HD48 - Review of the Use of Grievance Hearing Officers

Executive Summary:
The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires due process before a government takes an action that affects a person's property interest. By law, State non-probationary, classified employees have a property interest in their employment. Due process is provided to State employees through the Commonwealth's grievance procedure.

Specifically, the grievance procedure is a formal process whereby State employees can bring workplace Complaints to upper levels of management in an agency. For certain types of complaints, such as those related to disciplinary actions against an employee, the employee also has a right to be heard by an independent third-party who decides the merit of the grievance and, if appropriate, the remedies (within certain guidelines). The Commonwealth uses administrative hearing officers to conduct the grievance hearings. These hearing officers are private sector attorneys eligible to preside at State agency administrative hearings. The executive Secretary of the Supreme Court appoints and maintains the official list of hearing officers.

The grievance hearing process is the responsibility of the Department of Employee Relations Counselors (DERC). DERC uses the Executive Secretary's list to select hearing officers for grievance cases. Item 16 of the 1999 Appropriation Act directed JLARC to Conduct a review of State employee grievance hearings. The mandate specifically called for an examination of the use of hearing officers in that process. This report presents the results of the review of DERC's management of the grievance hearing process and the selection and use of hearing officers.