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Being Heard: Introduction

Welcome to a new series in our blog entitled "Being Heard". In this series, we will guide you from start to finish through the internal and external grievance procedure, so you can have the most optimal chance of being heard, whether this is internally within your company or externally through an outside agency. The hope here is that you can save a lot of money on legal expenses, which, in my opinion are not needed at this point.

Human Speaking Listening Power Of Mastermind Together by Benjavisa Ruangvaree
You have a voice and you have a body. Here at GSAG, we will try our best to give you the information you need to have that voice heard and your body seen by people who will take your problems seriously.

Since this is a new topic, I feel like I should start with a brief introduction, including the general workflow of a grievance procedure, including external reporting.

Keep in mind the process starts with you. You are your own best self-advocate. If you want to show that you are being treated unlawfully by your school and/or supervisor, the first step first and foremost is to make sure you collect, archive, and thoroughly annotate your evidence. If you are unsure how to do that, I highly recommend backtracking to our Recordkeeping 101 module that explains this in more detail. I also cannot stress enough that you should not make a complaint your full-time job. Even if it is absolutely frustrating to work in a hostile, toxic environment, the odds are stacked against you. If you don't have one, ask human resources for a job description to ensure you are fulfilling your essential roles and duties. If you have time leftover in the day after that to explore your grievance options, make sure you proceed with caution, if during regular work hours. Understandably, you will have to take at least some time out of your work day to communicate with outside agencies, but the point I'm trying to make here is not to make it look obvious you are doing this. Loose lips sink ships, as they say. Make sure no one else is around to overhear your phone conversations or to eavesdrop on your emails.

With that disclaimer out of the way, how do you successfully file a complaint? Here is the general workflow:

  1. Continuously document cases of mistreatment for later reporting.

  2. If you are disabled, begin researching your disabilities on a resource, such as the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). We will discuss JAN in a later article.

  3. Formally request accommodations by writing a letter to human resources and student affairs.

  4. Collect applicable medical and other supporting documentation.

  5. Fill out human resources and student affairs paperwork.

  6. Get a response letter and review. Did HR or student affairs retaliate against your request? Make a note of this, but don't tell anyone at your organization. Also, refuse to sign any forms that state you agree to these terms until you follow up with JAN or legal counsel.

  7. Submit a grievance form through your institution.

  8. Draft a written statement that summarizes your mistreatment to date. The sooner, the better. You will use this written statement for many of the following steps, should it come to that.

  9. Wait for their response. Did they respond appropriately?

  10. File charges through an official state or federal agency.

  11. Prepare for a perfection interview.

  12. Wait for external agency to send you their official response.

  13. Continue cooperating with agency to expedite the review process, and get them to the point they can conduct an on-site investigation.

  14. Consider mediation services, if your institution is willing to resolve the complaint in lieu of investigation.

  15. Wait for results of investigation from agency.

  16. If no significant findings are found, you will usually be given a Right to Sue letter.

  17. Provided you get a Right to Sue, you can proceed with hiring an employment attorney and file a lawsuit against the school.

  18. Wait for the trial.

  19. Wait for the results from the trial.

  20. Appeal. if you receive a negative outcome.

As you can see, this is a very complicated workflow. I am planning sometime in the future to put together a flow chart which I will share with everyone here that helps make this workflow easier to understand. To get to the finish line, you will need to get involved in the process early, as it is likely this will take several months, if not years, depending on what stage everything gets resolved at. We all go over in more detail all of these steps in future articles, so stay tuned, be patient, and above all else, find a way to keep your spirits up. You are basically starting a long, dragged out siege against your school. It's going to be depressing at times, and sometimes outright miserable. If you can't cope, consider just leaving the program.

Next time, we will discuss how to request accommodations, and resources that can help with this process. Tune in next time, and stay positive. We can get through this, together!

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