Know Your Contract – Grievances

08 Aug Know Your Contract – Grievances


  • Grievances are a formal way to seek redress when the university violates the contract.
  • UICUF can assist in securing informal resolutions where possible, but faculty should still be mindful of the 30-day deadline to file a grievance.
  • We recommend faculty consult with UICUF ASAP to assess and preserve your options.
  • UICUF will NOT file a grievance on your behalf without your consent.
  • This entry refers to Articles XVIII of the 2018-2022 NTT contract and TT contract
  • TAKE ACTION: Welcome new faculty to UIC, afternoon of August 21st. Sign up here.


Today, we’re talking about grievances, both as they are described in our contract, and as they work in reality. Grievances can be intimidating, especially if you are in a situation serious enough to potentially warrant one, but they are also an important mechanism for enforcing the contract and empowering members when informal efforts fail. The first thing to remember when you’re in such a situation is that you are not alone; your union is here to help.

UICUF strongly recommends that faculty consult with a union representative as soon as possible if they believe they have cause to file a grievance, or are unsure of how to proceed. Given the complexity of the grievance process, and the unique nature of each individual grievance, this segment should be used for reference only and should not be considered a substitute for professional assistance by your union. You can reach UICUF via your own college representative or via our general email address, if you prefer.  You can also feel free to contact Chief Steward Robert Johnston (History) at It is best to use a non-UIC email account for these communications.

What Exactly Is a Grievance?
In the context of our union contract, a grievance is a formal method for addressing contract violations. According to Article XVIII.A:

A grievance is defined as a complaint filed by an employee, a group of employees, or the Union alleging that the University breached a Section or Sections of this Agreement.”

As stated, faculty, or the union itself, can file a grievance. It should also be noted that faculty can file with or without the participation of the union, though UICUF does not recommend proceeding without professional support. The UI system also has its own grievance procedure, which may be pursued instead of, or in parallel to, a contract grievance.

What If I’m Uncertain Whether My Concerns Are Grievable? Can UICUF Still Help?
Yes! UICUF can offer assistance to members on a variety of issues, including ones that never rise to the level of filing a formal grievance. Indeed, a majority of requests for assistance that the union receives never result in a grievance being filed. The best thing to do if you have an issue you’re uncertain about is to contact UICUF as soon as you are able. This is both to help you assess your options, but also to ensure that your option to file a grievance is preserved against filing deadlines.

How Long Do I Have To File A Grievance?
According to Article XVIII.D, there is a 30-day deadline for filing a formal grievance from the time the issue/incident occurred, or from the time when it should reasonably have been discovered. This means its critically important that you consult with UICUF immediately if you think you have such an issue. While a formal grievance may not be the best way to proceed, if you wait too long, it may no longer be an option.

If I File A Grievance, How Long Will It Take To Be Resolved?
How quickly a grievance is resolved is highly variable. Some cases are settled almost immediately, but many more take months. In general, a grievance must be filed at Level 1–the  academic unit level. Appeals after that include Level 2 (Dean) and Level 3 (Provost/University Labor Relations). Level 4, the final level, involves an impartial third-party arbitrator.

As you might expect, all of this can take a lot of time and effort, which is one of many reasons our union seeks informal solutions where possible. When a formal grievance is necessary, however, it’s important to bear in mind that resolution may take considerable time.

What CANNOT Be Grieved (And What Else Can Be Done)?
There are a number of issues explicitly described in our contract which cannot be addressed through the grievance process. Most commonly, these include determinations of pay/raise amounts, unfavorable evaluations, decisions not to offer promotion/tenure, or the findings of academic freedom inquiries.

HOWEVER, the processes by which the above kinds of decisions were arrived at are indeed grievable. So, while you cannot grieve, say, the amount of your merit raise, you may be able to grieve an inappropriate decision-making process. In this example, that may be a failure to perform an annual evaluation necessary to determine merit increase. That would in fact be a violation of the contract.

What If I Just Need To Talk Something Out?
Even if a matter is not formally grievable, UICUF representatives are often able to offer suggestions or provide support in difficult or unjust professional circumstances. You should never hesitate to reach out!.


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