Policy 309 - Conflict Resolution
According to its Statement of Purpose, Santa Clara University is dedicated to a community enriched by men and women of diverse backgrounds, respectful of difference and enlivened by open dialogue, caring and just toward others, and committed to broad participation in achieving the common good.
Santa Clara University recognizes that valid differences of opinions and interests will arise within a vibrant and dynamic working community. It is the responsibility of every member of that community to strive for effective communication and responsible decision making and the resolution of conflicts or disputes with reason, conscience, and compassion.
The purpose of this policy is to provide individual staff members with a process for resolving work-related conflicts. The emphasis of the Conflict Resolution Process ("Process") is on early identification and resolution of disputes with fair consideration of both sides of a conflict. Conflict resolution is seen as a partnership designed to meet some individual and shared needs, result in mutual benefits, and strengthen the relationship.
For the purposes of this document the words conflict, dispute, problem, and complaint will be used interchangeably.
All regular and fixed-term staff members who have successfully completed the introductory evaluation period are eligible to utilize the process. Regular and fixed term staff members who have not successfully completed the introductory evaluation period may utilize the process through the Human Resources review level only. Faculty may choose to engage in this process in the event of a faculty/staff dispute. Students may be allowed to participate in the process in the event of a student/staff dispute. This policy does not apply to staff members of a bargaining unit represented by a union.
Conflict resolution addresses workplace problems, disputes, or complaints which claim a violation or misapplication of University policies, regularly followed practices, Statement of Purpose, Guiding Principles, or Fundamental Values.
Allegations or complaints of civil rights discrimination or related violations of public policy (e.g., whistleblowing) should be resolved according to processes specified by the University's policy on discrimination, discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment and other related compliance subjects (311) and also includes the option of access to neutral arbitration upon request of the staff member.
Individual attempts to resolve a conflict or dispute should begin within 15 calendar days of the decision, action, or event. Informal conflict resolution processes should begin within 45 calendar days of the event. Formal conflict resolution must be invoked within 90 calendar days of the event.
Information and Education
Conflict Resolution Resources (Informal Process)
All staff, faculty, and students within the University community shall have access to information and are expected to participate in education. Information and education resources are designed to equip individual members of the community with the skills to develop and maintain effective working relationships in which conflict is addressed and resolved reasonably, constructively, and for the common good. It is the responsibility of all persons to acquire and demonstrate needed conflict resolution skills in their daily work and interactions within the University community. Each member of the community is empowered and encouraged to deal with conflict resolution at the time of the conflict. Many times a small problem will be successfully resolved immediately, rather than allowing it to fester and grow, resulting in a much bigger issue. Persons in conflict are encouraged to use their own skills and campus resources creatively to resolve conflict in a mutually satisfying way.
Issues which are not successfully and satisfactorily resolved at the source may benefit from resources available for informal discussion between the parties. The value of using the following resources to informally resolve conflict is that the parties work in partnership to arrive at and agree upon a mutually acceptable resolution.
Peer counselors are trained individuals available to meet with someone involved in a conflict to assist him or her to clarify issues and identify options.
Facilitators are trained persons available to meet with both parties involved in a conflict. The role of the facilitator is to aid communication and to help parties discover areas of commonality. The facilitator does not suggest solutions to conflict. Solutions come from and are agreed upon by the parties in conflict.
Conflict Resolution Process (Formal Process)
Mediators are designated individuals trained to hear both parties in a conflict and to work with them to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. Mediators have the ability to propose solutions but no authority to implement them.
At this point it is re-emphasized that the goal of this policy is for conflict to be resolved by mutual agreement at the level requiring the least amount of outside intervention. When individual and informal efforts have been unsuccessful in resolving conflict, one or both of the parties may request the formal review process which relies on third parties to determine solutions:
An employee should first seek formal problem resolution with the supervisor. (Note: This does not preclude a supervisor from functioning informally as a counselor, facilitator or mediator if trained and requested to do so.) An employee should submit the request in writing, documenting the dispute, identifying which policies or practices, principles or values were believed to have been violated, any attempts to resolve the conflict and the results, and setting forth a proposed remedy. If the dispute specifically involves the supervisor, the employee should address the problem with the next higher level of management. Supervisors and managers are strongly encouraged to resolve disputes within the department. The supervisor or higher level manager will document the issue, investigate the dispute and steps taken to attempt to resolve the problem, and make a decision on the outcome. A written response will be presented to the employee within 20 calendar days of the supervisor's receipt of the written request.
Human Resources Review
When either of the parties believes the problem has not been resolved through the Supervisor Review, either may present the dispute to the appropriate Human Resources representative. The representative will notify the other party that a dispute has been filed. The appropriate Human Resources representative will review the written response from the prior step and facilitate further communication about the dispute between the involved parties. The Human Resources representative will investigate the problem and attempt to resolve the complaint. A written response to the dispute will be given to both parties by the Human Resources representative within 20 calendar days of the date the dispute was filed, unless additional time is needed in which case both parties will be informed of the expected date of response.
Conflict Resolution Panel Review
Decisions at the Human Resources Review level are final unless the conflict is one designated below as appropriate for panel level review:
Involuntary terminations (including layoff)
In the cases involving one of the above actions, if either party is not satisfied with the response at the Human Resources Review, he or she may submit the dispute, in writing, for review by the Conflict Resolution Review Panel. A panel level dispute resolution request must be filed within 10 calendar days after the parties receive the response from Human Resources.
A Conflict Resolution Review Panel will be convened to review the dispute within 20 calendar days after receipt of the written request for a Panel level resolution. If additional time is needed to convene the Panel, the days may be extended. Both parties to the dispute will be notified in writing of the resolution proceedings.
The person seeking resolution may select an individual from the University community to provide assistance, but not as legal counsel, during the proceedings. The complainant has the right to request information or seek information related to the dispute, other than confidential personnel files or other confidential information about another employee. The respondent also may select an individual from the University community to provide assistance, but not as legal counsel, during the proceedings. The respondent also may seek information related to the dispute.
Composition of the Conflict Resolution Review Panel
The Conflict Resolution Review Panel will consist of nine appointed staff members, three from each Vice-Presidential area. From each Vice-Presidential area one member is selected by the respective Vice President, one member is selected by the Staff Assembly, and one member is selected by the Chief Human Resources Officer. The panel appointment will be for staggered three year terms.
To convene a Panel for a particular dispute, the responsible Vice President will recommend five potential panelists from among the full membership of the Conflict Resolution Review Panel. Each person in conflict will strike one name from the list. The remaining three will constitute the Panel. Panel members will select a Recorder from among themselves who will prepare the Panel report.
In particular cases or because of potential conflicts of interest, the University reserves the right to vary the panel selection process set forth above with the agreement of the parties involved.
Conflict Resolution Review Panel Duties
The Conflict Resolution Review Panel will consider the written record from the prior steps, interview appropriate witnesses, and conduct an impartial review to determine the facts and the circumstances of the case. Tape recordings may be made of the witness statements. The Panel will make a recommendation within 10 calendar days from the date the Panel first convenes. If additional time is needed to complete the review, the days may be extended. Both parties will be notified of any extension.
All information obtained during a conflict resolution review and the final recommendations of the Panel are confidential. Only information required to satisfy the reporting and compliance provisions of this resolution procedure may be released.
The Panel report, containing specific facts and findings, the basis for the recommendation, and the recommendation, will be submitted to the Vice President responsible for the final disposition of the dispute. The Vice President will make a decision within 10 calendar days, unless additional time is needed.
When the Vice President has reached a decision on the Panel recommendation, the Panel Recorder will communicate this decision in writing to the parties in the dispute.
Guidelines for Panel Reviews
At all steps in the review of conflicts under this Policy, individuals should confine their considerations to the facts of the dispute and not to peripheral issues which are not material.
All reviews should be conducted in a timely manner and in accordance with standards of fairness but need not be burdened by the formalities of a judicial hearing.
No adverse action may be taken against the individual bringing the complaint in good faith, or against any persons who furnish him or her with any assistance solely because of their involvement in the complaint.
The decision of the Vice President is final and binding on both the University and the staff member, except that in cases of termination or layoff, the staff member may appeal the Vice President's decision to neutral arbitration (see below) by so advising the Chief Human Resources Officer in writing within thirty (30) days after receipt of the Vice President's decision. If the staff member does not appeal within thirty (30) days, the Vice President's decision with respect to a termination or layoff, the resolution by the Vice President is final and binding.
The staff member and the University will choose any arbitrator by mutual agreement. The arbitrator shall be a qualified professional labor/employment arbitrator. If the parties are unable to agree on the identity of the arbitrator, the staff member shall request a panel of names from JAMS-ENDISPUTE of Santa Clara County. The arbitrator shall be chosen from the given panel of names, by alternate striking of names, beginning with the University, until one arbitrator is left, who shall serve as arbitrator. The staff member and the University will execute a written stipulation designating the selected arbitrator to hear the dispute under the terms of this Policy. The arbitrator shall conduct hearings and issue a final and binding written decision, a copy of which will be delivered to the staff member and the University and/or their respective attorneys. The arbitrator will be authorized to award appropriate remedy under law as to the specific issues submitted; however, the arbitrator shall have no power to add to, subtract from, change, alter, or ignore the provisions of the Policy Manual or of any other University policy. The University shall be responsible for the professional fees of the arbitrator, unless the staff member objects, in which case the University and the staff member shall each be responsible for 5O% of the professional fees of the arbitrator.
Employees and supervisors are responsible for maintaining appropriate confidentiality and for participating in the conflict resolution process outlined in this Policy. It is the responsibility of Human Resources, the Conflict Resolution Review Panel, and the Vice Presidents to employ the means of resolution detailed in this Policy. Any dispute concerning procedures or standards under this Policy is to be resolved by the Chief Human Resources Officer. The University Compliance Officer is responsible for addressing issues of alleged civil rights discrimination (e.g., racial harassment, discriminatory harassment).
Contact Human Resources if you have questions about this policy or if you would like more information.
Policy Approved: October 23, 1998
Last Updated: October 28, 1998
Maintainer: Human Resources