Client Grievance Procedure
It is the policy of the Advocacy Center (AC) to treat its clients and applicants with fairness and professionalism and to protect the confidential nature of all client information. Clients or applicants who believe they have not been fairly or professionally served by the AC, or who believe that their right to confidentiality has been breached, or who believe that the P&A system is out of compliance with the PAIMI Act, have the right to present their grievance for prompt consideration and resolution.
It is the policy of AC to notify all its clients and applicants that these grievance procedures exist: (1) at intake (2) at the time a retainer is signed by the client; (3) at the time of case closure and; (4) at any time it becomes clear the client or applicant is not satisfied with the service being provided; and (5) at the time a non-engagement letter is sent.
A client or applicant may present a grievance concerning a continuing practice or condition at any time. However, a grievance concerning a particular act or occurrence must be brought within thirty days after such act or occurrence. If a good reason is given for not bringing the grievance within the specified time limit, the agency may at its discretion extend this time limit.
Client - A client is anyone whose case has been accepted for representation by the Advocacy Center.
Applicant- An applicant is a person with a disability, his or her legal guardian or legal representative, or a senior in one of our contracting parishes who believes him or herself to be eligible for AC services and who has sought representation on a specific issue from the Center.
TYPES OF GRIEVANCES
Denial of Services
An applicant who has requested representation by the Advocacy Center and has been denied may grieve the denial of services.
Dissatisfaction with Client Representation/Services Provided
A client of the Advocacy Center may grieve a lack of fairness or professionalism in the handling of his or her case.
Dissatisfaction with PAIMI Program
Any person who believes the AC is not operating its PAIMI Program in conformance with the PAIMI Act may grieve.
Grievance Procedure for Denial of Services
Within thirty days of the denial of services, the applicant may request that the Executive Director conduct a review of his or her request for representation. This may be done in writing or communicated in any way that accommodates the applicant and is effective in communicating the complaint. The Executive Director will be the final arbitrator of grievances concerning representation. The Executive Director will issue a decision within ten (10) working days from receipt of a complaint. The Executive Director reports all such grievances to the Governing Board. The Governing Board, at that time, may ask to review the grievance(s).
Grievance Procedure for Dissatisfaction with Client Representation - Informal Procedure
Communication with Case Handler
The client should initially attempt to resolve any problem by communicating complaints to the person handling the case. This can happen through a face-to-face or phone discussion or by written communication.
Communication with Supervisor
If the discussion with the case handler does not result in a satisfactory resolution of the client’s complaint, the client should next ask to speak with, or write to, the case handler’s supervisor. For complaints about case handling, the appropriate supervisor is the Issue Group Leader of the group through which the case was assigned. If the supervisor was involved in the action or decision that is the subject of the complaint, or for any other reason feels s/he cannot objectively review the complaint, s/he shall either convene a panel as described below, or refer the complaint to his/her supervisor for review.
The supervisor will listen to the complaint, review the proceeding from the client point of view, review the case with the case handler, review the case file, and consult with the Director of Legal Services, if appropriate. The supervisor also has the option to convene a panel of three staff members who are not involved in the case for further review and advice on the way in which the complaint should be resolved. Following this review, the supervisor will respond to the client within ten (10) working days with a finding.
If the supervisor finds that there is merit to the client’s complaint, the supervisor will develop and present to the client a plan for resolving the client’s dissatisfaction. This may be done in person, by phone, by letter, or by alternative format.
If the client continues to be dissatisfied, he or she will be advised of further appeal rights, i.e., the right to file a formal grievance within ten (10) working days of receipt of the informal grievance decision.
Communication with Executive Director or Board
At no time during the informal grievance procedure should the client or staff communicate with the Executive Director or the Board of AC about the substance of the complaint. This is to ensure that the Executive Director and Board will not have been prejudiced about the complaint before it reaches the formal or appeal stage of the complaint process. If the complaint involves a staff person who is supervised by the Executive Director, the Executive Director will proceed as above; however, the formal complaint procedure will commence with appeal to the Board of Directors (see below).
Grievance Procedure for Dissatisfaction with Client Representation - Formal Procedure
If a grievance cannot be resolved informally, a client may present the grievance to the Executive Director under the formal procedure.
Content and Time Limits
The formal grievance must be in writing, must be presented within ten (10) working days of the informal finding, and clearly state why the client is dissatisfied and what needs to change in order for the client to be satisfied. In instances where the client cannot write, the formal grievance may be communicated in any manner that accommodates the client and is effective in communicating the complaint. Upon request, AC shall designate an uninvolved staff member to assist the complainant in communicating the complaint.
Rejection of Grievance
The Executive Director may reject the grievance if it was not filed within the time limits specified for filing.
Treatment of Grievance
The Executive Director will investigate the complaint, and inform the client in writing (or alternative format), of the decision and/or proposed resolution within ten (10) working days of the date of receipt of the appeal. The Executive Director's reply must notify the client of the right to file an appeal within ten (10) working days of the date the decision was received by the client.
Grievance Procedure for Dissatisfaction with PAIMI Program
The AC website contains a notification advising the general public that it may file a grievance based on dissatisfaction with the PAIMI Program. Such grievances will be communicated directly to the PAIMI Advisory Council. The Council will hold a hearing to review the source of the dissatisfaction. They will respond to the grievant within sixty (60) days. If the grievant remains dissatisfied, he or she may file a complaint with the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will review the complaint and issue a written response within sixty (60) days of receiving the complaint.
An appeals panel, consisting of three board members designated by the Legal Committee of the Board, shall be convened at a time and place mutually convenient for the client and the panel for the purpose of hearing the appeal. Appeal hearings may be conducted by telephone.
Conduct of the Hearing
The panel will consider all documents, testimony, and evidence related to the grievance, including statements of the complainant. Rules of evidence will not be strictly applied. The panel may exclude anyone from the hearing (including the complainant) for rebellious conduct or behavior that obstructs the hearing.
Parties may cross-examine witnesses who appear and testify.
The Panel may set guidelines and timelines for the grievance hearing process and will communicate those guidelines and timelines at the commencement of the hearing.
Decision of the Appeals Panel
The appeals panel will issue its decision within ten (10) working days of the hearing. The decision of the appeals panel is final.
REPORTS TO AC'S BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND PAIMI COUNCIL
The Executive Director, or his/her designee, will submit a report on client grievances to AC's Board of Directors and PAIMI Council at least once annually.