What is a Grievance Policy?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2020
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A grievance policy, also known as a grievance procedure, is a process by which individuals or groups can file a complaint with an organization. The person filing a grievance can have one of several relationships to the organization, including that of current or former employee, student, or customer. The purpose of a grievance policy is to provide an accessible, fair way for people to have their concerns and complaints heard and investigated and, if necessary, any wrongdoing or mistakes corrected without resorting to external authorities such as the courts or third-party mediators.

Many businesses have an employee grievance policy that allows employees to bring concerns about harassment or unfair treatment to the attention of the company. Such policies vary considerably from company to company, but often provide for a system of escalation in which an employee may first be instructed to inform his immediate supervisor of a problem unless it is the immediate supervisor against whom the employee has a grievance. The supervisor, or whomever the report is initially made against, may be required to inform human resources of the issue. Human resources may also carry out its own investigation in consultation with the company's legal counsel and can work with the employee and others involved to resolve the situation.


Schools have grievance policies that address a variety of issues, including problems with a student's grades, bullying, and other violations of school policy. As with employee grievance policies, students and their parents may be requested to initially address problems with a grade given by an instructor or a problem in the classroom directly with the instructor before escalating the problem to someone with more authority. If the student or parent is unable to resolve the issue with the instructor, however, the school's grievance policy may provide for the student or parent to approach a department head or another administrative office with his or her concerns. Some schools have grievance boards or councils that specialize in addressing grievances against school employees.

Many government agencies and private charities also have grievance policies that clients can use in cases where clients believe that they have not been provided with services to which they are entitled or that they were badly treated by an employee or volunteer while receiving services. These organizations may make a detailed description of their grievance policy available to the general public either in their offices or on their website. These policies can often be quite explicit in explaining the steps that a client can take to make his concerns understood and addressed. Like schools and employers, the organization may have an office or team dedicated to addressing individual grievances.


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