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Human Resources Department

Sonoma County Public Defender Investigators’ Association (SCPDIA)

2019 - 2023 SCPDIAMemorandum of Understanding:   Article 27: Grievance Procedure

Sonoma County Public Defender Investigators’ Association

27.1 Purpose

County and Association agree to this Grievance Procedure in order to provide an orderly procedure to resolve employee grievances promptly. This procedure shall become available for grievances which occur after the Board of Supervisors adopts a resolution implementing this Memorandum.

Appendix B contains the Departmental Grievance Procedure, used for complaints concerning alleged violations or misapplications of one or more written departmental policies.

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27.2 Definitions

  1. A grievance is a claim by an employee, a group of employees, or the Association on behalf of an employee(s), concerning the interpretation, application or an alleged violation of an expressed provision of this Memorandum. All other complaints are specifically excluded from this procedure including but not limited to, complaints which arise from the following: all disciplinary actions; all matters concerning employment examinations; all other matters subject to the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission; performance review appraisals or denial of a merit increase, except as provided in Article 7.19; provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act; and any provision of this Memorandum specifically identified as not grievable.
  2. Day shall mean regular County business days, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  3. A "grievant" shall mean an employee, a group of employees or the Association who in good faith has an actual grievance with County over a grievable matter as defined in 28.2 above. The Association may file a grievance without naming an individual employee in the grievance provided the grievance alleges a violation of a right or benefit granted the Association in this Memorandum.

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27.3 Representation

At any step of the grievance procedure, the employee may represent him/herself, or may be represented by an Association representative who may be a County employee or a non-County employee.

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27.4 Initiation Deadline

The grievance must be initiated within 10 days from the date of the action or occurrence giving rise to the grievance or within 10 days of when the grievant knew of or could have reasonably discovered such action or occurrence.

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27.5 Time Limits

Time limits specified in each step of the procedure shall be strictly observed and may only be extended by mutual agreement of the parties in writing. Failure of a grievant to observe a time limit shall terminate the grievance. Failure of the party to whom the grievance is submitted to observe the time limits shall give the grievant the right to move the grievance to the next level.

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27.6 First Step Grievance

The grievance shall first be discussed on an informal basis by the grievant with the employee's immediate supervisor within ten (10) days from the date of the action causing the grievance as provided above. The immediate supervisor shall respond within ten (10) days. Every effort shall be made by the parties to resolve the grievance at this level and may include conferences among supervisory or administrative personnel. Such discussions will be held whenever possible during the grievant's work hours.

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27.7 Second Step Grievance

In the event the grievant believes the grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved, the grievant shall submit the grievance in writing, with a copy to the County's Employee Relations Manager, to the immediate supervisor within five (5) days after receipt of the immediate supervisor's response. The written grievance shall:

  1. Fully describe the grievance and how the grievant is/was adversely affected by the County;
  2. Set forth the specific section(s) of this Memorandum allegedly violated;
  3. Indicate the date(s) of the incident(s) grieved; and
  4. Specify the remedy or solution to the grievance sought by the grievant.

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27.8 Second Step Response

The written grievance shall be responded to in writing by the immediate supervisor within seven (7) days from the time the written grievance is received. The supervisor shall send a copy of the response to the Employee Relations Manager. The written response shall include:

  1. A complete statement of the immediate supervisor's position and the facts upon which it is based; and
  2. The remedy or correction which has been offered, if any.

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27.9 Third Step Grievance

If the grievant is not satisfied with the response at Step Two, the grievant may appeal the decision to the department head, with a copy to the Employee Relations Manager, within seven (7) days after receipt of the written response at Step Two.

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27.10 Third Step Response

Within ten (10) days after receiving the completed grievance form, the department head or representative, shall meet with the grievant and thoroughly discuss the grievance. The department head shall give a written decision to the grievant within fifteen (15) days after the discussion and send a copy of the decision to the Employee Relations Manager.

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27.11 Mediation

Prior to an arbitration hearing, the parties may mutually agree to request the assistance of a mediator from the State Conciliation Service in an attempt to resolve the grievance. The mediator shall have no authority to resolve the grievance except by written agreement of the Association and the County. In the event the grievance is not resolved, neither stipulations, admissions, settlement proposals nor concessions agreed to or offered during mediation shall be admissible in a subsequent hearing.

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27.12 Arbitrable Grievances

A grievance which directly and primarily involves the application, alleged violation, or interpretation of this Memorandum, except as otherwise provided in this Memorandum, is arbitrable. If the grievance is submitted to arbitration by the Association, neither offers of settlement nor concessions for settlement made during the grievance procedure steps prior to mediation shall be admissible in arbitration.

Following the Third Step of the grievance procedure provided herein, if the grievance is subject to arbitration and remains unresolved, the Union on behalf of the grievant may request arbitration. The request for arbitration must be given to the County Counsel and the Employee Relations Manager, in writing, within 15 days of the receipt of the response from Step Three.

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27.13 Selection of Arbitrator

The arbitrator may be selected by mutual agreement of the Association and County. Should the parties fail to mutually agree on an arbitrator, they shall make a joint request of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service for a list of five qualified arbitrators. The arbitrator shall be selected from the list by the parties alternately striking names with the first strike determined by chance.

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27.14 Arbitration Issues

The parties shall, within 30 days following the receipt of a written request for arbitration, exchange in writing their understanding of the questions to be submitted to arbitration. Thereafter, the parties to the arbitration shall use their best efforts to exchange a written summary of the evidence they intend to offer and to reach agreement on and reduce to writing the question or questions to be submitted to arbitration. The agreed upon question or questions, if agreement is reached, together with the exchanged summaries of evidence and a list of witnesses to be used by each side, shall be submitted to each other and the arbitrator five days prior to the arbitration hearing.

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27.15 Arbitrator's Authority

The arbitrator shall have no right to amend, modify, nullify, ignore, add to, or subtract from the provisions of the Memorandum. He/she shall consider and make a decision with respect to only the specific issue submitted, and shall have no authority to make a decision on any other issue not so submitted. In the event the arbitrator finds a violation of this Memorandum, he/she shall fashion an appropriate remedy. The arbitrator shall have no authority to substitute his/her judgment for that of the County as to any matter within the County's discretion under this Memorandum. The decision and award of the arbitrator shall be based solely upon the evidence and arguments presented to the arbitrator by the respective parties.

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27.16 Binding / Non-Binding Decision

The decision of the arbitrator rendered consistent with the terms of this Memorandum shall be binding upon the Association. To the extent that the award of the arbitrator is not in excess of $5,000.00 per individual grievant, it is binding on the County. To the extent that such award exceeds $5,000 per individual grievant, it is advisory. If within sixty (60) days of receiving notice of decision and award requiring an expenditure in excess of $5,000 per individual grievant, final action is not taken by the County to implement it, then the arbitrator's decision and award shall have no force or effect whatsoever as to the amount in excess of $5,000 per individual grievant. The Association may then resort to a court of competent jurisdiction to pursue whatever other legal remedies are available to it under the provisions of this Memorandum. If the Association is the grievant, then the $5,000.00 limit shall apply to each employee who has been identified by the Association and sustained by the arbitrator as employees directly affected by the grievance and the remedy sought and imposed.

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27.17 Arbitrator's Decision Due

Unless the parties agree otherwise, the arbitrator shall render the decision in writing within 30 days following the close of the hearing. The decision of the arbitrator is final. If requested by either party, the decision shall be accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions of law.

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27.18 Arbitration Expenses Shared

The cost of employing the arbitrator shall be borne equally by the parties to the arbitration. All other costs such as, but not limited to, attorney's fees and witness fees shall be borne only by the party incurring that cost.

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