REG 05.25.07 Dispute Resolution and Grievance Regulation for Postdoctoral Scholars and House Officers

Authority: Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

History: First Issued: June 9, 2020.

Related Policies:
NCSU POL 04.25.05 – Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Policy
NCSU REG 10.10.08 – Postdoctoral Scholars
NCSU REG 05.20.36 – College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) House Officers
NCSU REG 05.35.01 – Mediation Procedure for Faculty and Staff

NCSU REG 04.25.02 – Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Complaint Procedure

Additional References:
Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA)
Human Resources – Employee Relations
Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED)
Title IX Website
Complaint Form: Discrimination, Harassment, Retaliation and Title IX

Contact: Program Manager for Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (919-515-6503)

1. Introduction and Scope

The purpose of this regulation is to provide an internal university process for the good faith resolution of employment-related postdoctoral scholar and house officer (herein referred to collectively as “postdoc”) issues.

Postdocs must use the informal grievance process to discuss any employment-related issue that adversely affects the postdoctoral scholar or house officer and could be seen as a misapplication or misinterpretation of university policy, regulation, or rule, or a violation of state or federal law.

For allegations of discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on protected categories as outlined in POL 04.25.05, postdocs and house officers should file a formal complaint with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED).

2. Informal Resolution

2.1 Faculty Mentor Discussion

Postdocs should make a reasonable effort to resolve a matter in dispute through direct discussions with their faculty mentor. If the postdoc needs assistance in facilitating the initial conversation with the faculty mentor, they may first consult with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA).

2.2 Consultation with Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

After a postdoc has made a reasonable effort to resolve the matter in dispute with his or her faculty mentor, the postdoc should contact OPA for information regarding informal resolution, mediation, and/or the formal grievance process. The OPA Program Manager will meet initially with the postdoc for information gathering and consultation.  Information shared with the program manager by the postdoc will be treated as confidential, to the extent allowed under the law.  With the permission of the postdoc, the OPA Program Manager may also discuss the complaint with the Department Head and meet with the faculty mentor as necessary.

2.3 Mediation administrated by the Division of Human Resources

Postdocs can pursue mediation under NC State’s mediation program (NCSU REG 05.35.01 – Mediation Procedure for Faculty and Staff), which allows any university employee to request mediation services. Mediation is administered through Employee Relations within the Division of Human Resources, and that office will arrange for a trained mediator(s) to facilitate the dispute. Mediation is intended to be an informal and voluntary alternative dispute resolution process to existing University grievance procedures. No person covered by this regulation is obligated to attempt or participate in mediation. Topics that are appropriate for mediation include, but are not limited to, personal disputes, office behaviors, issues of respect and cooperation, resource allocation, operational authority, or ownership issues

A decision not to pursue mediation will not be held against any individual and no fault will attach to any individual if mediation does not produce a resolution of the dispute. If one or both individuals choose not to pursue mediation, the grievance may continue through the formal grievance procedure. If mediation is successful, the pending grievance is considered to be closed and may not be refiled at a later date.

3. Administrative Review through the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED)

Postdocs can consult with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) to discuss options regarding potential violations of NC State’s Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Policy (NCSU POL 04.25.05).  The policy prohibits discrimination, harassment, or retaliation based upon age (40 or older), color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or veteran status. Postdocs who elect to submit a complaint with OIED should use the Complaint Form for Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation.

3.1 For formal processing, complaints must be submitted to OIED within 30 calendar days of the alleged action that forms the basis of the complaint per guidelines set by NCSU POL 04.25.05. OIED will conduct a review, and, if required, an investigation into the allegations.  Every effort will be made to complete the investigation within 60 calendar days of the filing or referral of the complaint, however, the investigation period may be extended when deemed necessary by OIED (e.g., due to university holidays or breaks, based on availability of witnesses).

3.2 OIED will notify the parties in writing of the outcome of the investigation and determination as to whether any policy violation was substantiated.  If OIED determines there has been no NCSU POL 04.25.05 policy violation, the notification to the parties concludes the formal NCSU POL 04.25.05 process. If the complaint was referred to the OIED through the filing of a formal grievance under this policy that included allegations of unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation, the OIED will notify the Assistant Dean for Professional Development in the Graduate School of this. OIED will then review the unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation issue(s) via its internal processes.

4. Formal Postdoctoral Grievance

If informal resolution efforts (as outlined in Section 2) are not successful in resolving the grievance and OIED has determined the grievance does not fall under NCSU POL 04.25.05, a formal grievance procedure is available to postdocs to provide for the fair, orderly, and timely resolution of work-related disputes. The formal grievance policy is to be used when postdocs allege that actions taken by their faculty mentor(s) or supervisor(s) have violated University policies, regulations, or rules and that such violation(s) has adversely affected their postdoctoral appointment.

4.1 Formal Grievance Procedure

4.1.1. Postdocs can submit a formal grievance using the Postdoc and House Officer Grievance Form with the Assistant Dean for Professional Development in the Graduate School (hereafter be referred to as “the Assistant Dean”), or other administrator designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. The grievance form must explain how the action violated a university policy, regulation, or rule and how the action adversely affected their employment. The grievance must also include the name of the faculty mentor or administrator responsible for the action (the “respondent”). Lastly, the grievance should include the relief sought. Postdocs should provide supporting documentation, if any, and should keep a copy of all materials submitted for their records.

Postdocs must file a grievance within 30 business days of the alleged action or event that formed the basis of the grievable issue. Postdocs who need more time to file a grievance can request an extension of up to five (5) business days with the Assistant Dean prior to the 30-day time frame for just cause. The Assistant Dean reserves the right to grant or deny the 5-day extension based on the circumstances of the situation and justification provided.

4.1.2. If a postdoc raises allegations of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation (violation of NCSU POL 04.25.05 – Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Policy), the allegations will be referred to the OIED for review (if one has not already been performed). The grievance will not proceed through the formal process outlined here until OIED has notified the Assistant Dean of its decision regarding a violation of NCSU POL 04.25.05. If such a violation of NCSU POL 04.25.05 has occurred, OIED will proceed with handling the grievance (see section 3 above).

4.1.3. The Assistant Dean will notify the respondent of the grievance within five (5) business days of receiving it. The respondent will have ten (10) business days to file a written response to the grievance with the Assistant Dean.

4.1.4. The Assistant Dean will offer mediation services to resolve the issue informally if mediation has not already been attempted. All individuals must agree to the mediation process. If one or both individuals decline mediation or mediation does not resolve the dispute, the Assistant Dean will forward the grievance and response to the supervisor of the respondent, usually the academic Department Head.

4.2. Grievance Review – Department Head (or other supervising administrator) Involvement

The Department Head (or designee) will review material from both parties and work in consultation with the Assistant Dean for Professional Development in the Graduate School to decide:

(a) whether the allegations in the complaint present a grievable matter under this regulation;

(b) whether the complainant has met the burden of showing that a violation has occurred that adversely affected the grievant’s employment; and

(c) what resolution is appropriate.

The Department Head (or designee) may request additional information or choose to meet with the parties as part of the grievance review. A written decision will be provided to the parties within 20 business days of receiving the grievance material from the Assistant Dean.  The written decision will outline the reasons for the decision. If needed, the time limit set forth in this section for issuing a decision may be extended by the Department Head (or designee) or Assistant Dean for Professional Development in the Graduate School; a written notice of extension will be provided to the parties.

4.3. Appeal – College Dean

The grievant or the respondent may file an appeal to the College Dean of the final written decision on the grievance per allegation of a procedural error or that the decision violates specific law or university policy. Appeals must be filed no later than ten (10) business days after the date of the decision. The appeal should include a copy of the original grievance and response submitted to the Department Head, along with a written statement outlining the basis of the appeal including a list of alleged errors in the decision or decision-making process, and the remedy being requested.

The College Dean will review the Department Head’s decision to determine if the Department Head’s (or other supervising administrator’s) decision could be supported by the competent information in the record. Based on the information provided, the College Dean will make a decision on how the grievance will be addressed and issue a report of findings and resultant decision to the Assistant Dean for Professional Development in the Graduate School who then convey this information to the Department Head, faculty mentor, and postdoc.

4.4. Final Appeal – Grievance Committee

If a grievant or the respondent believes there were errors in the decision or decision-making process of the College Dean, the party may file an appeal to the Grievance Committee no later than ten (10) business days after the date of receipt of the College Dean’s decision.  The appeal should include a copy of the original grievance and response, along with a written statement outlining the basis of the appeal.

The Grievance Committee will be made up of five (5) members recruited by the Dean of the Graduate School, including two faculty members, two postdocs (including the president or president-elect of the Postdoctoral Association), and the Assistant Dean for Professional Development for the Graduate School. The Assistant Dean will serve as the chair of the Grievance Committee. Grievance Committee members who have a connection to any party involved must recuse themselves from the review process, and will be replaced as necessary.

The Grievance Committee will review the College Dean’s decision to determine if the College Dean’s (or other supervising administrator’s) decision should be supported based on the record.

The Grievance Committee does not determine the merits of the grievance or substitute its judgment for that of the College Dean (or supervising administrator); its role is only to decide whether the decision may be substantiated and not affected by any error. The Grievance Committee will issue a report and recommendation to the Dean of the Graduate School, who shall make the final decision on the grievance. All parties will be notified of the Graduate Dean’s decision by the Graduate School’s Assistant Dean for Professional Development.