DGBA(LEGAL) - PERSONNEL-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS: EMPLOYEE COMPLAINTS/GRIEVANCES
United States Constitution
A district shall take no action abridging the freedom of speech or the right of the people to petition the board for redress of grievances. U.S. Const. Amend. I, XIV
A board may confine its meetings to specified subject matter and may hold nonpublic sessions to transact business. But when a board sits in public meetings to conduct public business and hear the views of citizens, it may not discriminate between speakers on the basis of the content of their speech or the message it conveys. Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819, 828 (1995); City of Madison v. Wis. Emp. Rel. Comm'n, 429 U.S. 167, 174 (1976); Pickering v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968) [See DG]
Employees shall have the right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances or other purposes, by petition, address, or remonstrance. Tex. Const. Art. I, Sec. 27
There is no requirement that a board negotiate or even respond to complaints. However, a board must stop, look, and listen and must consider the petition, address, or remonstrance. Prof'l Ass'n of College Educators v. El Paso County Cmty. [College] District, 678 S.W.2d 94 (Tex. App.—El Paso 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.)
A district that receives federal financial assistance, directly or indirectly, and that employs 15 or more persons shall adopt grievance procedures that incorporate appropriate due process standards and that provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 34 C.F.R. 104.7(b), .11
Americans with Disabilities Act
A district that employs 50 or more persons shall adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action that would be prohibited by the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 28, Part 35 (Americans with Disabilities Act regulations). 28 C.F.R. 35.107, .140
A district that receives federal financial assistance, directly or indirectly, shall adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of employee complaints alleging any action prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. 34 C.F.R. 106.8(c); North Haven Bd. of Educ. v. Bell, 456 U.S. 512 (1982) [For legally referenced material relating to Title IX grievance procedures, see FFH(LEGAL).]
Wages, Hours, Conditions of Work
The prohibition against collective bargaining and strikes [see DGA] does not impair the right of employees to present grievances concerning their wages, hours of employment, or conditions of work, either individually or through a representative that does not claim the right to strike. Gov't Code 617.005
The term "conditions of work" should be construed broadly to include any area of wages, hours or conditions of employment, and any other matter that is appropriate for communications from employees to employer concerning an aspect of their relationship. Atty. Gen. Op. JM-177 (1984); Corpus Christi Fed. of Teachers v. Corpus Christi Indep. Sch. Dist., 572 S.W.2d 663 (Tex. 1978)
The statute protects grievances presented individually or individual grievances presented collectively. Lubbock Prof'l Firefighters v. City of Lubbock, 742 S.W.2d 413 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.)
A district cannot deny an employee's representative, including an attorney, the right to represent the employee at any stage of the grievance procedure, so long as the employee designates the representative and the representative does not claim the right to strike. Lubbock Prof'l Firefighters v. City of Lubbock, 742 S.W.2d 413 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.); Sayre v. Mullins, 681 S.W.2d 25 (Tex. 1984)
A district should meet with employees or their designated representatives at reasonable times and places to hear grievances concerning wages, hours of work, and conditions of work. The right to present grievances is satisfied if employees have access to those in a position of authority to air their grievances. However, that authority is under no legal compulsion to take action to rectify the matter. Atty. Gen. Op. H-422 (1974); Corpus Christi Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Padilla, 709 S.W.2d 700 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi, 1986, no writ)
A district's employment policy must provide each employee with the right to present grievances to the board.
The policy may not restrict the ability of an employee to communicate directly with a member of the board regarding a matter relating to the operation of a district, except that the policy may prohibit ex parte communication relating to:
- A hearing under Education Code Chapter 21, Subchapter E (Term Contracts) or F (Hearing Examiners); and
- Another appeal or hearing in which ex parte communication would be inappropriate pending a final decision by the board.
Education Code 11.1513
A district's grievance policy must permit an employee to report a grievance against a supervisor to a different supervisor if the employee alleges that the supervisor:
- Violated the law in the workplace; or
- Unlawfully harassed the employee.
If a district's grievance policy provides for representation, the policy must permit an employee's representative to represent the employee through a telephone conference call at any formal grievance proceeding, hearing, or conference at which the employee is entitled to representation according to the policy. This provision applies to grievances under Education Code 11.171(a) and only if the district has the equipment necessary for a telephone conference call.
Education Code 11.171(a), (c)
A district's grievance policy must permit an employee who reports a grievance to make an audio recording of any meeting or proceeding at which the substance of a grievance that complies with the policy is investigated or discussed. The implementation of an employee's authorization to make an audio recording may not result in a delay of any time line provided by the grievance policy. A district is not required to provide equipment for the employee to make the recording. Education Code 11.171(b)
Finality of Grades
An examination or course grade issued by a classroom teacher is final and may not be changed unless the grade is arbitrary, erroneous, or not consistent with a district's grading policy applicable to the grade, as determined by the board.
A board's determination is not subject to appeal.
Education Code 28.0214
Open Meetings Act
A board is not required to conduct an open meeting to hear a complaint or charge against an employee. However, a board may not conduct a closed meeting if the employee who is the subject of the hearing requests a public hearing. Gov't Code 551.074 [See BEC]
A board may conduct a closed meeting on an employee complaint to the extent required or provided by law. Gov't Code 551.082 [See BEC]
Record of Proceedings
An appeal of a board's decision to the commissioner shall be decided based on a review of the record developed at the district level. "Record" includes, at a minimum, an audible electronic recording or written transcript of all oral testimony or argument. Education Code 7.057(c), (f)
It is a district's responsibility to make and preserve the records of the proceedings before the board. If a district fails to create and preserve the record without good cause, all substantial evidence issues that require missing portions of the record for resolution shall be deemed against the district. The record shall include:
- A tape recording or a transcript of the hearing at the local level. If a tape recording is used:
- The tape recording must be complete, audible, and clear; and
- Each speaker must be clearly identified.
- All evidence admitted;
- All offers of proof;
- All written pleadings, motions, and intermediate rulings;
- A description of matters officially noticed;
- If applicable, the decision of the hearing examiner;
- A tape recording or transcript of the oral argument before the board; and
- The decision of the board.
19 TAC 157.1073(d)
Before bringing suit, an employee who seeks relief under Government Code Chapter 554 (whistleblowers) must initiate action under a district's grievance or appeal procedures relating to suspension or termination of employment or adverse personnel action. Gov't Code 554.006 [See DG]