Grievance Systems Should Provide All Federal Employees an Equal Opportunity for Redress

Gao ID: FPCD-77-67 June 13, 1978

Three basic grievance procedures available to federal employees are set forth in agreements negotiated by collective bargaining representatives, Civil Service and agency rules and regulations, and statutory provisions. Most federal employees have access to grievance procedures under an executive order and/or the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.).

There are many variations among available grievance systems. Some federal agencies are exempt from requirements of the executive order and C.F.R. Their grievance procedures range from legislated and highly structured systems, such as the one for Foreign Service employees, to unilaterally imposed and more informal systems, such as the one at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Effectiveness of grievance procedures depends on flexibility and attitudes as well as broad coverage, impartial review, expeditious handling and resolution of complaints, and avoidance of excessive costs. There has been confusion about subject areas covered by grievance procedures and applicability of procedures to particular complaints. Under some systems, an impartial adjudicator is available but, under others, final review is by higher management. Other shortcomings include delays of up to a year, the grievant's lack of recourse when the agency fails to comply with procedures, and the absence of criteria for determining when a hearing is necessary.


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