The panel hearing is intended to provide a fair and impartial review of the action grieved. The panel hearing will not be conducted as a formal court proceeding. The panel shall consider all relevant evidence presented by the grievant and management at the hearing. The chair of the panel, in his/her sole discretion, shall determine whether the evidence (witness testimony or documentary evidence) is relevant to the grievance.
At the panel hearing, management shall bear the burden of proving with a preponderance of the evidence (enough evidence to make the decision more correct than not correct) that the university action taken (the subject of the grievance) was correct. The employee may be accompanied by a person of his/her choice at the hearing to provide support to the employee. In the alternative, the employee may have legal counsel present to advise the employee during the hearing. The role of the employee’s accompanying person or legal counsel is to assist and support the employee and to help ensure that the employee has explained his case putting forth all of his best and most relevant information and documentation for the panel’s consideration. The employee’s accompanying person or legal counsel may not directly participate in the panel hearing, i.e. they may not question witnesses, introduce evidence, argue an objection, or present opening or closing statements.
At the panel hearing, management may have an HR representative present at the hearing. The human resources representative may not directly participate in the panel hearing, i.e. they may not question witnesses, introduce evidence, argue an objection, or present opening or closing statements.
The panel may have legal counsel from the university counsel’s office present at the hearing to provide advice. Legal counsel may provide advice to the panel regarding the employee’s grievance prior to the hearing, throughout the hearing, in the deliberations after the hearing, and in the final decision making process. Legal counsel may not participate directly in the hearing and may not ask questions of the witnesses.
Persons not directly involved in the grievance hearing are not permitted to attend the hearing except for the limited purpose of presenting evidence if called as witnesses. The panel may exclude any attendee who is disruptive.
The panel chair’s procedural decisions (i.e. length of time for each side to present evidence and make statements, relevancy of documentation, dismissal of a witness) made before, during, and after the panel hearing are final and are not subject to an appeal or further review.
At the conclusion of the hearing (after all evidence has been presented and the employee and management have stated their respective positions and requested their respective relief), the panel deliberates in private. No record of the panel deliberations is maintained. The panel reaches a decision when a majority of the panel determines if the university has proven by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that the university’s action against the employee was correct.
If the panel determines during its deliberations that it needs additional information, the chair will communicate in writing its request for additional information to the employee and to management. The panel may consider additional information at the sole discretion of the chair and in consultation with legal counsel if necessary.
Within 10 business days of the panel’s reaching a decision, it must provide its findings and its recommendation in writing to VCU HR, the employee and the manager.
Within 10 business days of its receipt of the findings and recommendation from the panel, the chief human resources officer shall issue a final decision about the grievance to the employee and to management in writing setting forth the reasons for the decision. (If the grieving employee is an HR employee, the final decision-maker will be the President’s direct report overseeing VCU Human Resources at the university rather than the chief human resources officer.) The chief human resources officer may uphold the recommendation of the panel or may provide additional or different relief to the employee.
Any of the time limits/deadlines applying to the employee in the panel review process may be extended for good cause if the request is: 1) made to management or to the panel chair in writing, 2) is reasonable, and 3) is received by management or by the panel chair before the applicable time period has lapsed. Any of the time limits/deadlines applying to management in the panel review process may be extended as long as the extension is reasonable and is communicated to the employee before the deadline has lapsed.
The decision of the chief human resources officer (or the President’s direct report overseeing VCU Human Resources) is final and concludes the grievance. No further appeal may be filed.