This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Reston Town Center that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement, and private sector employee matters. They write biweekly on RestonNow.
Fairfax County has a grievance procedure for County employees, such as teachers and police officers, to attempt to improve employee-management relations and resolve employment matters contained in Chapter 17 of the County of Fairfax Personnel Regulations.
What Can Be Grieved?
Items that can generally be grieved include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Application of Fairfax County policies
Generally, County employees cannot file a grievance involving:
- Wage or salary
- Position classifications
- Employee benefits
- Promotion decisions
- Oral reprimands
Five Steps of the Grievance Process
Step 1 of the grievance process is for the County employee to discuss the problem with his or her immediate supervisor in a meeting within 20 business days of the date the County employee reasonably had knowledge about the problem that gave rise to the complaint.
If the problem is not resolved after the Step 1 meeting with the immediate supervisor, the County employee may file a Step 2 written grievance on “Complaint Form — Second Step” with the division supervisor. The division supervisor shall meet with the County employee within five business days of the receipt of the Complaint Form. After the meeting, a reply from the division supervisor shall be made within five business days.
If the problem is not resolved after Step 2, the County employee may file a final Step 3 written grievance on “Complaint Form — Third Step” with the department head. The department head shall meet with the County employee within five business days of the receipt of the Complaint Form. After the meeting, a reply from the department head shall be made within five business days.
If the grievance cannot be resolved by means of Steps 1 through 3 of the process, then the County employee may request a determination of the grievability of the complaint within 10 business days following the receipt of the Step 3 reply from the department head. Step 4 involves a determination as to whether the grievance can go to a hearing. This decision is made by the County Executive and can be appealed to the Fairfax County Circuit Court.
If the County Executive or the Court finds that the grievance is grievable, the County employee may then proceed to Step 5 and file a request for a hearing with the Fairfax County Civil Service Commission. The grievance appeals are reviewed by a three-member panel, and if the Commission accepts the grievance then a hearing is scheduled.
The Grievance Hearing Process
Hearings on grievances before the Commission are similar to civil litigation. Attorneys give opening statements, examine and cross-examine witnesses, introduce evidence, and provide closing statements.
Following the hearing, which can be binding or non-binding, the Commission can, depending on the issues, take such actions as reinstating a terminated employee, reducing suspensions, and providing back pay as appropriate.
If a Fairfax County employee is considering filing an employment grievance, it is important to obtain legal advice and legal representation beforehand. Our law firm represents Fairfax County employees, such as teachers, police officers, and other county personnel in their employment grievances filed with the County. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070.