The Foothill-De Anza Community College District

Grievance Process - Conciliation


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Initial Contact

Historically, FA and the District have been able to resolve over 90 percent of potential faculty grievances at the conciliation step in the grievance process. Experienced FA-appointed campus conciliators work confidentially with grievants and their managers to re-open closed communication channels, define contractual problem areas, explore compromise solutions, and work with the parties to design their own solutions to contractual problems.

Foothill College

De Anza College

karen erickson

Karen Erickson
(650) 949-7413

Anne Argyriou
(408) 864-5340

FA conciliators are contract experts who will immediately answer most contract questions from either faculty or management (the deans with the fewest grievances in their divisions are often the deans who talk to their campus conciliator before acting), or will research your question and get back to you later.

Conciliation Steps

Here is a chronological outline of a typical conciliation effort.

  1. Judy, a District faculty member, contacts her campus conciliator by phone or email. The conciliator discusses Judy's issues with her and makes an initial assessment of whether the issues involve terms of the Agreement. If Judy simply wants information, the conciliator answers or researches her contractual questions.
  2. If Judy's issues are not contractual, the conciliator works with Judy to refer her to the proper resource.
  3. If the problem is contractual, the conciliator first determines Judy's "discovery" date that fixes the 50-school-day grievance filing deadline. All conciliation efforts must occur before the filing deadline. If the deadline is imminent, the conciliator may ask the District to extend the deadline; the District normally complies with reasonable requests.
  4. Contractual problems broadly fall into one of three categories:
    1. The Board has clearly followed the terms of the Agreement.
    2. The Board has clearly violated, misinterpreted or misapplied one or more terms of the Agreement.
    3. It's not clear whether the Board has, or has not, committed a VMM.

The first two categories are normally easy to resolve. If the Board has behaved correctly, there is no VMM and therefore there is nothing to grieve. If the Board clearly committed a VMM, it is normally sufficient for the FA to explain the contract issues to the dean, or failing that, to the dean's supervisor. The third category, unclear cases, is the difficult one. The rest of this outline is devoted to that category.

  1. If it is unclear whether the Board has committed a VMM in Judy's situation, the conciliator then determines whether Judy has made a good faith effort to resolve the problem directly with her dean. This step must take place before further conciliation steps.
  2. If Judy has made an effort to resolve the conflict directly with her dean, the conciliator outlines the conciliation process to Judy and asks her for permission to speak directly with her dean and/or others involved in the conflict to hear all perspectives. If Judy does not give her permission, then further conciliation is typically fruitless.
  3. The conciliator contacts the dean and others to hear their perspectives. At this point the conciliator should have a solid grasp of the contractual issues involved.
  4. The conciliator then typically arranges for all the parties involved to meet face-to-face. At this meeting(s) the conciliator attempts to clarify the contractual issues, helps the parties see the situation from the other's perspective, and assists the parties to formulate a solution themselves. This process typically works if all parties work hard on attacking the problem instead of each other (a cliché, but an apt one).
  5. If Judy and her dean do find a solution that is consistent with the terms of the Agreement, the conciliator may write a summary of the understanding and asks them both to either correct or agree to the summary, and this settles the matter.
  6. If the parties cannot reach agreement on how to resolve Judy's contractual issues before the filing deadline, then Judy has two options:
    1. She can permanently abandon her grievance, or
    2. She can file a formal Notice of Grievance; the filing convenes an Internal Review Hearing.


All discussions and correspondence between faculty members and campus conciliators are strictly confidential. Discussions and actions during conciliation meetings are not only confidential, they are also contractually protected; evidence of such discussions and actions cannot be used by either party in subsequent Internal Review Hearings or Arbitration Hearings (see Article 5.1.3). This protection is intended to encourage honest (and sometimes heated) dialogue between the parties in order to get all relevant issues out on the table for discussion.

The Conciliator's Role

A campus conciliator's most important role is advocate for the Agreement. As a representative of the Faculty Association, the conciliator is of course keenly interested in advancing the interests of faculty members over management interests. But unlike lawyers who are bound to defend their client regardless of their guilt or innocence, the campus conciliators are bound to uphold the terms of the Agreement. This makes perfect sense: the Agreement represents literally thousands of hours of exasperating and meticulous effort by the FA and District to bargain equitable working conditions, compensation and procedures for changing job status for all District faculty members. It would be foolhardy for an FA representative to either advocate or allow a single union member to violate the terms of the Association's and District's hard-won Agreement.

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FHDA Faculty Association
Last Update: June 24, 2016