The information below should not be construed as legal advice. It is an attempt to explain in easy-to-read language what a grievance is, how to avoid one and how to file one if necessary. You should always talk with your Burlington Education Association (BEA) grievance or building representative if you think you have grounds for a grievance. For details on grievances consult your most current master agreement/contract.
What is the Master Agreement?
Sometimes referred to as our contract, the master agreement is a document negotiated between the BEA and the Burlington Board of School Commissioners. BEA negotiates two master agreements, one for our paraeducators and one for our teachers. The master agreements give us rights and responsibilities in our workplace. They also guarantee compensation and benefits.
What is a grievance?
A grievance is a claim by an employee, a group of employees, or the Association that there has been a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of one or more provisions of the contract.
What are some common grievance sources?
A grievance can arise for many reasons. Some common sources for grievances are:
- working conditions
- disability discrimination
How can we avoid grievances?
Read your contract/master agreement. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting, but it’s important to know your contract. You can also check out our page Know Your Contract on this website which we will be adding to over time.
In addition, administrators should read the contracts of everyone who works in their building. When everyone is familiar with the contract it helps us to avoid grievances which can arise out of ignorance and confusion.
If you think there has been a violation of the contract or just want to better understand your contract, contact your BEA building or grievance representative. A brief conversation with your representative can clarify things for you and if there has been a grievance, it can often be resolved without a long drawn out process.
Communication and transparency also help us to avoid grievances. Building and central office administrators, paraeducators and teachers need to engage in open and frequent communication.
Finally, trust, respect and a culture of working together can help us to prevent a grievance before it even happens.
Here is some language from the teacher contract that encourages resolution of issues without resorting to the formal grievance process:
Article XX, 20.5
“The parties acknowledge that it is usually most desirable for an employee and the immediately involved supervisor to resolve problems through free and informal communications and both parties shall cooperate in order to resolve all grievances at the lowest possible Level. When requested by the teacher, the Association representative may intervene to assist in this resolution.”
Is there a timeline for grievances?
Yes. There is a general timeline for grievances. It is critical for you to contact your BEA grievance or building representative as soon as you think there may have been a violation of the master agreement. There are several steps to the grievance process with deadlines for each step. Additionally, there are some things in the contract that have timelines that differ from the general timeline. Communicate with your BEA grievance or building representative as soon as possible.
What forms do I need to fill out?
You will need to fill out the Grievance Form, which you can download below. Make sure that you also read the section that follows so that you will understand all of the steps of the grievance process.
What are the steps of the grievance process?
|1.||You think that a part of the contract has been violated.|
|2.||You review the pertinent sections of the contract here and make a note of the contract section which has been violated.|
|3.||You meet with a Building Rep for advice. If they agree the contract has been violated, they’ll help you remedy the situation at the Informal Level (the two of you will meet with a Building Administrator).|
|4.|| The Building Administrator will either:|
|5.||You and your Building Rep still believe there has been a contract violation so you file a formal, Level One Grievance using a Grievance Form.|
|6.||You meet again with your Building Administrator to present your case more formally.|
|7.|| The Building Administrator will either:|
|8.||You and your Building Rep still believe there has been a contract violation, so you meet with the Grievance Chair.|
|9.||The Grievance Chair agrees there is a contract violation so they file a Level Two Grievance.|
|10.||The Grievance Chair and/or you and/or your Building Rep meet with the Superintendent (or their representative) to argue your case.|
|11.|| The Superintendent will either:|
|12.||The Grievance Chair still believes there is a contract violation and files the case at the Arbitration Level (to be adjudicated by a neutral arbitrator).|
|13.||The Grievance Chair and the Superintendent present their case to the Arbitrator.|
|14.|| The Arbitrator will either:|
It is desirable to resolve the issue at the earliest possible step. Time, energy and money is spent on a grievance. If an issue is resolved early in the process, all parties involved can go back to our core mission of educating students.
You may also contact BEA’s Grievance Chair J.P. Gagnon at firstname.lastname@example.org.