5 MRSA, §7081-7085, provides the procedure for certain employees to resolve disputes with the employing agency. These provisions do not apply to positions that are assigned to a bargaining unit, whether or not the individual employee who holds the position is a member of the union. These provisions do not apply to certain elected, appointed, confidential, or major-policy influencing positions, or probationary employees, specified in 5 MRSA, §931, 932-953 and 26 MRSA, §979.
In the event of a grievance or dispute between a state employee and the employing agency, the following dispute resolution mechanism applies. The employee may be represented during the dispute resolution process. Representation is at the employee’s expense. The employee’s representative may act on behalf of the employee in any step of the process outlined below.
The employee and the immediate supervisor first attempt to settle the dispute through oral communication within 7 days of the time that the employee becomes aware of the grievable incident. The immediate supervisor must render an oral decision within 3 working days.
If the employee is not satisfied with the oral decision of the immediate supervisor, the matter may be resubmitted to the immediate supervisor, in writing, before the end of the 10th working day following the oral decision. The supervisor must render a decision to the employee, in writing, within 10 working days.
If the employee is not satisfied with the written decision of the immediate supervisor, the matter may be appealed to the department head, in writing, before the end of the 20th working day following the immediate supervisor’s written decision. The department head (or designee specified in §7084, sub-§1, B) shall meet with the employee within 20 working days of receipt of the employees written appeal, and attempt to settle the dispute. The department head shall render a decision, in writing to the employee and his or her representative, within 5 working days.
If the employee is not satisfied with the decision rendered by the department head, the matter may be appealed to the Director, Bureau of Human Resources, within 7 working days of meeting with the department head. The Director, Bureau of Human Resources, shall reply, in writing, to the employee, the employee’s representative, and the department head, within 10 working days. The Director’s decision is based upon Civil Service Law and rules.
If the employee is not satisfied with the Director’s decision, the matter may be submitted to the Civil Service Appeals Board within 10 working days of receipt of the Director’s written decision. The Civil Service Appeals Board will investigate the matter, hear witnesses, and render a written decision within 30 working days after the hearing on the matter. Both parties may agree to an extension of the 30 day time limit. The decision of the Civil Service Appeals Board is binding on the employee(s) and agency involved in the dispute and supersedes any prior action taken by an agency with reference to the employment and working conditions of the employee(s) involved.
The time frames established in the appeal process should be carefully considered. The failure of an employee to pursue a grievance within the allotted time limits constitutes acceptance of the department’s last response. Failure of the department to respond within stipulated time limits constitutes automatic waiver to the next step. Although time extensions are permitted in steps 1-4 above, application for extension must be made to the Chairperson of the Civil Services Appeals Board within the time frames provided for the step in question. The law does not provide for informal time extensions by agreement between the employee and the supervisor or department.
In the event that a grievance is undertaken pursuant to 5 MRSA, §7081-7085, all parties are urged to consult the statute to ensure that all procedural matters are appropriately addressed.