees should refer to their specific collective bargaining agreements. Employees should be aware that there may be federal or state laws and remedies pertaining to workplace complaints, and that use of dispute resolution under this policy does not extend the deadlines within which to seek assistance from outside agencies or file legal proceedings.
The University has a number of resources that can provide employees, coworkers, and supervisors with advice and/or assistance in resolving work-related issues and problems. This resources include:
- the management chain;
- the Dispute Resolution (DR) Department;
- the Faculty Dispute Resolution Office;
- the Counseling, Assistance, and Referral Service (CARS);
- the Human Resources Division;
- the Office of Equal Opportunity;
- the Staff Services Office, or
- other University resources.
If an employee, coworker, or supervisor is working with more than one (1) of the offices mentioned above concerning the same issue or problem, he or she should inform the other offices involved, in order to avoid duplication of services.
5. Supervisor Responsibilities
Supervisors at all levels, are responsible for resolving work-related issues and problems in an appropriate, fair, and prompt manner as soon as reasonably possible after becoming aware of the issues or problems. Supervisors are responsible for participating in training offered by the University on management and supervisory skills. Supervisors and managers should seek advice and/or assistance in resolving issues and problems, as appropriate, from the University resources listed in Section 4. above.
6. Employee Responsibilities
Employees should work to resolve work-related issues or problems as soon as reasonably possible after becoming aware of the issues or problems. The employee and individual(s) involved should make a good faith effort to resolve the problem. The supervisor is a resource who can assist with resolution. If the employee feels the supervisor is part of the problem and the employee has tried to talk with the supervisor, the employee may go directly to the DR Department. In addition, if the employee feels he or she cannot talk to the other individual(s) involved or his or her supervisor about the particular matter or does not feel the issue or problem was resolved through his or her own efforts, the employee may go directly to the DR Department.
Non-bargaining unit participants (employees, supervisors, managers, coworkers) in the DR process may request and have advisors of their choice present for all DR processes listed herein. Bargaining unit employees may request advisors if defined in their collective bargaining agreement. Advisors provide support and assistance to employees using the DR process. The extent of the advisor's role may vary on a case-by-case basis. Advisors share the responsibility with employees of making efforts to resolve concerns in a collaborative manner and observe the confidentiality of all relevant DR processes.
To assist employees in resolving work-related problems and issues, the University offers training on communication skills and conflict resolution. Employees may seek advice and/or assistance in resolving work-related issues or problems, as appropriate, from the University resources listed in Section 4. above.
7. Dispute Resolution Processes
DR staff provide assistance to employees, supervisors, managers, and faculty in resolving work-related issues and problems. In all instances DR staff serve in a neutral role. In collaboration with DR staff, the individuals affected by the issue or problem will select one or more of the appropriate dispute resolution methods described below.
- Collaborative problem solving: DR staff facilitates discussions with individuals involved in a conflict in finding ways to work together to acknowledge their individual interests and improve their relationship.
- Employee/supervisor consultation: DR staff assists employees and supervisors with problem solving, effective communication, management skills, and/or preventing conflicts.
- Mediation: DR staff assists individuals with a disagreement in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution.
- Staff as Mediators program, with UNM employees trained and coordinated by the DR staff, is available to employees on request.
- DR staff reviews and assesses situations and makes recommendations to relevant individuals.
- Formal policy interpretation obtained from the applicable office.
- Departmental consultations, assistance, and/or training designed to improve interactions and productivity and reduce conflict.
- Facilitation: DR staff creates a process intended to encourage ongoing communication and problem solving.
- Training: DR staff provides training in dispute resolution and other related issues.
- Referral to other University resources.
All individuals involved in an issue or problem are required to participate in the dispute resolution process unless otherwise provided by in the applicable collective bargaining agreement. If one or more of the involved individuals does not participate, the DR manager has the discretion, to pursue resolution through the applicable management chain or appropriate administrators. The DR manager may also bring forward to the appropriate administrator(s) concerns about specific managers or employees when a policy violation or pattern of inappropriate behavior is observed, subject to the confidentiality requirements described in Section 2. herein.
7.1. Progressive Discipline
DR staff will attempt to assist employees and supervisors in resolving disagreements or conflicts. This assistance may eliminate the need for disciplinary action. If a supervisor or manager initiates disciplinary action, non-bargaining unit employees may request an advisor of their choice be present at any meeting with the supervisor or manager where the disciplinary action is initiated, but such meetings must be coordinated by the Dispute Resolution Department. Bargaining unit employees may request advisors if defined in their collective bargaining agreement.
Employees can contest any disciplinary action through the DR Department; however, the final decision on disciplinary action is made by the employee’s manager. Participating in dispute resolution does not necessarily put discipline on hold. However, managers or supervisors in consultation with the DR Manager may choose to place disciplinary action on hold pending the results of dispute resolution. Refer to “Performance Management” Policy 3215, UBP.
8. Dean's or Director’s Decision
If after a good faith effort the individuals have not resolved the issue(s) or problem(s), any party involved in the DR process may ask the DR Manager to forward a request for a decision to the cognizant dean or director. The dean or director will issue a written decision within four (4) weeks concerning the issues raised unless extenuating circumstances delay such action. If the dean or director was involved in the dispute resolution process, the request shall be forwarded to the next level supervisor or cognizant vice president not involved in the dispute resolution process.
The DR Manager will forward the dean or director any written concerns provided by either party to the issue. The dean or director shall meet with the parties involved and consult with the DR Manager before making a decision. In most circumstances the dean or director may choose to meet separately with each of the parties. Non-bargaining unit employees may request an advisor of their choice be present in the meeting with dean or director. Bargaining unit employees may request advisors if defined in their collective bargaining agreement. Meetings in which an employee wishes to have an advisor present must be coordinated by the Dispute Resolution Department. The decision of the dean or director shall be final, unless there is discretionary review by the President or Board of Regents as provided in Section 10. herein.
9. Review of Suspension Without Pay or Termination
If a post-probationary employee has been suspended without pay or discharged, the employee is entitled to a peer hearing or arbitration upon his or her request. The employee should send the request to the DR Manager within two (2) weeks of the employee’s receipt of the Notice of Final Action per Section 6.5. “Performance Management” Policy 3215, UBP. Failure to do so may have legal consequences. Because a peer hearing or arbitration is a process with significant legal implications, the employee may wish to seek the advice of a private attorney in considering how to proceed. The DR Department’s role in peer hearings and arbitration is limited to providing administrative support.
9.1. Peer Hearing
If a peer hearing is requested, the DR Manager will arrange for the hearing. Identification of potential Pier Review Panel members will begin within five (5) working days from the date of the request. The hearing will be held as soon as reasonably possible before a Peer Review Panel. The decision of the Panel is final, unless a discretionary appeal is allowed by the President or the Board of Regents, as provided in this policy (Section 10.) Non-bargaining unit employees may request an advisor of their choice be present at the peer hearing. Bargaining unit employees may request advisors if defined in their collective bargaining agreement. Hearings shall be conducted according to the University’s Dispute Resolution Hearing Procedures (Exhibit B.) A copy of these procedures may also be obtained from the DR Department. Hearings shall be recorded and shall be private unless both parties agree that the hearing be open.
9.1.1. Peer Review Panel
The Peer Review Panel shall consist of three (3) uninvolved University employees who have no connection with the dispute, nor any interest in the outcome of the hearing. All faculty and staff who are called upon to serve on a Panel
are required to participate in peer hearings. Individuals will be excused only in extreme circumstances as determined by the DR Manager. Members of the Peer Review Panel will be randomly selected from a pool consisting of all University employees as follows.
Names of five (5) individuals from the same "Primary Occupational Activity" in the University’s biennial EEO-6 Report as the complainant will be drawn at random by computer. Two (2) of these individuals will serve on the Panel and a third will be an alternate who will sit on the Panel should one of the two (2) selected individuals be unable to serve on the Panel.
Names of four (4) individuals from the same "Primary Occupational Activity" in the University’s biennial EEO-6 Report as the respondent will be drawn at random by computer. One (1) of these individuals will serve on the Panel and a second will be an alternate who will sit on the Panel should the selected individual be unable to serve on the Panel.
The nine (9) individuals randomly selected will complete a screening form to determine whether any individual has a conflict of interest that would prohibit him/her from serving in a neutral capacity. The complainant and respondent will then select the Panel members from the randomly chosen names. The members of the Panel will select one of their number to serve as chair. University Counsel will provide the Panel with training on conducting hearings and will also serve as legal advisor to the Panel
If both parties agree, the dispute may be submitted for final and legally binding arbitration instead of a peer hearing. Non-bargaining unit employees may request an advisor of their choice be present at the arbitration. Bargaining unit employees may request advisors if defined in their collective bargaining agreement. If arbitration is requested, the DR Manager will arrange for the arbitration as soon as reasonably possible. The DR Department will assist with this process. Arbitrators are non UNM employees selected by mutual agreement from a pool of professional arbitrators.
10. Discretionary Review by President and Board of Regents
The President and the Board of Regents reserve the discretionary authority to review all decisions other than final and binding arbitration. The President and the Regents will normally accept review only in extraordinary cases, such as those where proper procedures have apparently not been followed, where the decision appears to be unsupported by the facts, or where the decision appears to violate University policy. If an appeal is accepted, it will first go to the President. The Board of Regents has the discretion to review the President's decision. Any appeal will be handled pursuant to the policies of the President and Regents concerning discretionary reviews.
Exhibit A. Dispute Resolution Process Flowchart
Exhibit B. Dispute Resolution Hearing Procedures