There are four types of major grievances. They are as follows: plain violation of the contract; disagreement over interpretation of the contract; disputes over the facts; and equity disputes.
A plain violation of the contract may be the result of ignorance, carelessness, error, omission, or the commission of an act known to be contrary to the terms of the contract. It is probably the simplest type of grievance to prove, since it requires, in the simplest form, proof that some act did occur which violates a provision of the contract.
For example, say the contract states: "Every bargaining unit member will be entitled to one duty-free, uninterrupted lunch period each day...of no less than 30 minutes." The principal is scheduling staff meetings during lunch times. Unless this problem can be resolved informally, filing a grievance of this type would be appropriate.
An example of a grievance arising from disagreement over interpretation of the contract would be if a teacher is absent for 3 days for the death of a first cousin, and the principal deducts 3 days' pay on the grounds that a first cousin is not a member of the teacher's family. Say the contract states: "A teacher is authorized a maximum of three days' leave with no loss of pay on account of death of a member of the teacher's family."
Resolution of this grievance requires an interpretation of the word "family." The following principles of contract language may prove helpful in this type of grievance:
Specific language prevails over general language.
Clear and unambiguous language usually prevails over past practice.
In the absence of the above, past practice or evidence of intent of the parties may be the determining factor.
The last two types of grievances are disputes over the facts, and equity disputes. When considering filing a grievance disputing the facts, there is no question concerning the terms of the agreement. The issue turns on whether an alleged violation of the agreement did or did not in fact occur.
Say the agreement states: "All teachers will be present thirty minutes before the scheduled student starting time." The teacher is given a written warning for failing to be on time. The teacher claims she was present. The case rests on whether the teacher was or was not at school at the required time. Evidence would be helpful. However, since the administrator took the initiating action, he/she would have the burden of proof.
The last type of grievance is equity disputes. Cases of this sort are usually based on the association's claim that an administrator has used discretion unfairly; that is, in an arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory manner. Since equity disputes generally relate to matters that are within the area of administrative discretion, they most often involve issues not specifically covered by the language of the contract. Harassment, fair warning, discrimination, safety, and past practice issues come to mind when trying to pursue a grievance based on an equity issue.
Information for this page was reproduced from writings by former grievance chair person, Marv Weiss, who got his information from a CTA handout titled "Common Types of Grievance."