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Administrative Grievance System

Administrative Grievance Procedure

Each Federal agency is required to set up grievance procedures for employees who are not covered by a labor agreement with a union. Employees who are covered by a labor agreement must use the negotiated grievance procedure.

Grievance procedures give employees the opportunity to get an objective review of individual or group complaints about working conditions or about employment decisions affecting them. An employee may file a grievance in his/her own behalf or may be accompanied and advised by a representative of his/her own choosing.

The use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) approaches such as mediation, settlement conferences, peer review panels, or other ADR techniques is strongly encouraged (please see below for more details). If you have filed a grievance and would like to try to resolve it through ADR, please inform your supervisor or the Departmental Human Resources Division.

USDA's grievance regulation may be found in the Administrative Grievance System, Departmental Regulation 4070-771.

Negotiated Grievance Procedure

The negotiated grievance procedure is a system for resolving disputes. It is a method, established by the union and management, for finding out where problems exist and solving those problems fairly and quickly. Every collective bargaining agreement must contain a negotiated grievance procedure.

A grievance is any complaint:

  • by any employee concerning any matter relating to the employment of the employee;
  • by any labor organization concerning any matter relating to the employment of any employee; or
  • by any employee, labor organization, or agency concerning:
    • the effect or interpretation, or a claim of breach, of a collective bargaining agreement; or
    • any claimed violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of any law, rule, or regulation affecting conditions of employment.

Under negotiated grievance procedures, unions have the right to present and process employee or union grievances. Employees are allowed to present their own grievances, i.e., to represent themselves in the procedure if they so desire. However, where this happens, the union has the right to be present during the process. Any negotiated grievance not satisfactorily resolved by the grievance process is subject to binding arbitration. Only the union or management may invoke arbitration.

For more information, see "Negotiated Grievance Procedure/Arbitration".


Discrimination Complaint

Employees who feel that they have been discriminated against because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 and above), handicapping condition, or reprisal for prior EEO activities, need to contact their agency HR or EEO office.

Any employee, former employee, or applicant for employment with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) who believes he or she has been discriminated against based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (if over 40), disability, reprisal (for prior opposition to or participation in an EEO activity), political belief, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, parental status, or genetic information, has the right to file an EEO complaint under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

For information on the procedures for filing a complaint, see "Steps Describing How to File An Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Complaint".


Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

ADR are voluntary and have proven successful in settling workplace disputes before the disputes progress to expensive and divisive formal EEO complaints, grievances, and and/or legal procedures. Mediation takes place in a neutral, non-threatening location and is facilitated by trained certified mediators and/or contractors. Both sides are given a chance to state their case and come to a mutually agreeable resolution. Mediations sessions are confidential.

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