Internal Grievance Procedures May Minimize Costly Lawsuits

Over the last fifty years, non-Union employers have increasingly adopted formal internal grievance procedures. Having an internal grievance procedure in place is a good idea because it allows the employer an opportunity to address employee concerns internally and creates a fair process for employees to address their concerns. Addressing matters through an internal process may also prevent or minimize costly lawsuits.

The key to a successful internal grievance process is to ensure that all employees are aware of the procedure once it is adopted.

For example, in Hatkoff v. Portland Adventist Med. Ctr., 252 Or. App. 210, 287 P.3d 1113 (2012), an employee signed a form that acknowledged receipt of the employer's internal procedure; the employee also acknowledged that he was required to follow said procedure. The Court dismissed the employee's lawsuit for failing to follow the internal procedure. The Court held that because the employee was expressly informed, the employer's policy was not procedurally unconscionable and the internal procedure was therefore enforceable.

The Hatkoff case is significant because it established that in Oregon, a court may enforce an employer's internal grievance procedure and dismiss the employee's civil case if the employee is expressly informed of the internal grievance procedure in advance and fails to exhaust the internal grievance procedure before filing a lawsuit.

Gordon L. Osaka, Attorney at Law, P.C. has 40+ years of experience drafting internal grievance procedures for employers. Contact us if you need assistance preparing one.