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 arbitration or mediation. 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.
Grievance procedure agreements do not necessarily preclude an action in a court of law, but the agreements are helpful in avoiding litigation, including costs such as attorneys' 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. The general methods of settling grievances are mediation and arbitration.