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Being Heard: Grievances

Today, I will be writing about a topic, that I am sure many will consider to be "juicy". Before you get too excited though, I would once again like to advise a word of caution. Before I continue, let me start by explaining what I mean by "grievance".

Grievances are an internal resolution process, that, in theory, would run very similarly, if not identically to a complaint filed to a federal agency. However, whether you should proceed with internal reporting depends on whether you trust your job or workplace to work in your best interests. I am not necessarily saying jump straight into an OFCCP or EEOC complaint, either. In fact, if you decide you can't trust your institution, you will likely have to explain why you jumped the chain of command and went straight to the Federal Government instead. In other words, I am not saying either approach is better over the other. Either way, you are sticking your neck out for retaliation and/or further harassment.

I would ultimately say go with an internal grievance if you feel you can trust your organization well enough to be impartial or unbiased. Alternatively, if you know your institution is biased, you can consider a grievance as an opportunity to catch them with a "smoking gun", before reporting to the federal government. This again comes with the caveat that your PI will become aware of your actions to report them. At the end of the day, it's your judgment call. Either way, you can still end up reporting your PI or institution to the federal and/ or state government. If you already have evidence of mistreatment and/or retaliation, I wouldn't even bother with a grievance.

Now that we got that out of the way, what does the grievance process entail? Basically, you are identifying as a discriminated individual with the hope that your institution will assist you in reaching an appropriate resolution to your issue. Either the intuition will try to reconcile you with your supervisor, or find an alternative to working for them, such as helping you find a new supervisor.

In practice, your word will often be taken with a grain of salt, unless you have substantially incriminating evidence against your supervisor. Even valid evidence will be dismissed, if it isn't powerful enough. From the school's perspective, you are a leech, and your PI is a god/goddess. Still, it is often the appropriate next step to take, unless you can provide a valid reason for skipping this process. If you can show retaliation by your institution, this will certainly help give you the strong argument you need to do this.

Basically, you will provide the following for a grievance:

  1. Name

  2. Date of Birth

  3. Employee ID Number

  4. Contact number

  5. Email address

  6. Preferred method of communication.

  7. A summary of your situation.

Since, the first 6 are pretty self-explanatory, I would prefer to discuss item 7.

You will need to provide a written statement that details any specific cases of discriminatory treatment you have received from your supervisor, and be able to explain why you think these cases were or are discriminatory.

Keep in mind that there is typically a 180-day statute of limitation for grievances, meaning, if the last incident happened 181 days ago, you won't be able to report it, with some caveats.

Namely, if you can show that your PI still discriminating against you, the clock is reset after each fresh incident. This effectively means that even if you have an incident that happened 181 days ago, you can validate it, if another, similar incident happened within the statute of limitations. You can now use both cases as evidence against your PI. As I mentioned in a previous post, go for the jugular. Try to validate any and all cases of discriminatory treatment, even if you think it's too late for a specific incident.

As for the length of the complaint, there is no hard and fast rule. However, if you can limit your response to less than 2 pages, that is preferred. My written statement was over 6 pages single-space, but this was only because I had so much to write about. I am thinking of providing this at a later time as an example, when the timing is right.

When writing your testimony, assume your audience is completely "blind" to your case. Spell everything out for them.

Finally, close your statement, thanking the individual for reviewing your case (if their name is known), and stating you can support all claims with supporting evidence. If you want more time to get your case together and/or your written statement, just provide a general summary at first, and submit your full statement later. It will most likely take a while for the institution to review your case, so you want to make sure you keep the ball rolling. The EEOC's website provides written statements for each case they presided over, so if you're struggling, that is a good resource to refer to, when synthesizing your case.

This pretty much wraps up today's post. I will include a link to an EEOC cases that you can refer to as an example (refer to hyperlinks). Good luck, and keep your chin up. Next time, we will talk about preparing for a federal case, as part of the next steps.

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