Non-bargaining unit staff employees
It is important that employees are treated fairly and receive prompt responses to problems and concerns. The University provides a process to promote prompt and responsible resolution of issues raised by staff and administrators. The University is an at-will employer and as such, all staff members are subject to disciplinary actions up to and including termination. The University encourages complaints to be worked out between the involved parties but provides this Staff Complaint Resolution Process for those situations where parties have been unable to reach a resolution.
Staff should have the opportunity to express opinions, discuss complaints, and seek information on matters affecting their jobs. All levels of administration are expected to listen to and counsel staff on any work-related concerns raised. No staff members shall be subject to retaliation or adverse treatment for participating in this Staff Complaint Resolution Process. The Staff Complaint Resolution Process includes an informal procedure that attempts resolution through mediation, as well as a formal procedure.
The following sections of this Staff Complaint Resolution Process document describes:
- the purpose
- who may use the Process
- matters covered and those not covered herein
- the informal and formal procedures
- Appendix I. Appendix I includes additional problem resolution options for staff. Throughout this document, the employee who is bringing the complaint is referred to as the “Complainant,” and the person with whom the Complainant has the dispute is referred to as the “Respondent.”
2.1 Syracuse University is committed to establishing and maintaining harmonious working relationships between all employees. Toward that end, this process is intended to ensure the prompt and impartial resolution of disputes that have been addressed through supervisory channels but not satisfactorily resolved.
3.1 The Complainant and the Respondent may seek process assistance from their School or Department’s Senior Human Resources Business Partner.
3.2 If the unresolved dispute involves disciplinary action, supervisors are not precluded from utilizing the University’s discipline policy while waiting for the dispute to be resolved. Nothing in this procedure is intended to limit the right to manage and direct its work force and operations, including the University’s right to adopt or alter any rule, policy, or practice with advance notice.
3.3 Supervision of the Staff Complaint Resolution Process is the responsibility of the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. The Office of Human Resources, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, and the Senior Human Resources Business Partner are responsible for the implementation of the Staff Complaint Resolution Process.
3.4 The Staff Complaint Resolution Process is subject to change and periodic review and modification at the discretion of the University’s Office of Human Resources.
This process is intended to resolve complaints arising between University employees; including peer level employees and their supervisor. All non-union employees functioning in a supervised or supervisory capacity are subject to this Staff Complaint Resolution Process. This includes staff, administrators, and supervisors in their supervised or supervisory capacity. The Office of Human Resources is available to assist throughout this process.
This process applies to complaints based upon actions, events, circumstances, or conditions that adversely affect the welfare of a staff member or a group of staff members. Wherever people are gathered together there is the potential for interpersonal conflict. The conflict may be caused by personality differences and/or miscommunication. These interpersonal conflicts would be covered in this process.
6.1 Acts of sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, disability, national origin, sex, or sexual orientation or other bases prohibited by applicable New York state or federal law. The Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Resolution Services should be contacted regarding these matters.
6.2 Issues related to performance evaluation, or letters summarizing discussion or understanding unless the employee proves preliminarily the communication to be arbitrary and capricious. The phrase “arbitrary and capricious” describes an action or decision that is made without cause or without consideration of an objective standard and is therefore totally subject to the whim or pleasure of the person or party in power.
6.3 Certain managerial decisions or actions are excluded from this Process unless the Complainant can prove preliminarily the action to be arbitrary and capricious, including:
- termination, lay-off, demotion, suspension, reduction in the workforce, job abolishment, or release from the University as a result of a lack of work or a declaration by the University of financial exigency;
- termination of a restricted fund position due to cessation of funding;
- the publishing of reasonable policies, rules or regulations;
- decisions concerning the planning, direction or control of the University’s operations;
- introduction of new or improved methods or facilities;
- the introduction of technological improvements;
- the installation or removal of equipment;
- creating, combining, splitting or abolishing jobs;
- changing the number of employees working in a classification;
- scheduling the workforce;
- transferring employees; reassignment;
- position classification and salary decisions
6.4 Evaluations and termination during a probationary period.
6.5 Contents of University policies, procedures, and rules.
A cornerstone of any problem resolution process is discussion between the staff members and/or their immediate supervisor. Staff are encouraged to seek resolution of disputes through the supervisory processes, whenever possible, in advance of filing a complaint. In most instances, this will include attempts to resolve the issue(s) with the participation of the individual’s immediate supervisor, (e.g., Manager, Director, Dean or equivalent). Employees or supervisors desiring information about the institution’s policies, practices, benefit entitlements and basic legal issues may request it from the Senior Human Resources Business Partner.
The process outlined below should be used if an individual disagrees with actions, events, circumstances, or conditions that adversely affect the welfare of a staff employee or a group of staff employees or a supervisor’s action including any disciplinary action.
Note: Because this is an internal process, legal counsel cannot represent Complainants or Respondents in any proceedings under this process. However, during any interviews associated with this process, the Complainant or Respondent may be accompanied by a non-attorney support person from the university community (faculty or staff member). The support person cannot be a family member, a potential witness in the matter, or another Complainant or Respondent in the same or a related matter. The support person does not serve as an advocate on behalf of the Complainant or Respondent, and they must agree to maintain the confidentiality of the investigative process. Witnesses and others involved in an investigation are not entitled to have a support person accompany them to interviews.
Discuss Complaint with Immediate Supervisor:
- The University encourages informal resolution of complaints. Complainants should first discuss the complaint with their immediate supervisor if the complaint involves a peer level staff employee within a reasonable amount of time. The immediate supervisor will proceed to discuss the nature of the complaint with the peer Respondent. If the complaint involves the immediate supervisor, the Complainant will bring the complaint to the Respondent’s immediate supervisor, classified in these procedures as the second level supervisor. If the complaint is not resolved as a result of this discussion, or such a discussion is not appropriate under the circumstances, proceed to Step Two. If the action in dispute involves suspension or termination of employment, Steps One and Two should be bypassed.
- Note: If the immediate supervisor is an officer, Senior Vice President, or Vice President of the University, Steps Two and Three should be bypassed, and the complaint will be submitted directly to the Senior Human Resources Business Partner, or the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, and a meeting will be scheduled with the Complainant.
Discuss Complaint with Second Level Supervisor (Supervisor of the Immediate Supervisor)
- Due to the job responsibilities of the second-level supervisor, the Complainant’s second-level supervisor may be more equipped to provide guidance to the Complainant. If the step one measures did not resolve the Complainant’s concerns with their immediate supervisor, or such a discussion is not appropriate under the circumstances, the Complainant should discuss the complaint with the second-level supervisor (supervisor of the immediate supervisor). The second-level supervisor should arrange a meeting with the complainant to ensure a full and complete discussion of the complaint with all levels of management deemed appropriate. The second-level supervisor is encouraged to consult with the Senior Human Resources Business Partner to fully explore the complaint where it is considered appropriate.
- If the action in dispute involves suspension or termination of employment, Steps One and Two should be bypassed.
Prepare and Submit Complaint Procedure Form to Dean/Senior Leader and Senior Human Resources Business Partner
- If the Complainant feels the complaint was not resolved in discussions with their immediate supervisor or second-level supervisor, they may prepare and submit a formal written complaint for review to the Dean/ Senior Leader and the Senior Human Resources Business Partner. To do so, the Complainant should prepare a Staff Complaint Resolution Form and submit it to their Senior Human Resources Business Partner within ten (10) business days of Step One or Step Two discussion.
- The Senior Human Resources Business Partner will then review the complaint with the Dean/Senior leader. On the Staff Complaint Resolution Form, the Complainant should include a clear and concise statement of the complaint; the date the incident or adverse action took place; the names and contact information of any witnesses; the specific resolution sought by the employee; and additional relevant information to be considered in support of the complaint. Any changes to the original complaint MUST be in writing.
- The Dean/Senior Leader and Senior Human Resources Business Partner will issue a decision, in writing if appropriate, generally within ten (10) business days of the meeting. Either party may contest the decision by petitioning to the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer within ten (10) days.
- If the Complainant or Respondent is not satisfied with the decision resulting from Step Three, they may, within ten (10) business days of receiving the decision, submit the complaint to the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer (or designee) for review. A meeting between the Complainant and/or Respondent, Senior Human Resources Business Partner, and Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer will be held within ten (10) business days of the date the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer receives the complaint. A member of the University may be present as a staff support person in this meeting. The Senior Human Resources Business Partner will issue a written decision under the advisement of the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, generally within ten (10) business days of the meeting.
The time periods prescribed in the Staff Complaint Resolution Process are intended as guidelines to which all are expected to adhere diligently and in good faith. Officials responsible for the administration of Staff Complaint Resolution Process retain the prerogative to exercise reasonable discretion to extend or waive deadlines when necessary or appropriate.
The Staff Complaint Resolution Process will be conducted in confidence, to the extent allowed by law. All parties to the process are bound by confidentiality and will not share information about complaints except with those persons who, in the sound discretion of the Senior HR Business Partner, have a legitimate need to know.
Maintenance of Records
The Office of Human Resources will maintain all records and evidence in confidential files according to statutory obligations. Disciplinary sanctions imposed against a Respondent as a result of a complaint are confidential personnel matters, but they may be disclosed to the Complainant upon specific direction of the University official having final responsibility for the resolution of the matter.
Retaliation against individuals who initiate staff complaints or cooperate with the investigation or other disposition of staff complaints is contrary to University policy. Retaliatory behavior is itself a form of misconduct that may form the basis for disciplinary action.
Additional Resolution Options
Differences, tensions, and conflicts are inevitable in the workplace. How they are managed is the hallmark of productive workplaces. University employees are encouraged to address their concerns early.
In addition to this Staff Complaint Resolution Process, there are many avenues for staff who work at Syracuse University to address work-related issues. Below is a list of some of the resources available to employees when other avenues, beyond the initial supervisory process, are needed.
- Office of the University Ombuds: provides faculty, staff, and graduate students with an informal, confidential, neutral, and independent resource to address concerns or questions openly without fear of retaliation or judgment.
- Carebridge Employee Assistance Program: This is Syracuse University’s Employee Assistance Program. This service provides all members of the University community eligible to participate in the University’s medical plan, including benefits-eligible faculty and staff, retirees, and their dependents. Carebridge counselors may be reached 24/7 for a confidential consultation, assessment, referrals, and counseling.
- LinkedIn Learning is available to all staff to help to explore thousands of business, technology, and creative courses to get the skills you need.
- For Student related grievances, please review the policy on Student related grievances.
- For Faculty related grievances, please review the policy on Faculty related grievances.