University Support Staff Peer Review Committee Hearing Process
Revised Feb. 13, 2012, June 14, 2014, July 25, 2014, Aug. 8, 2014, Dec. 1, 2014, July 1, 2017, Sept. 5, 2017, Sept. 7, 2017
Table of Contents
.015 Related Policies
.020 Scope of Authority
.040 Committee Training
.050 Time Limits
.090 Legal Counsel
.120 Panel Report
The University believes that its employees are a valuable resource, and realizes that occasional employment conflicts are inevitable when people work together. In trying to resolve employment conflicts among employees as fairly as possible, the University provides a dispute resolution process for all permanent university support staff (USS) of the University (see .130 Mediation) culminating in a full opportunity for a fair hearing before an impartial panel of university support staff in unresolved matters involving:
- Performance reviews; Proposed suspension with pay (decision-making leaves); demotion or dismissal not involving discrimination under PPM Chapter 3010; and
- Claims of unfair treatment not involving discrimination under PPM Chapter 3010.
An advisory appeal process is available for complaints related to discrimination, as described inPPM Chapter 3010. Consequently, any matter relating to PPM Chapter 3010 shall follow the appeal process described in PPM Chapter 3010 and Section .125 below.
While the Peer Review Committee ("P.R.C." or "Committee") is charged with the responsibility of conducting a fair hearing in the above mentioned matters, the role of the Committee and the scope of its authority depends upon the type of hearing being conducted.
- Performance Reviews - in matters involving an appeal of a USS employee's performance review, the Committee reviews the material presented, makes the final determination about the employee's performance, and completes the employee's performance review form.
- Proposed Suspension with Pay (Decision-Making Leaves), Demotion or Dismissal - in matters involving a USS employee's appeal of a proposed decision-making leave, demotion or dismissal the Committee reviews the relevant facts in the matter and makes a recommendation to the Human Capital Services, Director of Employee Relations and Engagement or his/her designee (the Director). After reviewing the committee's recommendation, the Director makes the final decision on whether to affirm, modify, or rescind the proposed action.
- Where a proposed decision-making leave, demotion or dismissal is based upon two less than meets expectations reviews, the employee may appeal either the second review or the proposed action, but may not appeal both the review and the proposed disciplinary action within the University.
- Claims of Unfair Treatment not involving proposed demotion, decision-making leave, or dismissal - in matters involving a USS employee's complaint of unfair treatment, the Committee reviews the relevant facts in the matter and makes a recommendation to the Director. After reviewing the Committee's recommendation, the Director makes the final determination concerning the action to be taken in the matter.
- When a complaint of unfair treatment alleges discrimination based on race, color, ethnic or national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ancestry, disability, genetic information, military status, or veteran status, KSU PPM 3010 applies and sets forth the Committee's role in an appeal of any finding or sanction under that policy (KSU PPM 3010, Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Violence, and Stalking, and Procedure for Reviewing Complaints).
The University Support Staff Senate makes recommendations for membership on the Peer Review Committee to the Vice President in the Division of Human Capital Services (VPHC) who appoints members from the USS Senate's recommendations. The Committee is composed of 21 members, all of whom are university support staff. Membership includes a demographic cross-section of USS employees.
Appointments are for three consecutive years with seven members being replaced each year. One member is named by the VPHC on an annual basis to chair the Committee. Five members hear a given appeal, although a quorum shall be four members. The chair of the Committee selects a Panel of five members to hear a particular appeal and designates one member of the hearing Panel to serve as the Panel chair.
- The employee and/or the responding department may object, in writing, to any individual proposed to serve as a member of the panel and include the reasons upon which objections are based. Objections must be submitted to the VPHC no later than 48 hours prior to the hearing date. The VPHC and the Panel chair will determine whether an alternate should be appointed and will provide a written response to the objecting party.
Each year after the new Committee members have been appointed Human Capital Services will conduct a mandatory training session for all members of the Committee.
The following time limitations apply to appeals heard by the Committee:
- Employee Performance Review Appeals- within seven calendar days of receiving formal notice of the rating, the employee must address an appeal in writing to the Director. The employee is encouraged, but not required, to sign the performance review form before initiating an appeal. Within seven calendar days of receiving the employee's written notice of appeal, the matter shall be scheduled for hearing with the Committee. Within fourteen calendar days of receiving the employee's notice of the appeal, the P.R.C. Panel shall hear the appeal and assign a rating for the employee. The Panel will resume in open session at the stated time and place to take action on the appeal.
- In the event that an appeal cannot be scheduled and/or held within the time limitation described in the paragraph above, the Director may extend the time limit for holding the appeal up to 30 calendar days after the appeal has been filed.
- Appeals of proposed Suspension with Pay (Decision-Making Leaves), Demotion or Dismissal - The Director will set a deadline for the employee to appeal the proposed action in writing. Within five working days of receiving the employee's notice of appeal, the appeal shall be referred to the Committee. Within 10 working days of receiving the appeal, the P.R.C. Panel will hear the matter and make a recommendation to the Director. The Director will make a final decision on the proposed action and will notify the parties within five working days of receiving the Panel's recommendation.
- Appeals remanded to PRC from the Disciplinary Action Appeals Board for University Support Staff – within 10 working days of receiving the notice of the remanded appeal, the original PRC panel will hear the additional information and make a recommendation on the entire matter to the Director. Within 15 calendar days of receiving the Panel’s recommendation, the Director will provide a written decision to both parties and their attorneys of record, if any.
- Complaints of Unfair Treatment - within 60 calendar days after becoming aware of the problem, the employee must address an appeal in writing to the Director. Within five working days of receiving the employee's notice of appeal, the appeal will be referred to the Committee. Within 10 working days of scheduling the appeal for hearing, the P.R.C. Panel will hear the matter and make a recommendation to the Director. The Director will make a final decision in the matter and notify the parties within five working days of receiving the Panel's recommendation.
As soon as the panel has been appointed, the Director will notify both parties of the names of the Committee members.
To protect the impartiality of the Committee and the hearing process, neither the employee nor the responding department will have any oral or written contact regarding the hearing with any member of the hearing Panel prior to the actual hearing. Any questions on the hearing procedures should be addressed to Employee Relations and Engagement.
The employee and the responding department may choose to ask other individuals to speak at the hearing who can make a material contribution to the employee's or department's story. The following guidelines govern the contribution of witnesses at hearings:
- Each party is responsible for contacting its prospective witnesses to make them aware of the following:
- Each individual must volunteer to appear before the hearing Panel. The Panel does not have subpoena power. Employees having personal knowledge concerning the merits of a complaint or grievance should voluntarily appear when requested. Employees must request time away from normal duties for the hearing from their departments in advance, in accordance with normal notice procedures.
- Those individuals who are Kansas State University employees will remain in pay status for the time required to appear before the Panel.
- Witnesses should be present when the hearing begins, although Human Capital Services will coordinate appearance times for multiple witnesses.
- Witnesses, other than the employee and the departmental representative, will not be permitted in the hearing room until they speak to the Panel.
- Witnesses will be excused to return to their duties as soon as their testimony is completed.
- Witnesses for the employee and the department are expected to make a substantial contribution to the employee's or department's story by their testimony at the hearing.
Both parties shall deliver a list of witnesses and a copy of any written material they plan to present at the hearing to Employee Relations and Engagement at such time as is designated by Employee Relations and Engagement. Each party will receive a copy of the other party's witness list and written materials, as well as any other information pertinent to the hearing, at least three days prior to the hearing. If no documentation is submitted by the employee by the deadline, the appeal will be deemed withdrawn and the hearing will be cancelled.
Panel members will also receive a copy of each party's written material at least one day prior to the hearing.
Normally, neither party will have legal counsel present during these informal proceedings. However, the employee desiring to have legal counsel present at the hearing must provide notice to the Director at least 48 hours prior to the hearing. The Director will inform the hearing Panel and the responding department, who may also choose to have legal counsel present. During the hearing, legal counsel's participation will be limited to advising the client; the legal counsel may not act as a spokesperson.
The employee shall appear personally throughout the hearing, and normally will serve as his or her own spokesperson in presenting information in support of the appeal. However, an employee may have another Kansas State University USS employee voluntarily serve as the spokesperson.
An employee choosing to have a spokesperson will provide Human Capital Services with the name of the spokesperson at least 48 hours prior to the hearing, or at such time as is designated by Human Capital Services. If the employee has a spokesperson, the employee still will be present throughout the hearing, but will be required to act only as a witness. An employee serving as his or her own spokesperson may have a fellow Kansas State University employee or another person voluntarily be present during the hearing to serve as an advisor, although an advisor may not also serve as a witness. A Kansas State University employee serving as a spokesperson or advisor is required to use approved leave to attend the hearing.
An appropriate representative of the responding department will be present throughout the hearing and may present information in support of the employment decision. The appropriate departmental representative(s) for an appeal is/are as follows:
- For employee performance reviews, the appropriate departmental representatives are the rater and reviewer.
- For proposed decision-making leave, demotion or dismissal the appropriate departmental representative(s) is/are the person(s) who made the decision to take the proposed action.
- For claims of unfair treatment, the appropriate departmental representative(s) is/are the person(s) who the employee claims has unfairly treated the employee.
Only the spokesperson for each party will make the first and last statements, and question witnesses.
- The hearing will be open unless the employee requests a hearing in executive session.
- The hearing will be conducted informally and the Panel will have complete discretion in deciding any procedural questions that arise during the hearing. The Panel will accept any evidence, information, or testimony which is pertinent to the appeal and will help the Panel understand and evaluate the issue before it. The chairperson will determine the relevance and materiality of the evidence offered, and the legal rules of evidence will not apply. Hearings involving dismissal or demotion will be transcribed.
- Employee Relations and Engagement will facilitate the hearing by providing procedural instructions and guidance to allow the Panel to concentrate on the information presented by the parties. The facilitator exerts no influence on the Panel's decision regarding the hearing.
- Each party may make a first ("opening") statement, the purpose of which is to give the Panel a brief overview of the party's case to be presented. The employee will be given the first opportunity to make a brief statement, and each party will have up to 15 minutes to speak.
- After first statements, if any, have been given, each party, beginning with the employee, will present its information, material, and witnesses to the Committee. Panel members may ask questions of anyone after the first statements have been given.
- After each party has presented its information, and the Panel has been able to sufficiently question all parties involved, the employee and department may make a final ("closing") statement, with the department being given the first opportunity. The purpose of the final statement is to present to the Panel a brief summary of the important aspects of the case, and to clarify what the party is seeking from the Panel. Each party has up to 15 minutes to present its final remarks.
- When the hearing is completed and final procedures have been explained, the Panel will recess for an executive meeting to deliberate. The Panel will resume in open session at the stated time and place to take action on the appeal.
In making a decision or recommendation in an appeal, the Panel may consider any information it feels will be helpful in arriving at its conclusion, including but not limited to investigating a work site, questioning individuals that the parties did not present as witnesses, and reviewing other rules and documentation. In the event the Panel questions individuals not presented by the parties as witnesses, the parties have the opportunity to be present and to question those persons called by the Panel.
Employee Performance Reviews
- Within 14 calendar days of scheduling the appeal for hearing, the Panel will make a decision and complete and sign a new performance review for the employee. The Panel's performance review will be transmitted to the Director to become part of the employee's official personnel record.
Proposed Suspension with Pay (Decision-Making Leave), Demotion or Dismissal
- Within 10 working days of scheduling the appeal for hearing, the Panel will hear the matter and prepare a report which will serve as its recommendation to the Director. The report will contain the factual findings of the Panel and the reasons for the recommendation. The Director will consider the Panel's recommendation and transmit a final decision to both parties within five working days of receiving the Panel's recommendation. If the Director did not substantially follow the PRC recommendation, the Director will meet with the panel to discuss his/her decision.
Claims of Unfair Treatment
- Within 10 working days of scheduling the appeal for hearing, the Panel will hear the appeal and prepare a report which will serve as a recommendation to the Director. The report will contain the factual findings of the Panel and the reasons for the recommendation. The Director will consider the Panel's recommendation and notify both parties of the final decision within five working days of receiving the Panel's recommendation.
For USS employees who have been found in violation of the University's anti-discrimination policy (PPM Chapter 3010), the Peer Review Committee evaluates an appeal based upon the same standards and procedures required of Appeal Administrators under PPM Chapter 3010, makes a written recommendation to the Director of Employee Relations, and the Director makes the final decision.
The appeal does not involve a new investigation or hearing by the Committee. The appeal may only decide, based upon the written information presented, whether the Deciding Administrator's basis for imposing sanctions, and/or the sanctions themselves, were "arbitrary and capricious." This means that there must be no reasonable basis, under circumstances presented, to uphold the sanctions imposed by the Deciding Administrator. The Committee must defer to the ART for all credibility decisions (e.g., who is telling the truth). A Deciding Administrator who follows the ART's recommended sanction will be presumed not to have acted arbitrarily or capriciously, unless conclusively demonstrated otherwise.
For further information, see PPM Chapter 3010.
The role of the Employee Relations staff in USS employee grievances is: 1) to assist the parties in resolving issues in dispute and, 2) when an appeal is made to the Peer Review Committee, to facilitate the appeal process to ensure that the entire hearing process runs smoothly and efficiently.
Only the Director has decision-making authority in employment issues brought to the P.R.C., and therefore Human Capital Services is able to offer mediation in helping the parties resolve the dispute prior to an appeal hearing.
Mediation is an informal and confidential process in which an impartial third-party sits down with the parties in conflict and helps them look for mutually acceptable solutions to the issues in dispute. The mediator does not make the decisions, but instead, works with the parties to identify their needs and interests and to develop creative options for resolving the conflict.
Mediation will be available to the employee and department by Human Capital Services at any time prior to the appeal hearing.
Human Capital Services (HCS) is responsible for this policy. The Vice President or designee must approve any exception to this policy or related procedures. Questions should be directed to Human Capital Services at 785-532-6277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.