Sometimes there is an irreconcilable clash of interests or positions. When this occurs, formal conflict resolution procedures are useful. A decision by a peer panel can accomplish what interest-based discussion cannot. Formal processes include a fair hearing by a panel of peers, a final University decision by the Senior Vice President and Provost, and the option of a binding decision in arbitration. These constitute a three-step sequential process. The formal process begins with a written petition (download PDF).
For more information about each category below, please refer to the procedures outlined on the University Policy Library web site.
A peer hearing is designed to be a fundamentally fair hearing. Its purpose is to have a three-person panel of peers listen to the facts and arguments presented by the petitioner and the respondent and decide the dispute. The decision of the peer panel is forwarded to the Senior Vice President and Provost for final University action.
The Senior Vice President and Provost has full discretion to accept, modify, or reject the panel decision. Based on the panel’s report, the Provost will make a final University decision on the challenged action.
Arbitration provides an opportunity for the parties to engage voluntarily in binding arbitration of the dispute. To proceed to arbitration, the petitioner must agree to waive and release all rights to pursue substantially the same claim in any other forum, including the right to seek certiorari review at the Court of Appeals.
Formal conflict resolution services are available for some, but not all, workplace disputes. To access the formal process, a University employee must be a non-bargaining unit employee or faculty emeritus and identify a specific University rule, regulation, policy, or practice pertaining to employment alleged to have been violated. In addition, the employee must comply with the time limits described below and be within the covered subject matter.
Formal conflict resolution processes are governed by time limits. A University employee must submit the issue to the Office for Conflict Resolution within six weeks of the 1) occurrence of the action being challenged or 2) notice of the action being challenged, whichever is later. Once submitted, all disputes will initially be processed using informal conflict resolution processes. However, when these are unsuccessful, only those disputes that have been initially submitted to the Office for Conflict Resolution within the six-week time limit will be eligible to proceed to the formal conflict resolution processes. After a two-month period in the informal processes, office staff will ask eligible employees to complete a written petition (download PDF) if they intend to proceed to the formal process.
Certain employment claims against the University must be pursued through the University conflict resolution process prior to seeking review by a court. For these claims, if a petitioner withdraws from the conflict resolution process or fails to file a timely petition, the petitioner may forfeit the opportunity to have a court review the claim. For other employment claims, a statute may provide a remedy directly through the courts. An employee is welcome to include in a petition all claims that are covered by the conflict resolution policy, but if an employee chooses not to, the employee is responsible for determining the impact on the opportunity for court review.
Statutory claims of discrimination in employment can be taken directly to administrative agencies—for example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights or, where appropriate, to court—without first going through the conflict resolution process.
If a petitioner disagrees with the University’s decision at the conclusion of the peer hearing of the conflict resolution process, there is a right to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals by a “writ of certiorari.” The statute that describes the right of certiorari review is Chapter 606 of Minnesota Statutes. The timelines for seeking certiorari review are set by that statute. A petitioner may wish to consult a lawyer regarding certiorari review.
Rather than seek certiorari review by the Court of Appeals at the end of a peer hearing, a petitioner can instead choose to enter into an agreement with the University to submit the claim to binding arbitration (arbitration of the conflict resolution procedure). To proceed to binding arbitration, a petitioner abandons rights to pursue substantially the same claims in any other forum, including the right to seek certiorari review at the Court of Appeals. An arbitration decision is binding on both parties. Arbitration is subject to the provisions of Minnesota’s Uniform Arbitration Act, found at Chapter 572 of Minnesota Statutes.