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Employee and Workplace Grievances: Definition & Types

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  • 0:00 Definition
  • 0:41 Types of Grievances
  • 2:31 Grievance Resolution
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Donna Swarthout
What can employees do when they are dissatisfied with the terms or conditions of their employment? Learn about the definition and types of employee grievances, and take a quiz to test your knowledge.

Definition

Have you ever worked for an employer who you believed did not meet the terms of your employment contract? Perhaps you were not fully compensated for your work or you experienced unsafe work conditions. In this situation, you may wish to file a formal complaint against your employer. This is known as an employee grievance.

Whether the grievance is valid or not, it can have a negative effect on employee morale, productivity, and retention. Organizations must, therefore, have policies and procedures in place to address employee grievances. This is an important human resource management function.

Types of Grievances

Let's first look at some of the most common types of employee and workplace grievances. Keep in mind that a grievance can be real or imaginary, and employees file grievances for a range of issues that can be minor or major.

Pay and Benefits: This is the most common area of employee complaints and grievances. These grievances may involve the amount and qualifications for pay increases, pay equity for comparable work within the organization, and the cost and coverage of benefit programs.

Workloads: Heavy workloads are a common employee and workplace grievance. If you work for a company that is going through lean times, you may have been asked to take on more work without a pay increase. Perhaps your employer decides not to fill a vacant position and instead assigns additional work to you and your colleagues. Such situations lead to employee frustration and dissatisfaction.

Work Conditions: A safe and clean work environment is crucial to employee satisfaction and motivation. Extensive state and federal regulations protect worker health and safety. Employees who believe a company is not following applicable regulations and guidelines may decide to file a grievance.

Union and Management Relations: When unions represent employees, both the union and management must avoid unfair labor practices. These illegal acts involve threatening or coercive behavior by either party designed to obtain an employee's loyalty or cooperation. The National Labor Relations Act specifies unlawful activities for employers and unions. For example, employers cannot threaten employees with termination if they vote for a union. Employees may file grievances when they experience unfair labor practices.

Grievance Resolution

Businesses need effective policies and procedures to resolve the different types of employee grievances. Some employees will use grievance procedures just to express frustration, while others will file a grievance to influence future contract negotiations or protest unlawful practices. In all cases, managers should strive for the most effective possible resolution that will satisfy both parties.

The grievance resolution process usually begins with a meeting between the employee and manager. At this stage, it is important for managers to:

  • Listen carefully
  • Acknowledge the grievance
  • Gather facts
  • Keep an open mind
  • Investigate the cause of the grievance
  • Take appropriate action

If the grievance is not resolved at this stage, the process will escalate to higher levels of management. If there is no resolution at the managerial level, the parties may turn to arbitration. Arbitration is a process where a neutral outside party hears both sides of a dispute and then makes a decision.

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