HR: Employee Handbook: Grievances and Appeals: Trust Fund

SSH 1200 Tr. 12
1st ed. 5/2/88


This chapter outlines the procedures to be followed by Trust Fund employees when appealing a disciplinary or adverse action, or when filing a grievance over a matter of personal concern or dissatisfaction which is subject to the control of the Smithsonian.

The provisions of this chapter do not apply to the following:

  • matters which are subject to review through negotiated grievance procedures or established procedures
  • a grievance which, if favorably acted upon, would not give relief to the grieving employee
  • a charge of discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or physical or mental handicap, which should be processed under the Smithsonian's equal employment opportunity complaint procedures (See SSH 1300)
  • separation of temporary and probationary employees
  • the content of published Smithsonian policy
  • nonselection for promotion from a group of properly certified candidates or failure to receive a noncompetitive promotion
  • the amount of a merit salary increase or the lack of a merit salary increase
  • the substance of the critical elements and performance standards of an employee's position
  • classification appeals (See chapter 511)

An appeal is a written request for review of a decision to suspend, furlough, demote or remove the employee.

Days are calendar days.

A fact finder is an individual appointed, when appropriate, to ascertain the circumstances concerning a grievance or appeal. A fact finder may be an employee of the Smithsonian or an individual not associated with the Institution. A fact finder may not be directly under the jurisdiction of the reviewing official.

A grievance is a request for review of a practice, condition, or occurrence including a letter of caution or reprimand, which is a matter of personal concern or dissatisfaction to the employee.

A personnel specialist is the individual in the Personnel Office or in the SAO personnel department assigned to perform the operating personnel functions for particular subdivisions within the Institution.

A reviewing official is the management official designated to make the final decision on an appeal or at the second step of a grievance. The reviewing official is normally at a higher level organizationally than the official who decided the adverse action or the first step of the grievance.


A grievance or appeal will be processed upon request unless it is determined that it is not appropriate for review under the procedures of this chapter or that it was not filed within the time limit.

The employee may choose one willing representative to advise and to assist in preparing and presenting a grievance or appeal. A person who would have a conflict of interest, as determined by the Director of Personnel, may not represent an employee.

A reasonable amount of official time for preparing a grievance or appeal, not to exceed 8 hours, may be approved for the employee and for a representative who is a Smithsonian employee.

The Smithsonian does not assume liability for expenses incurred by employees or their representatives in the exercise of their rights described in this chapter.

Employees desiring advice or assistance with regard to their rights and procedures may contact their personnel specialist.

A grievance or appeal may be cancelled by management if the employee fails to pursue it within established time frames or does not furnish required information. Cancellation may also occur upon separation of the employee from the rolls unless corrective action or requested relief can be granted after the separation. A grievance or appeal will be cancelled on the death of the employee, unless the adjustment sought involves a matter of payment to the employee's beneficiaries or estate.

The Director of Personnel, after consultation with appropriate SI officials, is authorized to cancel any action, when it is found that significant errors have occurred or that substantial inequities resulted from the action. The employee will be notified in writing of the cancellation.


Grievances and appeals will be reviewed and considered according to the procedures outlined in this section.

First-Step Grievances

  1. The employee will discuss the grievance, normally with the immediate supervisor, within 20 days of the occurrence prompting the grievance or the date the employee becomes aware of the occurrence. A grievance concerning a continuing practice or condition may be initiated at any time. The employee must specify all the matters causing dissatisfaction, describe the relief sought, and state that the discussion constitutes the first step of the grievance procedure.
  2. The Supervisor, upon learning of the grievance, will notify the personnel specialist. After determining that it is timely and proper, the supervisor will consider the grievance. If it concerns a matter which should be considered by another office or official, the supervisor will refer the grievance to the appropriate official for first step processing.
  3. Within 10 days after discussing the grievance with the employee, the supervisor (or other official considering the grievance) will provide the grievant with an oral decision and with the name of the reviewing official who will receive the second step grievance if the first-step decision is unsatisfactory to the grievant. The official considering the grievance will prepare a record of the grievance, discussion and decision.

Second-Step Grievances and Appeals

  1. Employees Responsibility. Not later than 10 days after receiving a first grievance decision, or after the effective date of an adverse or disciplinary action, the employee may submit a written grievance or an appeal to the reviewing official. The submission must be in writing, be identified as a second step grievance or as an appeal, specify the basis of appeal or nature of the dissatisfaction, and state the relief or corrective action sought.
  2. Reviewing Official's Responsibility. Upon receipt of the second-step grievance or appeal, the reviewing official will notify the personnel specialist. The reviewing official will consider the grievance or appeal if it is timely and proper.

The reviewing official may request the Director of Personnel to appoint a fact finder for the purpose of developing information for the review. If the fact finder considers it essential, a hearing may be held for the sole purpose of developing facts. The findings and recommendations of the fact finder will be submitted to the reviewing official within 30 days of the fact finder's appointment. Costs of the fact finder will be borne by the grievant's organizational unit.

The reviewing official will consider all material submitted, including material provided by a fact finder, if applicable. The reviewing official may, but need not, adopt the recommendations of the fact finder, if any. Within 10 days after receipt of the request for review or after receipt of a fact finder's report, the reviewing official will provide the grievant with a final written decision.


An employee who has received an appeal decision sustaining a removal action may request that the Director of Personnel review the decision, provided the employee demonstrates that the decision was manifestly unjust or made without following the Institution's established procedures. The request must be submitted to the Director of Personnel within 10 days after receipt of the decision from the reviewing official. Also, the Director of Personnel may initiate a review of any personnel action, removal or otherwise, if such a review is considered to be in the best interest of the Institution.

  • Should the Director of Personnel believe such a review to be necessary, the Director may conduct the review alone or convene a panel of no less than 3 persons, usually including a representative of the activity in which the action under review was taken, and a representative of the Management Committee member responsible for the activity.
  • The panel or the Director will review all pertinent documents and may accept additional materials orally or in writing. The panel or Director may affirm the action, in which case the decision is final; or a recommendation may be made to the Under Secretary that the action be modified or cancelled. In the latter case, the decision of the Under Secretary is final.
  • The panel's or the Director's decision affirming the action will be in writing. If a recommendation is made to the Under Secretary, it need not be in writing. The Under Secretary's decision will be in writing.


Records (including those of SAO) relating to grievances and appeals will be forwarded to the Personnel Office for maintenance and disposition.

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