The GEO Contract sets the terms and conditions for the employment of GSIs and GSSAs at the University of Michigan. In general, employing departments do a good job of following the contract and living up to the agreement that the administration made. From time to time, however, mistakes are made and the grievance procedure must used to ensure that grad employee rights are protected.

The full grievance procedure is found in Article XIV of the GEO Contract. Below is an overview meant to provide an introduction to grievances and the grievance procedure.

If you believe you may have a grievance or that the GEO Contract is not being followed in your department, contact GEO immediately. For matters relating to contract enforcement, either email the Grievance Committee directly at

You can also submit a grievance online using our Grievance Form.


A grievance is a dispute between an employer and an employee regarding the agreed upon terms and conditions of employment. The Grievance Procedure outlined in the GEO contract is a multi-step procedure that employees may use to resolve these disputes. The procedure is designed to achieve informal resolution if possible, but it also allows the employee to escalate all the way to binding third-party arbitration. You have the right to have a GEO representative present at any meeting related to a grievance.

GEO uses a volunteer based approach to resolving member grievances. When a grievance proceeds beyond the first, informal step, a volunteer from the GEO Grievance Committee will be assigned. The Grievance Committee member will work with the grievant to make a plan to resolve the situation. This may involve writing letters, attending hearings, or working with other grads in and out of the hiring unit to create pressure to encourage the hiring unit to change its behavior. Legally, once a grievance has been filed it becomes the property of the union. In practice, GEO almost always defers to the grievant in determining when and how the grievance should be considered to be resolved.

Steps of the Grievance Procedure

The GEO Grievance procedure has four steps. A grievance may be withdrawn or resolved at any step. See Article XIV of the GEO Contract for more specific guidelines and timelines.

Step 1 – Informal resolution

At Step 1 you seek informal resolution of the grievance by talking to your supervisor about possible solutions. At this stage you may or may not refer to the dispute as a grievance, and may or may not be in contact with the grievance committee. You have 40 days from having knowledge of the facts giving rise to the grievance to begin Step 1. Step 1 ends either when you consider the grievance to be resolved or when you inform your supervisor that their final suggested resolution is unacceptable.

Step 2 – Departmental Hearing

At Step 2 you work with a representative of the Grievance Committee to write a letter articulating the specific grievance and to argue for your preferred resolution at a meeting with the hiring unit’s executive officer. Step 2 is initiated when GEO, acting on your behalf, sends a letter to the department requesting a meeting. This letter must be sent within 20 days of the end of step 1. Once the department has received the letter, it has 14 days to schedule a meeting. The department must then inform GEO of its ruling within 14 days of the hearing.

Step 3 – University Hearing

Should the hiring unit’s answer at Step 2 be unsatisfactory, we have the opportunity of escalating to the university level and having the grievance heard by U-M’s division of Academic Human Resources. Step 3 is initiated when GEO sends a Step 3 letter to Academic Human Resources. This letter must be sent within 15 days of receiving the unsatisfactory Step 2 response. Once Academic Human Resources has received our letter, they have 14 days to schedule a meeting. Academic Human Resources will inform GEO of its ruling within 30 days of the university hearing.

Step 4 – Impartial Arbitration

From time to time, GEO will use impartial arbitration to dispute the grievance determinations made by Academic Human Resources. The process is fairly costly and time consuming, so the authority to decide to take a case to arbitration is reserved for GEO’s Steward’s Council. Typically, GEO will only pursue arbitration if we are confident that the case is winnable and persuaded that arbitration is the only way to correct a significant harm.


Many of the situations that negatively affect graduate students cannot be grieved using the GEO Grievance Procedure. The most common reason for a problem not to be grievable is that it is unconnected to employment. For example, even though a GSI must also be a graduate student, the GEO Grievance Procedure could not be used to resolve disputes having to do with the GSI’s evaluation as a student.

Another reason why a situation may not be grievable is that there may not be relevant contract language. For example, a graduate student may feel that it is unfair that another, less qualified grad student was hired for a teaching position and may wish to file a grievance. As things stand, however, nothing in the GEO contract requires employing departments to favor qualified candidates in hiring. This is something we could address by negotiating different hiring language in the contract, but until we do so there is no basis for a grievance.


The right to file a grievance is protected by law. This means that it is illegal to retaliate against employees for filing grievances. It also means that it is illegal for the University or its representatives to suggest to you that you should waive your right to file a grievance.

For more information

Contact the GEO Grievance Committee at