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Responding to an Employee Grievance

In: Business and Management

Submitted By baptist7
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Responding to an Employee Grievance:
As you know, company policy requires that employees smile at customers and make eye contact with them. In the past nine months, 12 employees have filed grievances over this rule. They say they are being harassed by customers who think they are flirting with them. A produce clerk claims customers have propositioned her and followed her to her car. Another says, “Let me decide who I am going to say hello to with a big smile.” The union wants us to change the policy to let workers not make eye contact with customers, and to allow workers to refuse to carry groceries to a customer’s car at night. My own feeling is that we want to maintain our image as a friendly store that cares about customers, but that we also don’t want to require behavior that leads to harassment. Let’s find a creative solution.
As you know, company policy requires that employees smile at customers and make eye contact with them. In the past nine months, 12 employees have filed grievances over this rule. They say they are being harassed by customers who think they are flirting with them. A produce clerk claims customers have propositioned her and followed her to her car. Another says, “Let me decide who I am going to say hello to with a big smile.” The union wants us to change the policy to let workers not make eye contact with customers, and to allow workers to refuse to carry groceries to a customer’s car at night. My own feeling is that we want to maintain our image as a friendly store that cares about customers, but that we also don’t want to require behavior that leads to harassment. Let’s find a creative solution.
Assume that your small group comprises the Labor-Management committee at the headquarters of a chain of grocery stores. This email arrives from the Vice President for Human Resources:

As the week progresses share your thoughts with your fellow team members. Cooperatively establish a method to get a single team report prepared and submitted by Sunday night.
Write a group response recommending whether to change the policy and supporting your recommendation.

Type: Problematic Request
Purpose: Persuade VP for HR that we have found a workable solution that he should use.
Audience: VR for HR
Goal: Provide a solution and justification.
I. Problem/Recommendation: Intro
* Rule says all employees must smile and make eye contact w/ customers.
* Female employees say this encourages inappropriate behavior, and leads to them feeling unsafe.
* Also say that some male customers, after getting smiled at, want female to carry his groceries to car, and acts inappropriately.
With all this in mind, our committee recommends:
* Modifying the bargaining unit agreement to make eye contact with customers optional, and
* Allowing employees to request a manager appoint an alternate to carry groceries for a customer if the employees feel unsafe or uncomfortable with the customer.

II. Pros and Cons/Discussion: Body
* Management says that greeting customers and acting courteously cannot be optional.
* Management does not specifically say eye contact cannot be optional, and they do not specifically require that a particular employee be compelled to carry a customer’s groceries, simply because the customer requests it.
* Union suggested that it would be possible to compromise in the following way:
* Affirm that greeting and courtesy are mandatory,
* Make eye contact optional, and
* Allow in some way for employees to refuse to accompany a customer to the parking lot if he/she feels uncomfortable or unsafe.
III. Conclusion
Our committee strongly feels that the compromises outlined above protect the profitability of the company, while also protecting the safety and well-being of our bargaining unit employees. With this in mind we recommend that these new policies be incorporated into the collective bargaining unit agreement.

Date: August 9, 2012
To: Vice President for Human Resources, Union President for Local 397
From: Jean and Killeen, on behalf of Labor-Management Committee at Joe’s Groceries
Re: Committee Recommendation for Modification of Collective Bargaining Unit Agreement
The Problem
As you are aware, there has been some controversy lately concerning 12 similar grievances filed by bargaining unit members of Local 397 at Joe’s Groceries. The Labor-Management Committee was tasked with evaluating the merits of these grievances, and with innovating a creative solution to the related problems they address.
It is now the committee’s assessment that the main related issues in these 12 grievances appear to be the following:
* Current rules state that all employees must smile and make eye contact with customers.
* The majority of the grievant feel that this encourages inappropriate behavior on the part of some customers, and that this sometimes leads to unwelcome advances or predatory behavior.
* Several female grievant who work as baggers stated that their greatest area of concern is a scenario in which they smile at a customer and make eye contact, the customer interprets this as a romantic or sexual overture, and the customer then behaves inappropriately or threateningly when the female bagger helps carry the customer’s groceries to his/her car.
Proposed Solution
The Shop Stewards from Local 397 have consulted with these 12 aggrieved individuals, and with other members of the bargaining unit. As a result, the Stewards suggested to us that eye contact from employee to customer be made optional, while still keeping in place the mandatory requirement for friendly smiling and greeting. In response to the Stewards’ suggestion, the committee:
* Wholeheartedly endorses their proposed solution,
* Recommends that managers-on-duty be obligated to politely intervene and discretely arrange an alternate for any employee who states that she/he feels uncomfortable accompanying a customer to his/her car, and
* Recommends that the Employee Handbook and the Collective Bargaining Unit Agreement be modified accordingly.
Rationale
It is our assessment that these concerns appear to be genuine, and that the current policies concerning mandatory eye-contact are:
* Exposing the female employees—most especially the female baggers—to an unacceptable level of potential danger, and
* Exposing the company to an unacceptable level of potential civil liability.
Conclusion
It is the committee’s belief that the proposed solution would protect both the safety of the concerned employees and the financial solvency of the company. We respectfully urge you to adopt the recommended course of action at your earliest convenience.

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