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. These types of agreements are not for the exclusive use of unions, however. Many states provide for the settling of disagreements between employer and nonunion employee through arbitration or mediation. Also, many state laws distinguish between public and private employers 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 grievance procedures will apply. Both employers and employees can benefit from grievance procedure agreements, as they are a fair and objective way to settle agreements without involving the courts.
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. In cases for which it applies, the Federal Arbitration Act preempts contrary state laws that limit or bar agreements to arbitrate.