A hallmark of collective bargaining agreements is the grievance procedure. The grievance procedure eliminates employment at will and employees must go through a progressive discipline process before being disciplined or terminated. Each step of the grievance procedure must be negotiated between the employer and the union and varies from contract to contract.

Despite the variances, most grievance procedures follow the same basic pattern. The first step requires the employee to try to work out her issue with her immediate supervisor. If the employee is dissatisfied with the outcome of this effort, she presents a written and signed grievance to her supervisor within a certain number of days of the alleged incident, and a formal meeting between the supervisor and employee is held, again within a certain number of days.

If she is still not satisfied, the employee can usually request a written response from her employer. After the written response from the employer, she can force a meeting between herself, her union representatives, and management employees. Sometimes written responses are required after these meetings, as well. If the union and employer still cannot resolve the employee’s issue, parties can choose to go to arbitration and have an arbitrator decide the outcome.

Many employers consult with legal counsel throughout each step of the grievance procedure and choose to have legal counsel attend all or some of the meetings. Legal counsel involvement in the grievance procedure is especially prudent when arbitration or litigation is likely to occur after the grievance phase is complete.