Grievance Procedure for Collective Bargaining Agreement

Author: Jessica Sussman

When to Use

Employees may claim they have been adversely affected by the misinterpretation or misapplication of a company policy or collectively bargained agreement. As a result, employers should implement a grievance procedure as part of a collective bargaining agreement. The procedure should set forth the manner of internal dispute resolution an employee must follow in order to have their grievances addressed. Most collective bargaining agreements include procedures for filing and resolving grievances. If an employer has unionized employees, the grievance process will involve the employee, union representatives and management representatives.

Customizable Policy

Grievance Procedure for Collective Bargaining Agreement

  1. General Conditions
    1. A "grievance" is a written complaint by an individual employee, a group of employees, or [Enter Union Name] alleging that [Enter Employer Name] has violated a specific provision of this Agreement. [Enter Employer Name] shall not have the right to use the grievance procedure.
    2. No employee shall be subject to reprisal for using or participating in the grievance procedure of this Agreement.
  2. Terms/Definitions

    For the purposes of this Article, the terms:

    1. "Grievant" means any eligible employee covered by this contract who has a grievance or complaint as defined by this Agreement;
    2. "The parties" mean [Enter Employer Name] and the grievant, in which the grievant is self-represented, [Enter Union Name] representative, or [Enter Union Name] when [Enter Union Name] is itself the grievant.
    3. "Witness" means any employee who is serving as a witness in a grievance proceeding.
  3. Filing Procedures
    1. All grievances must be filed with [Enter Appropriate Employer Representative].
    2. The grievance form must be signed and dated by the employee(s) or the employee's representative upon submission to [Enter Appropriate Employer Representative]. Union grievances must be signed by the [Enter Union Name] president or designee. [Enter Union Name] will identify designee(s) in writing to [Enter Employer Name].
      1. Only one subject matter may be addressed in any one grievance. A formal grievance must:
        1. Identify the specific Article(s) or Section(s) of this Agreement alleged to have been violated;
        2. Describe the action(s) which allegedly violated the identified Article(s) and Section(s);
        3. Identify the date(s) of the action(s);
        4. List the affected individuals known at the time of filing; and
        5. Describe the remedy requested.
      2. Receipt of the grievance shall be acknowledged in writing by [Enter Appropriate Employer Representative] as soon as possible following receipt. [Enter Appropriate Employer Representative] will advise the employee if the grievance is incomplete or does not include the information specified above. The employee will have seven (7) days to revise the grievance.
      3. For the initial filing of the grievance, the date filled will be deemed the date received. If the grievance is mailed, the date of the postmark will be deemed the date filed.
      4. No remedy shall exceed restoring to the grievant the pay, benefits, or rights lost as a result of the violation, less any income earned from any other source including, but not limited to, workers' compensation, or any other employment.
  4. Employee Representation

    A grievant shall have the right to be represented at all steps of the grievance procedure by a [Enter Union Name] representative or an [Enter Union Name] designated employee representative, or any other one person of the grievant's choice other than a [Enter Employer Name] employee who has been designated as supervisory or managerial.

  5. Informal Review

    Before initiating the formal grievance procedure, an individual employee, or group of employees, with or without the representative, may first attempt to resolve the grievance informally with the immediate supervisor.

  6. Grievance Procedure - Formal Review

    Step 1:

    1. All grievances must be filed either by US Mail or hand delivery, and received by the [Enter Appropriate Employer Representative] which employs the grievant(s) within thirty (30) calendar days after the date on which the employee or [Enter Union Name] knew or could be expected to know of the event or action giving rise to the grievance.
    2. Grievances received after the filling deadline will be processed solely for the purposes of determining whether the grievance was untimely.
    3. [Enter Employer Name] Review. [Enter Employer Name]'s written response will be issued to the grievant and the representative, if any, within fifteen (15) calendar days after the formal grievance is filed. If the response is not issued within this time frame, or if the grievance is not resolved during Step 1, the grievance may proceed to Step 2.

    Step 2:

    1. If the grievance is not resolved at Step 1, the grievant or the Union may proceed to Step 2 by filing a written appeal with the [Enter Appropriate Employer Representative] within fifteen (15) calendar days of the date the written response is issued or, if not issued, is due.
    2. Unless the parties agree otherwise, the designated [Enter Employer Name] official shall convene a meeting with the grievant and the grievant's representative, if any, to attempt to resolve the grievance. The meeting shall be convened no later than fifteen (15) calendar days following receipt of the appeal to Step 2. During the Step 2 meeting, the parties shall discuss information and contentions relative to the grievance.
    3. During the Step 2 process, the parties may agree in writing to amend the alleged violations stated in the original grievance.
    4. If requested by the grievant, a second [Enter Union Name] representative may participate in the Step 2 meeting. In the event a second [Enter Union Name] representative attends, only one representative may actively participate in the grievance meeting, and the [Enter Employer Name] shall pay release time for only one representative.
    5. If a grievant alleges a violation of corrective action/discipline and the matter is not satisfactorily resolved at Step 2, [Enter Union Name] may appeal directly to arbitration in accordance with the Arbitration Procedure.
    6. A written decision shall be issued within fifteen (15) calendar days following the Step 2 meeting, or receipt of the Step 2 appeal if it is agreed that no meeting will be held.

    Step 3:

    1. All grievances not satisfactorily resolved at Step 2 may be appealed to Step 3. The appeal must be filed with the [Enter Appropriate Employer Representative] within fifteen (15) calendar days of the date the [Enter Employer's Name]'s Step 2 written answer was issued or, if no [Enter Employer Name] answer was issued, within 15 calendar days of the date the [Enter Employer Name]'s answer was due.
    2. The Step 3 appeal shall identify all unresolved issues, alleged violations and remedies and shall be signed and dated by the grievant or their representative. The subject of the grievance, as stated at Step 2, shall constitute the sole and entire subject matter of the appeal to Step 3.
    3. [Enter Appropriate Employer Representative] shall issue a written answer to a Step 3 appeal within thirty (30) calendar days of the receipt of the appeal. The answer will be issued to the grievant when self-represented, or to the employee's representative.
    4. By mutual agreement between [Enter Employer Name] and [Enter Union Name], Step 3 may also be the first step in the Grievance Procedure when [Enter Union Name] is filing a grievance on behalf of employees at more than one location. Such a grievance must be filed within thirty (30) calendar days of the action that gave rise to the grievance and follow all other filing requirements above.
  7. Union Grievances

    [Enter Union Name] shall have the right to file grievances under this procedure on behalf of an individual employee, on behalf of a group of employees, or on behalf of itself. It shall be the Union's responsibility to inform an employee that it is bringing a grievance.

  8. Group Grievance

    A group grievance is defined as a grievance that covers more than one employee, and that involves similar circumstances and facts. A group grievance must be so identified on the grievance form at Step 1. If an employee wishes to withdraw from a group grievance represented by [Enter Union Name], the employee shall notify [Enter Union Name]. [Enter Union Name] shall then notify [Enter Employer Name] in writing if the employee is to be withdrawn.

  9. Consolidation of Grievances

    Grievances of two or more employees, as well as multiple grievances by or related to the same employees, or which relates to the same incident, issue, alleged violation, facts, or course of conduct, may be consolidated. Consolidation or severance of grievances shall occur by mutual written agreement.

  10. Offers of Settlement

    Settlement offers made at any stage of this procedure, including informal resolution, shall not be introduced as evidence in subsequent steps, and shall not be precedent setting.

  11. Exclusive Procedure

    The grievance procedure set out in this Article shall be exclusive and shall replace any other grievance procedures for adjudication of any disputes arising from the alleged violation of this Agreement. Unless otherwise indicated within this Agreement, any previous grievance procedure or other procedure in existence or adopted by [Enter Employer Name] shall not apply to employees covered by this Agreement for any purposes whatsoever.

  12. Release Time and Pay Status for Grievants, Employee Representatives and/or Witnesses
    1. [Enter Employer Name] - Convened Meetings
      1. If [Enter Employer Name] convenes a meeting involving the parties to a grievance for the purposes of resolving the grievance and/or completing the steps of the Grievance Procedure, the grievant(s), witness(es), if any, and [Enter Union Name] designated employee representatives eligible to attend such meeting pursuant to this Article shall be without loss of straight time pay status during the meeting provided:
        1. Such meeting occurs during the regularly scheduled hours of work of the grievant(s), [Enter Union Name] designated employee representative and witnesses; and
        2. Advance request is made and approval is received from the supervisor of the grievant(s), the witness(es), and/or the [Enter Union Name] designated employee representative. Approval to attend shall be made on an operational needs basis and shall not be unreasonably denied.
      2. A grievant or the representative may request the availability of bargaining unit employee witnesses for [Enter Employer Name]-convened grievance meetings. The availability of bargaining unit employees witnesses shall be determined by their immediate supervisor on the basis of operational need, and such requests shall not be unreasonably denied. Witnesses shall be without loss of straight time pay status if the information they provide pertains to the subject of the grievance and the criteria enumerated above are met. Grievants and [Enter Union Name] agree that every effort shall be made to avoid the presentation of repetitive witnesses and absence of any or all witnesses shall require the meeting to be rescheduled or postponed.
    2. Other Representation. Grievants may select a representative other than a [Enter Union Name] representative for purposes of grievance representation and adjustment. In the event [Enter Employer Name] is involved in the resolution of a grievance from a grievant or group of grievants who are self-represented or represented by someone other than a [Enter Union Name] representative:
      1. [Enter Employer Name] shall provide [Enter Union Name] with a copy of the grievance, the proposed resolution, including that the grievant has selected a representative other than [Enter Union Name].
      2. [Enter Union Name] shall have ten(10) calendar days from the date [Enter Employer Name] provides the material referenced above in which to comment in writing on the proposed resolution.
      3. [Enter Employer Name] shall not implement the proposed resolution of the grievance until timely receipt and review of [Enter Union Name]'s written comments, if any.
      4. The resolution of the grievances presented by someone other than a [Enter Union Name] representative shall be consistent with the terms of this Agreement.
  13. Grievance File

    Records involving an employee's grievance, including but not limited to the grievance form, step appeals and responses, and settlement documents, will be kept in a separate file from the employee's personnel file.


In drafting grievance procedures, management should attempt to create the most open and non-threatening environment possible. If employees believe they will be retaliated against for filing a grievance, employees will be less likely to follow the procedures set forth in the policy. Without being aware of an issue, management cannot attempt to resolve the issue, and employees will be left to their own devices. Unaddressed employee issues could lead to increased employee dissatisfaction, a high turnover rate, and potential liability. In addition to implementing an effective grievance procedure, employers should strive to make management accessible and create an environment where employees are comfortable expressing their concerns without fear of reprisal.


While implementing a grievance procedure is the first step, it is critical employers support their written policies with consistent action in order to maintain positive employee communication. Employers, through their actions and communications, should make it clear to employees that the grievance procedure assists both the employee and the employer in maintaining a positive working relationship as the procedure will assist management in recognizing and correcting issues before they escalate.

An employer may not implement or enforce a blanket confidentiality rule that prohibits employee discussions relating to a workplace investigation. The National Labor Relations Board has held that such rules violate the National Labor Relations Act by restricting an employee's ability to discuss their conditions of their employment. In order for an employer to require confidentiality among its employees, including witnesses, during an investigation, it must prove a legitimate business reason by establishing of the following:

  • There is a witness in need of protection;
  • Evidence is in danger of being destroyed; or
  • Testimony is in danger of being fabricated.