Grievances are usually thought of as the way for recognized unions and employers to settle their disagreements. Virtually all collective bargaining agreements have some type of grievance procedure language. However, these types of agreements are not for the exclusive use of unions. Many states provide for the settling of disagreements between employer and nonunion employees through grievance procedures. Also, many states distinguish between public and private employees and provide a different method of settling grievances for each.
For private employers, many states allow the written language of the grievance procedure agreement to be controlling, similar to a contract; for public employers, the statutory language of a proper grievance procedure is strictly followed. However, if the language in a private agreement is contradictory to an applicable law, the law controls. If the grievance procedure agreement is silent on an issue, the law controlling that issue in a grievance procedure will apply.
As an effective way to control legal costs and to stem the proliferation of employee lawsuits, many employers have taken an interest in the various methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to deal with employee grievances. Among the more common forms of ADR are mediation and arbitration. Grievance procedure agreements involving ADR do not preclude an action in a court of law, but the agreements are helpful in avoiding litigation, especially attorney's fees. Both employers and employees benefit from grievance procedure agreements, as they are a fair and objective way to settle agreements without getting the courts involved, and they may help avoid the creation of unions.