Filed Grievance Was Rejected!

Question:

I have filed a grievance against the State office I work for, and have progressed to a Level III complaint. The basis for this grievance is: hostile work environment, discrimination/favoritism/nepotism, as well as a gross inequity of the pay scale. They have denied my grievance at Levels I and II because they feel these instances were not within 10 days of the last grievable occurrence.

I am a 25 year employee with a good work history, a lengthy resume’, and numerous letters of recommendations from co-workers, former directors, and from individuals from the public I serve. I suffered a heart attack, a triple bypass, and an emergency aortic bypass within the last 2 years, and was off work for four months as a result. Since my return to work, I have been having problems with two former union personnel that have been appointed or hired into our office within the last three years. I previously worked with these individuals as members of a Board for which I perform secretarial work. For the last year and a half, I have been threatened numerous times with letters of reprimand for occurrences that other workers are blatantly allowed to perform, and favoritism is the norm. The last instance, I was threatened with disciplinary action. At the direction of the State EEO office, I have also kept notes of the occurrences, the dates they happened, and what words were exchanged, and was advised it was not an EEO matter, but that it needed to be grieved.

I strongly feel that my rights to a serene workplace environment have been challenged. Everyone in the office knows of the situation, and those that have the ability to do something about it, refuse to “get their hands dirty.” As I said, I have grieved the matter, and am scheduled for the Level III grievance. The hostile work environment I have grieved shows numerous recent occurrences with these two individuals that I haven’t done something fast enough to suit them. I am noted throughout the office for meeting or beating deadlines with strong accuracy. In 25 years, I’ve only actually received one letter of reprimand for excessive e-mail at work. That has stopped effective of the receipt of the letter (January, 2002). This letter was to be placed in my personnel file (as well as numerous others who also received the letters). These letters are not in the personnel files, but locked in the Administrative Secretary’s file in her office, I wasn’t aware of this until I questioned it in the Level II grievance hearing.

They allow more leeway with certain employees than others (as far as leave time, pay differentials, etc.) And, I’m sorry, but I’m a good employee and I’m not going to kiss anyone’s butt to get what I deserve in the first place. The pay scales are severely whacked out according to pay grades. For example, I am a pay grade 7 (with 25 years of dedicated service), and there are at least 2 – 3 individuals that are making way over what their pay classifications would normally allow. One is a pay grade 5 (making $4,200 more than the top of her classification); and the other is a pay grade 6 (making $1,900+ over the top of her classification). And, the administrative secretary has in the past provided sexual favors to at least one previous director that I’m aware of that has boosted her salary to a pay grade 13 and nearly $3,000 over the top of her pay classification.

They are currently scrambling to justify merit increases that were given this past summer to the good old boys (because they were given without benefit of written evaluations), as well as distribution of an updated policy by the Division of Personnel dealing with workplace harassment (not necessarily sexual). NONE of this is sexual in nature. They are also working to make sure all of the secretarial staff statewide has completed position descriptions to ensure they are classified, as they should be. But, certain supervisory individuals are also prompting some of these secretaries – namely the pay grade 5 and pay grade 6 individuals – to put certain things in their job descriptions that would enable them to change their classifications to a higher allowance, and I don’t believe all that is reported by the individuals is actually the work they are now performing. It is only to allow them to be moved to a higher pay grade, and assuming so, more pay than they already receive. And I know for a fact, the pay grade 5 does not do more work than I on a daily basis, and she doesn’t possess nearly the qualifications and neither possess the length of seniority that I do. They are undertaking this effort before my grievance has been settled to cover their bases.

The agency feels that they have not violated any of my rights, or any policy, rule or regulation, but in fact they have. We are required to have yearly written evaluations that determine the basis for merit increases, but we have not had these evaluations since 1993. Merit increases are given to the “good old boys” — not whether you perform your job to the utmost expectations.

I feel that either my civil rights or human rights, or some kind of right that I’m unaware of, have been violated. I am not in a position to retain an attorney, and need some kind of direction as to where or what kind of action I can take. Copies of my grievance have also been forwarded to the State Attorney General’s office, and I know from calls that I’ve made, they only deal with Civil Rights.

Can you provide that direction with the information I have presented, or do you need something further?

Signed,

Filed–What’s Next?


Answer:

DearĀ Filed–What’s Next?:

The issue of employment steps and pay within grades is always a difficult one–even though the concept was developed to make everything as objective as possible. I know, however, from working with local, county, state and federal agencies that concerns such as yours are expressed often. The one issue you mentioned that particularly sounds familiar is that of having employees fluff up their job descriptions to make them fit a higher grade or step within a grade. I can understand that temptation. Bosses want to reward loyal and/or hardworking staff and that is the only way to do it most of the time.

Employees always need more money and always feel that they are, in fact, doing more than they are paid for. Those are just human situations. Unfortunately, that can sometimes create contention and ill feelings–as you are finding out. You must admit, if you were in the fluffing category, you would likely not turn down the opportunity. But, not everyone has a boss who will encourage that–or who is unethical enough to do that, as the case may be. And not everyone’s job lends itself to that type of manipulation.

That is, of course, just one of the issues you’re dealing with…but it is one in which you have some leverage. The other issue in which you have leverage is that of not receiving annual evaluations upon which to base salaries. It would be very surprising to me if nothing had been done that would fit the guidelines for evaluations–since those are usually audited at another level. However, assuming you are correct, there would be a serious violation of policy and perhaps even the law, if such evaluations hadn’t been done yet raises had been given.

You say that the source of your problems is the people you are dealing with who accuse you of lack of performance. I wonder why they would seemingly pick on you in this way. Frankly, after an illness such as yours, there is usually some slack for almost anyone. Did you have conflict before? Would you say that your personality has clashed with others in the past? In fact, that’s a good question generally: What do you see as the difference between you and those who apparently are not going through what you are?

I believe you need to see an attorney, but I understand that can be a problem for a number of reasons. However, most attorneys–especially labor attorneys–will provide a free consultation to allow you to find out where you stand legally and civilly. Often they will work on a contingency basis if the case seems fairly certain. I urge you to consider at least the consultation.

I will send another message when I am settled in and before my work starts tomorrow. In the meantime, I would be interested in knowing something about what is going on that would create this kind of animosity, directed toward you. I also would like to know what you would consider to be the appropriate resolution for it. An attorney would ask that–so it would be worthwhile for you to think of it anyway.

Thank you for your patience! I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Fighting for oneself coupled with fighting for one’s workplace adds up to WEGO.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.