The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Number of employee complaints rises after policy wording is loosened

Uptick follows change in policy

At the Wednesday meeting of the Employee Forum, members addressed a change to a University policy that added intimidation and bullying as grounds for submitting a complaint.

The delegates said there has been a noticeable increase in the number of complaints since the amendment’s passage. But they said they aren’t sure the change to the policy’s language was the spark.

“You have to look at the context of the situation,” said Wayne Blair, the University’s ombudsman.

“We added intimidation to the policy and intimidation leaves a bit of a gray area when it comes to complaints,” he added.

The changes were revisited at the forum’s Wednesday meeting during which the University’s human resources department addressed whether the policy change was being abused by employees.

“I said in the meeting that I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of filings had come up and HR did indeed confirm that and acknowledged what I believe they said was a significant rise,” said Blair, who, like many delegates, was unsure of when the change occurred.

“We felt that people were using these formal processes to deal with informal problems. They were either defending themselves in the workplace or bringing another employee down.”

James Holman, housekeeper and Employee Forum delegate, said he doesn’t know many details about the complaint policy’s original change, but he has noticed that a few arguments led to official complaints that might not have been pursued before the grounds for complaints changed.

“I know of a couple of incidents where a verbal disagreement led to an employee being fired, but then was re-hired,” Holman said.

Blair also said the change to the complaint policy confused several employees.

“After the policy changed we got several employees come in and they hadn’t read the language so we had to sit with them and go through the policy changes each time,” Blair said.

“We would go question by question with them and make sure their situation qualified as a complaint.”

Gena Carter, senior director for employee and management relations in the Office of Human Resources, said the reason for complaint growth could not be generalized.

Though she added that the policy change might have combined with the stress of an economic downturn to bring about the uptick in complaints.

“We can’t speak with any certainty about why individual employees may decide to file a complaint” Carter said.

“However, when we look at what’s going on in our world today, such as budgetary uncertainties and job and family stressors, we believe these may be factors associated with the increase.”

Contact the University Editor at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Women's Tennis Victory Paper