COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Revision to Personnel Policies
Requesting approval for revisions to County Grievance Procedure and Sexual Harassment Policy
Tucker, White, Davis, Trank, Suyes, Roberman
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
January 3, 2007
ACTION: X INFORMATION:
The County Attorney’s Office, assisted by the Human Resources Department, has been engaged in a comprehensive revision of the County's Personnel Policy Manual during the past year in order to update existing policies in a number of areas. Two specific policies are brought forward at the present time for approval as part of this update process:
(1) Employee Grievance Procedure and (2) Sexual Harassment.
Employee Grievance Procedure: In the 2006 session of the Virginia General Assembly, special legislation sponsored by Delegate David Toscano authorized the County to utilize an administrative hearing officer in all employee grievance hearings. Currently, the County is required to use a 3-member panel in all grievance hearings, except cases involving termination or retaliation. State government agencies (including UVA) have successfully utilized the administrative hearing officer format since the mid-1990’s, when state law governing employee grievances eliminated the panel selection method. Since then, localities throughout Virginia have sought similar authority to utilize this format. In 2006, the General Assembly granted Albemarle County authorization to implement this change. This legislation requires the County to adopt the changed format on or before June 30, 2007. The proposed policy incorporates this change and clarifies the grievance procedure in several other areas, detailed more specifically below.
Sexual Harassment: The County’s current policy regarding sexual harassment has not been updated in a number of years and is outdated. Current policy does not reflect changes to federal law addressing sexual harassment and has been the subject of review and discussion as the County embarks upon a new employee training program in this area. The revised sexual harassment policy is much more comprehensive and specific. It should provide much-needed guidance and direction to all employees and should serve as a strong basis to support employee training.
4.1.2 Quality Place of Employment
Employee Grievance Procedure: The substantive changes to the grievance procedure can be summarized as follows:
1. Change from Panel to Hearing Officer: The change from a hearing panel to the administrative hearing officer is reflected in section XII of the revised policy. Under this change, an administrative hearing officer selected from the list of qualified hearing officers maintained by the Virginia Supreme Court or the Virginia Department of Employment Dispute Resolution will preside over employee grievances. The hearing itself will be conducted according to the same procedures that exist under current policy. The employee retains all other rights under current policy; e.g., the rights to legal representation, to call and cross-examine witnesses, introduce exhibits, etc.
The County Attorney’s Office and the Human Resources Department believe that utilizing a single administrative hearing officer will result in an improved process for handling employee grievances. Under the current panel method, it can often take several months merely to select a panel and schedule a hearing, resulting in delays that affect the ability to resolve employee grievances efficiently and fairly. In addition, panels often experience difficulty in deciding issues involving the admissibility of evidence and related matters, and lack the expertise in employment and personnel law that trained administrative hearing officers typically have. With this change, the County’s ability to afford an immediate and impartial method for the resolution of disputes that may arise between County government and employees in County service will be improved.
2. Coverage of Employees. Employees with the Commission on Children and Families will now be covered under the County grievance procedure, as a result of Board action making the County the fiscal agent for the Commission. This change is reflected in section II (A).
3. Change to Step 1 Procedure. The proposed policy modifies the current requirement that an employee meet with his immediate supervisor at the beginning of the process, even where the decision being grieved was made at a higher level. In such cases, the Step 1 meeting would occur between the employee and the supervisor whose decision is being grieved, rather than requiring the employee to meet with a lower-level supervisor who lacks authority to review or change the decision. This change is reflected in section IX (C).
Sexual Harassment: Employees throughout the County will be better-served having specific, detailed guidance regarding their rights and responsibilities under the proposed, revised policy. The revised policy defines (in section III) the different kinds of sexual harassment that courts and other bodies have recognized, and sets forth specific examples (also in section III) of sexual harassment that violate the policy. The Human Resources Department will utilize the policy for training purposes, both at the initial hiring stage and as part of ongoing employee training that will begin in 2007.
Staff recommends that the Board adopt the attached Resolutions, which will approve the proposed changes to Personnel Policy P-03 and P-21.
A – Resolution approving Personnel Policy P-03, Employee Grievance Procedure
B – Resolution approving Personnel Policy P-21, Sexual Harassment
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