P17: Faculty Grievance Procedures

Effective Date: April 21, 1958

Revised Date: October 15, 2019

Initiating a Grievance
A person with a grievance must contact an ombudsperson within 30 days of when the grievable action occurred (please see definition of "day" in ACD 002), so that the ombudsperson can seek to clarify the issues, to identify the relevant university policies, and to mediate between the affected parties.

If the issue involves discrimination, the ombudsperson will refer the grievant to the Office of University Rights and Responsibilities, except cases of alleged discrimination related to decisions of nonrenewal, or promotion and tenure, or academic freedom, which will be sent to the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

If an issue is otherwise ineligible for intervention by the ombudsperson (see ACD 509-01), the ombudsperson will advise that the grievance should be filed with the Grievance Clearinghouse Committee, will provide materials, and will clarify the process of filing a formal grievance.

If the grievant does not wish to seek mediation and does wish to file a grievance; or if the ombudsperson cannot resolve the dispute, and the grievant wishes to pursue further action, the ombudsperson will present the grievant with a Grievance Form and clarify the process of filing a grievance. 

Written requests should be marked confidential and sent to the Chair of Grievance Clearinghouse Committee, University Senate Office (mail code 1703). If any policies of the Board of Regents or ASU provide shorter time limits, the shorter limits will apply. The violations or other claims in the grievance must fall within the jurisdictional guidelines of one of the hearing committees.

The grievance must be filed by the grievant by hand delivery or by certified mail, return receipt requested, with the chair of the Grievance Clearinghouse Committee at the University Senate Office address and shall include a Grievance form which, at a minimum states: grievant’s name, address, telephone number, a statement of the complaint, remedies sought, and the name and address of grievant’s attorney, or that grievant is proceeding without an attorney.

Within 14 days after receipt of the grievance, the Grievance Clearinghouse Committee shall decide whether the violations or other claims stated in the grievance are within the following jurisdictional guidelines:

1. Alleged discrimination.

If the grievance claims unlawful discrimination, in employment, program, or activity based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, or Vietnam-era or other protected veteran status, the Grievance Clearinghouse Committee shall direct the grievant to the Office of University Rights and Responsibilities. This office shall investigate claims of discrimination and inform the grievant and relevant university officials of its findings.

If its findings do not support the grievant, the grievant may appeal to the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.  The Office of University Rights and Responsibilities shall also advise the grievant of relevant statutes of limitation that would affect his or her ability to file for a hearing outside the university. Specifically, in the case of discrimination, that the grievant must file a complaint with the Arizona Civil Rights Division, U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Civil Rights, or the U.S. Dept. of Labor within 180 days of the occurrence of the action complained of. He or she has 300 days from the date of occurrence to file with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

2. Alleged infringement on academic freedom and tenure.

All complaints of or recommendations against a faculty member, except as noted below, shall be heard by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure when the dispute involves a violation of policy or fairness of the procedures by which the decision was made, including complaints alleging discrimination.

  1. The committee shall hear any faculty allegation that a decision affecting his or her employment relationship with the university was not determined in substantial compliance with regular university procedures. This includes nonrenewal of contracts, denial of tenure or promotion, and denial of sabbatical and other leaves. When, however, the matter concerns the basis or reasons for administrative decisions on promotion, sabbatical leaves, and leaves, the committee shall not have jurisdiction.
  2. If the allegation asserts that a decision on nonretention or denial of tenure and/or promotion was not determined in accordance with regular university procedures or was based on discriminatory or other unconstitutional grounds, the committee may hear the case. In performing its function of assessing the procedural regularity of the tenure and promotion process, the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure plays an important fact-finding role, similar to that of a board of inquiry. To the extent possible, this role should be carried out in a non-adversarial, collegial way.
  3. The committee shall hear disputes on the amount of salary due a nontenured faculty member who has been suspended or dismissed before the expiration of the employment period.
  4. When dismissal is considered for a faculty member who has satisfactorily completed any probationary period established under the existing personnel policies of the university, or a faculty member whose contract period has not expired, the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure shall proceed under ABOR Policy 6-210, “Conditions of Faculty Service.”

3. Alleged abuse of governance procedures.

The Governance Grievance Committee shall hear all complaints, except as noted, alleging unfair treatment because no policies or procedures exist, or existing policies or procedures have been misinterpreted, misapplied, or violated by a university administrator. Where the jurisdiction of the Governance Grievance Committee overlaps with that of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the latter committee shall hear the matter.

If the Clearinghouse Committee determines the grievance does not fall within jurisdictional guidelines or is inadequate in describing the grievance completely, the Chair will return the grievance to the grievant with an explanation of the reason(s) the grievance will not be heard. The grievant may request reconsideration of this decision within 14 days.

If the Grievance Clearinghouse Committee determines that the grievance falls within its jurisdictional guidelines, the Committee will determine whether the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure or the Governance Grievance Committee will process the grievance; the grievance will be forwarded to the selected hearing committee and the grievant will be notified of this decision. Within five days after receiving the decision from the Grievance Clearinghouse Committee, the grievant or respondent may ask the Grievance Clearinghouse Committee to reconsider its decision. Any reconsideration by the Grievance Clearinghouse Committee is final. 

Timelines and Steps of Hearing Process

  1. Within seven days after receiving the grievance, the chair of the hearing committee selected to process the grievance will forward the grievance to the respondent(s) with instructions to respond within 15 days. The response shall contain the name, address, telephone number of respondent, and a statement of respondent’s position on the issue, the name and address of the respondent’s attorney if grievant elects to be represented by an attorney. Respondent is not obligated to have an attorney.
  2. The committee Chair will select at least three members from the committee to serve as a hearing panel, along with the Chair and an observer.
  3. The chair of the hearing committee will set a hearing date in conjunction with all parties involved in the case. The hearing should begin within 60 days of the date of the original request. The parties shall receive notice of the hearing date at least 20 days before the hearing date. The chair may extend any grievance timelines stated in these procedures for good cause.
  4. The hearing committee chair should schedule a pre-hearing meeting with the parties and/or counsel to narrow the issues, discuss number of witnesses and documents, any related matters, and schedule the hearing date(s). Other committee members may be present if requested by the chair and/or legal counsel. The observer will also be present. If after reviewing the issue(s) the chair determines that the ground(s) of the grievance do not fall within the stated parameters of ACD 509-02, the chair may dismiss the case and notify all parties.
  5. A grievance shall not proceed if the grievant, after due notice, fails to be present or fails to obtain continuance. A grievant may withdraw his or her grievance at any stage in the grievance procedure by writing the chair of the committee designated to hear the grievance.
  6. Grievant shall be advised by the chair of the hearing committee to consider filing charges with an outside agency if the deadline to file may pass pending the outcome of the internal process.  If a grievant commences a grievance with an outside agency based on the same or other grounds, the chair of the hearing committee will continue the internal grievance, unless the grievant desires to withdraw the internal grievance. The ASU Office of General Counsel will handle complaints filed with outside agencies.
  7. No later than 15 days before the hearing date, the grievant and respondent will submit seven copies of the complete documentation of the complaint (either in hard copy or electronically, as directed by the chair) and a list of witnesses to the chair of the hearing committee, who will provide copies to the members of the hearing committee and to each party within seven days of receipt.
  8. The chair of the committee may call witnesses upon request of either party or on the chair’s initiative. The chair may also require the production of books, records, and other evidence. Requests shall be made either by email, or personal delivery, or by certified mail, as determined by the chair. In the interest of fair treatment, it is expected that any member of the university community called to testify shall testify and any university community member or university office that has access to relevant documents will produce them to a requesting party or the Grievance Committee. In the event such cooperation is not forthcoming, the hearing committee chair has subpoena power to do one or more of the following:
    1. compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses called by the parties or the hearing committee who refuse to appear without a subpoena;
    2. compel either party to produce relevant documents if a party refuses to do so without a subpoena;
    3. compel a university office/representative who is in possession of relevant documents desired by a party or the hearing committee to produce such documents to the hearing committee, if the office/representative refuses to do so without a subpoena.

    The chair may request a subpoena form from the Office of General Counsel. If a party needs a subpoena, the party will request a subpoena form from the hearing committee chair, complete the form, and submit it to the chair for signature. The party will then give the signed subpoena to the appropriate witness or university representative. The chair may also serve subpoenas on the chair’s initiative.

Hearing Rules

Hearings by the two grievance committees shall be conducted according to the following rules:

  1. Hearings shall be recorded digitally, on tape, or by a Court Reporter. If a party desires recording by a court reporter, the party is responsible for selecting, scheduling, and paying the Court Reporter’s fee. Deliberations are not part of the hearing.
  2. Unless overriding reasons are given to grievant, respondent, and other appropriate parties, all parties shall have access to all information that is presented to the hearing body at no expense to them, with the exception of the cost of obtaining a transcript of the hearing.
  3. Either party may have the advice of legal counsel prior to the hearing. For the presentation to the hearing committee, the grievant may elect one of the following options the respondent must use the same or lesser level of assistance selected by the grievant:
    1. The grievant may proceed without legal counsel or non-legal adviser at the hearing.
    2. The grievant may be accompanied by legal counsel or non-legal adviser who will act as an advisor during the hearing. The grievant will be responsible for presenting the case (witnesses, exhibits, and statements) and the counsel or adviser may advise the grievant.
    3. The grievant may be represented by legal counsel or non-legal adviser at the hearing, who may present statements, question witnesses called by both parties and present documents.

    Regardless of which option the grievant elects, the committee has the right to speak to the parties and witnesses during the hearing, including the right to question and to receive responses from the parties and witnesses directly.

    If neither party is advised or represented by counsel and the university general counsel has not been involved in the case on behalf of either party, the university general counsel may provide advice to the grievance committee and/or grievance committee chair; however, legal advice is limited to procedural, not substantive, issues related to the case.

    If the grievant has counsel, generally, an attorney in the Office of General Counsel will advise/represent the respondent. In order to avoid a potential conflict of interest, the university general counsel will not advise the grievance committee or chair; rather, the Office of General Counsel will secure an outside counsel to advise/represent the committee or chair at the chair’s request, if the committee desires such assistance.

  4. Members of grievance committees shall not participate in hearings when they have a conflict of interest.
  5. In the interest of fair treatment, it is expected that any member of the university community called to give testimony shall testify.
  6. The grievant and respondent shall hear all testimony.
  7. Upon request of either party and for good cause shown, the chair may continue the proceedings to another time.
  8. Witnesses shall be excluded except while testifying. Generally, the committee will allow all witnesses to testify and documents to be presented which are related to the complaint or the response, as determined by the chair.
  9. Each party or counsel may present an opening statement of his or her position. Generally, the grievant or counsel will then present all of his or her witnesses and documents. The committee members may question the witnesses and ask questions about documents presented. The respondent or counsel may question the grievant. After the grievant has presented his or her case, the respondent or counsel shall have an opportunity to present witnesses and documents, and the committee members may question the witnesses and ask questions about documents presented. The grievant or counsel may question the respondent. The members of the committee may question the parties throughout the hearing.
  10. Within 30 days after the completion of the hearing, the committee shall submit a report to the president which will include its findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
  11. Within 45 days of receipt of the committee report, the president shall decide the matter and forward a written statement to the grievant, the respondent, and the members of the hearing committee. If the president cannot issue a decision within the 45-day period, the president will notify the parties within the 45-day period of a delay in the issuing of the decision and the date on which the decision can be expected.
  12. The hearing report shall be included with the president’s decision letter to the parties.

Request for Reconsideration of President’s Decision

The grievant who is dissatisfied with the decision of the president may file a written request for reconsideration of the decision with the president no later than 21 days after receiving the president’s written decision. The University Senate office should be copied on the reconsideration request. The request shall be based on one or more of the following grounds:

    1. irregularities in the proceedings, including but not limited to any abuse of discretion or misconduct by the committee which has deprived the employee of a fair and impartial process;
    2. newly discovered material evidence, which could not have been available for the presentation;
    3. the decision is not justified by the evidence or is contrary to law;
    4. the severity of the sanction.

Following receipt of the request for reconsideration, the president shall conduct whatever reconsideration is deemed necessary to resolve the issues that have been raised. Within 30 days of receiving the grievant’s request the president will provide a written response to all parties. If the president cannot issue a decision within the 30-day period, the president will notify the parties within the 30-day period of a delay in the issuing of the decision and the date on which the decision can be expected. That decision is final.

To pursue the case outside the university, the employee must file a legal action in Maricopa County Superior Court in accordance with Arizona Revised Statutes,§ 12–901, et seq. Some types of legal complaints must be filed in court within a short time, 35 calendar days (as defined by the court, not ACD 002), after receipt of the president’s decision.

Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure Actions

When the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure finds that there has been a material failure by an academic unit to adhere to procedures governing the tenure and promotion process, it should advise the executive vice president and provost of the university through its report to the president, of additional issues that should be addressed. A determination by Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure that a candidate’s review has been procedurally flawed does not a show that the grievant met the standards of the academic unit and college. The Committee’s advice is not a recommendation to grant tenure or promotion. When the president accepts the recommendation from Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, he or she may direct the executive vice president and provost of the university to do one or more of the following:

  1. consult with the faculty and/or chair/director of that academic unit to ensure that such a failure does not happen again.
  2. take steps to determine whether the university promotion and/or tenure standards have been met. He or she may return the application to the academic unit from which it arose, with instructions to reconsider the application in accordance with proper procedures. Those committees and/or administrators who made a positive recommendation in the first instance need not necessarily be asked to participate in the subsequent review. 
  3. devise an ad hoc procedure (based on a determination that reconsideration by the academic unit is no longer appropriate) to determine if the candidate has met the standards of the academic unit. Such a procedure, for example, might involve submitting the candidate’s tenure (or promotion) application and the unit’s standards to a committee consisting of faculty in the relevant discipline from another university.
  4. determine that when an application for tenure must be reconsidered the candidate’s contract should be adjusted to ensure that he or she will have an additional year under the terminal contract in which to find a new position (if the reconsideration results in a denial of tenure).

For information concerning faculty grievances, see ACD 509-02, "Grievance Policy for Faculty;" and Mediation Services Forms.