Complaints and Grievances Policy
Policy G-Personnel, GAE -
Complaints and Grievances
Effective Date: September 1, 2023
SECTION 1 – PURPOSE
The purpose of this policy is to provide a way for the Board and its employees to reach solutions to problems, disputes, or controversies that may occur and to provide a mechanism for employees or applicants to complain about unlawful discrimination or harassment. It is the intent of this policy to provide in a clear and concise way for the solution of complaints at the lowest possible administrative level, as fairly and as expeditiously as possible.
This policy may also be used specifically as a procedure by employees who allege discrimination or harassment on the basis of age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin or disability. In the case of alleged discrimination based on age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin or disability, employees may complain directly to the school system District Director of Title IX, Section 504/Title II Coordinator who will make a prompt investigation. Any supervisor who becomes aware of such a complaint should notify the District Director of Title IX, Section 504/Title II Coordinator no later than on the business day immediately following his/her knowledge of the complaint.
SECTION 2 - DEFINITIONS
- Complaint - A complaint means any claim or grievance by an employee of the Gwinnett County Board of Education who is affected in his or her employment relationship by an alleged violation misinterpretation or misapplication of statutes, policies, rules, regulations, or written agreements with which the Board is required to comply.
- Employee - Employee shall mean any person hired by the Board of Education to perform services either full or part-time.
- Days - Days shall mean working days exclusive of Saturday, Sunday, or official holidays unless otherwise noted.
- Immediate Supervisor - Immediate supervisor is that employee possessing that degree of administrative authority next in rank above any complainant.
- Level One Administrator - Means the principal of a school with respect to teachers and other personnel assigned to that school. With respect to the certified administrators supervised by the Superintendent, the Level One Administrator shall be the Superintendent. In any case not covered by this paragraph, the Level One Administrator shall be the supervisory person designated by the Board, or in the absence thereof, by the Superintendent.
- Parties in Interest - Any persons involved in the processing of the complaint.
- Central Office Administrator - The Superintendent of schools or his/her designee. This person shall receive all communications for the Board.
- Complainant File - A file maintained by the Superintendent for the complainant. This shall be separate from the personnel file and shall be open to parties in interest only.
- Board - The Board of Education of the Gwinnett County Public School District.
- Notification - Means delivery in person to the party entitled to notification, or deposit in the United States Mail, certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known address of the party notified.
SECTION 3 - SCOPE OF COMPLAINT: EXCLUSIONS
- Scope - This complaint and grievance procedure is applicable to any claim by any employee of the Gwinnett County Board of Education who is affected in his or her employment relationship by an alleged violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of statutes, policies, rules, regulations, or written agreements of this school district or with which the district is required to comply.
- Exclusions - Unless the complaint is based on unlawful discrimination, this procedure shall not apply to:
- Performance ratings contained in personnel evaluation and professional development plans
- Job performance (O.C.G.A. 20-2-10);
- Termination, non-renewal, demotion, suspension, or reprimand of any employee
- The revocation, suspension, or denial of certificates of any employee (O.C.G.A. 20-2-984.5);
- Performance ratings contained in personnel evaluation and professional development plans
- An employee, who chooses to appeal under Code Section 20-2-1160, shall be barred from pursuing the same complaint under this policy.
SECTION 4 - PROCEDURE - NOTICE; HEARING RIGHTS: EVIDENCE; REPRESENTATION; DECISIONS; RECORDS.
- Request for Hearing - It is the desire of the Board that a complaint be processed as rapidly as possible. The initial complaint shall be in writing, clearly stating the intent to access the complaints policy and specifically setting forth the statute, policy, rule, regulations or written agreement that is alleged to have been violated. All employees must request in writing successive levels of review and deliver the written request by certified mail or hand delivery to the appropriate administrator.
- Notification of Hearing - The complainant shall be adequately notified of the time and place of the initial meeting and appeals in writing by hand delivered or certified mail.
- Evidence -The complainant shall be entitled to an opportunity to be heard, to present relevant evidence, and to examine witnesses at each level. The complainant cannot present additional evidence at each level of the complaint process, unless it is determined by the administrator presiding over the complaint that such evidence is relevant to the issues presented at the initial hearing and such evidence was either not made available by the administration or not discoverable by the complainant or unless it is presented and received in writing to the person presiding over the complaint at least five (5) days prior to the set date for any hearing beyond Level One. Anytime a complainant is permitted to present additional evidence that was not presented at any prior level and it is determined that such evidence might have produced a different decision on the complaint, the complaint may be remanded to the previous level with ten (10) calendar days allowed for reconsideration. The Board, when hearing an appeal from a prior complaint level, shall hear the complaint de novo.
- Representation - The complainant is entitled to the presence of an individual of his/her choice to assist in the presentation of the complaint at the Superintendent and Board level. Such person is prohibited at any level prior to that of the Superintendent. At the Board level nothing shall prevent the Board from having an attorney present to serve as the law officer who shall rule on issues of law and who shall not participate in the presentation of the case for the administrator or the complainant. Nothing herein shall be deemed to prevent the Superintendent from having an attorney participate to present his or her case.
- Hearing Officer - The local Board of Education may appoint a member of the State Bar to serve as law officer who shall rule on all issues of law and other objections, but such attorney shall not assist in the presentation of the case for either party.
- Overall Hearing Time Schedules - The overall time frame from the initiation of the complaint until rendition of the decision by the local board and notification thereof to the complainant shall not exceed sixty (60) days. In no instance shall there be more than ten (10) calendar days between the most recent alleged act about which a complaint may be filed and the first written notice of complaint is received nor shall there be more than ten (10) calendar days between the decision at any level and the date the appeal to the next level is received.
- Automatic Referral to Next Level - Any complaint not processed by the administrator or the local unit of administration within the time frame required by this policy shall be forwarded to the next level for determination.
- Records - At each level, an accurate record of the proceeding must be kept by mechanical means and all evidence shall be preserved and made available to the parties involved; all cost and fees shall be borne by the party incurring them unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties; except that the cost of preparing and preserving the record of the proceedings shall be borne by the local Board of Education; provided however, the cost of transcribing the transcript of evidence and proceedings before the Board shall be borne by the party requesting same, and all costs of the records on appeal to the superior courts and appellate courts shall be paid by the party required to do so by the laws relating thereto.
At any level below Level Three, (Superintendent level) this record shall be made by a tape recording device.
- Decisions - Decisions at each level shall be in writing and dated. Each decision shall contain findings of fact and reasons for the particular resolution reached. The decision reached at each complaint level shall be sent to the complainant by certified mail or hand delivered by a person designated by the Superintendent within twenty (20) days of the hearing.
- Notice - The decision at each level shall be delivered to the complainant by a person designated by the Superintendent, either by (1) being hand delivered or (2) being deposited in the U.S. Mail (certified mail, return receipt requested). Notice to the complainant shall be deemed to have been made on the date of hand delivery or on the date of deposit in the U.S. Mail by certified mail, return receipt requested to the address stated in the complaint or, if not contained in the complaint, to the last known address of the complainant on file with the Board of Education.
SECTION 5 - INITIATING A COMPLAINT
A. INFORMAL DISCUSSION - Between Parties Concerned
B. LEVEL ONE - Administrator
Level One - Presentation, Time and Contents.
- Employee must present complaint in person and/or writing to the Level One Administrator (immediate supervisor).
- The complaint shall be presented within ten (10) calendar days after the most recent incident upon which the complaint is based.
- The complaint shall include the following:
- The mailing address of the complainant to which all notices and other documents may be mailed;
- The intent of the complainant to utilize this complaint procedure, clearly stated;
- A reference or description of the statute, policy, rule, contract provision or regulation that is alleged to have been violated, misinterpreted or misapplied; and
- A brief statement of the facts reasonably calculated to show how such statute, policy, rule or regulation was violated or misapplied, and how it substantially affects the employment relationship of the complainant.
- A statement of the relief desired.
- The Superintendent or his/her designee shall prepare forms for use in accordance with the foregoing requirements.
Level One - Hearing and Decision.
- The Level One Administrator shall record the date of filing on the complaint, and shall give notice to the complainant of the time and place of the hearing, either by mail or hand delivery. When notice is given by mail, it shall be sent by first class mail to the address set forth in the complaint. If no address was included in the complaint, then the notice shall be sent to the last known address of the complainant on file with the Board of Education.
- The Level One Administrator shall conduct a hearing on the complaint and render a decision thereon within ten (10) days of the filing of the complaint. The decision shall be dated and a copy shall be sent to the complainant as provided in Section 4 above.
SECTION 6 - APPEAL TO THE DIVISION OF HUMAN RESOURCES
A. LEVEL TWO - Division of Human Resources
(Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and Talent Management or Designee)
- The complainant dissatisfied with the decision of the first level may appeal the Level One decision to the Division of Human Resources and Talent Management. This appeal should be delivered to the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and Talent Management who may serve as administrator or designate someone at the director's level or above to hear the complaint.
- The appeal must be filed within ten (10) calendar days after the complainant is notified of the Level One decision.
- The Central Office Administrator shall record the date of the filing on the appeal and shall notify the complainant in writing of the time and place of the hearing by mail or hand delivery.
- The Level Two Administrator shall obtain copies of all minutes, transcripts. documents and other records relating to the complaint and shall conduct a hearing and render decision within (10) calendar days of the date of the filing of the appeal, or
- The hearing may be conducted by any designated representative of the Level Two Administrator who shall promptly submit his or her recommendations and findings to the Level Two Administrator for final decision.
- The decision shall be rendered and served on the complainant and the representing attorney.
SECTION 7 - APPEAL TO OFFICE OF SUPERINTENDENT
A. LEVEL THREE - The Office of the Superintendent
(The Superintendent or Designee)
Either the complainant or the administrator may appeal the decision of the Division of Human Resources and Talent Management to the Superintendent of Schools. The Superintendent or his/her designee shall serve as administrator at Level Three.
SECTION 8 - APPEAL TO LOCAL BOARD
A. LEVEL FOUR - The Local Board of Education
- A complainant or Level One Administrator dissatisfied with the decision of the Central Office Administrator may appeal to the Board of Education by:
- Filing written notice of appeal with the Office of Superintendent within ten (10) calendar days after the date of the decision as provided by Level Three.
- The Superintendent shall record the date of filing on the appeal, and shall promptly give notice to the complainant in writing of the time and place of hearing by mail or by hand delivery.
- The complainant and the Administrators against whom the complaint is filed or whose decision is being appealed shall be entitled to appear before the Board of Education and be heard.
- The Board of Education may direct that a prehearing conference be held prior to the hearing to identify issues and facilitate presentation.
- The local board shall conduct a hearing and render its decision in writing within twenty (20) calendar days after the hearing, and perfect service thereof on the complainant and representing attorney.
- At Level Four, the Board shall consider the complaint de novo by one of the following methods:
- Hear the evidence itself;
- Designate an impartial hearing officer to hear the evidence; make findings of fact and recommendations; or
- Designate a Personnel Review Panel to hear the evidence, make findings of fact and recommendations. This panel may be presided over by an impartial hearing officer.
The Personnel Review Panel is made up of school system employees who are appointed by the Board. These individuals represent a cross section of school system staff including classified, teaching, and administrative personnel who have demonstrated exemplary service to the school system and who have received appropriate training prior to service.
The complainant shall select one member of the panel. The Superintendent or his/her designee shall select one member. Each of these two appointees shall together select the third member. All three must be chosen from the approved Board appointed review panel list. An impartial hearing officer may serve as presiding officer in a non-voting capacity. It shall be his/her responsibility to write the findings of fact and recommendations of the review panel.
The Personnel Review Panel shall be comprised of fifteen (15) school system employees, appointed by the Board and representing the following categories:
Six (6) classroom teachers
Six (6) classified employees - Three (3) should be local school based
Two (2) local school administrative personnel
One (1) central office administrator
Regardless of how the Board elects to take evidence, it shall make the final decision in each case brought before it.
SECTION 9 - APPEAL TO STATE BOARD
A. LEVEL FIVE - Appeals to the State Board of Education
Appeals from the decision of the Local Board to the State Board of Education shall be governed by the State Board Rule (BCAEA) governing appeals and OCGA 20-2-1160 and must appeal within 30 days. The Superintendent must transmit the transcript, within 10 days; and State Board of Education must notify parties of their decision within 25 days following hearing. Appeals to Superior Court must be within 30 days following notice of State Board of Education decision. The State Superintendent must transmit transcripts, within 10 days.
SECTION 10 - REPRISALS
A. Reprisals - No reprisals of any kind shall be taken by the Board or by any member of the administration against any complainant as a result of participation in the complaint process. Should any reprisal by a certificated employee occur, the complainant may refer the matter to the Professional Standards Commission.
Nothing in this policy shall be construed to limit any fact finder or decision maker from using any equitable means available to establish the truth or the circumstances pertinent to the complaint, provided that the complainant shall have an opportunity to respond to any information considered by the decision maker in reaching a conclusion.
Nothing in this policy shall be construed to permit or foster collective bargaining as part of the Board of Education's policies.