A grievance is a complaint by an employee or a group of employees about an alleged violation, misinterpretation, or inequitable application of a union contract or, in a nonunion environment, any personnel policies, rules, or regulations. A grievance procedure is a way of attempting to solve such disputes.
In a unionized workplace, the handling of employee grievances is regulated by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. 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 contradicts an applicable law, the law controls. If the grievance procedure agreement is silent on an issue, the law controlling that issue 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). Among the more common forms of ADR are mediation and arbitration. Many states have arbitration and/or mediation statutes. Both employers and employees benefit from ADR agreements, as they are a fair and objective way to settle agreements without getting the courts involved.