A common form of self‐advocacy is the process of filing a grievance against an individual or organization. If a grievance must be filed, it is important to do it in writing and to describe the facts of your complaint directly and clearly.

DRVT Grievance Policy

Every person having contact with Disability Rights Vermont (DRVT) deserves to be treated with professionalism and respect. It is our responsibility to ensure that they receive the services which they expect and which we are able to supply, to the best standards of an advocacy organization. Meeting this responsibility means that staff must communicate clearly with prospective clients about our federal law restrictions and our client eligibility guidelines under the priorities established by the Board of Directors.

Part I

It is the policy of DRVT that part of respect for our clients, family members, and others, includes ensuring an opportunity to be heard if they believe they were not treated properly; whether they believe they were unfairly denied services; the services were inadequate; or they were not treated professionally. Clients and interested individuals, including family members, need an avenue, as well, to express opinions of DRVT’s handling of systems issues. The complaint information is given to all clients when a case is opened. Additionally, if staff becomes aware of dissatisfaction at any time, they should remind the individual, whether a client or not, of the grievance policy. All individuals who express dissatisfaction for denial of service, or regarding referrals, or with DRVT handling of systems issues should be informed of the process.

Staff and clients are encouraged to try to resolve misunderstandings informally, but staff also need to remember that many clients may be intimidated about making complaints and need reassurance that going ahead with a complaint is encouraged and will not result in any retribution.

The grievance may be filed using the DRVT form, any other signed written material, or by phone. If a client calls and makes a request to file their grievance by phone, then their call should be given to the Supervising Attorney. However, if the complaint involves the Supervising Attorney, then it should be referred to the Executive Director. If the complaint is taken over the phone, it needs to be read back for accuracy and then sent to the client to sign and mail back in. A self-addressed, stamped envelope will be provided for the client’s convenience.

If possible, the complaint should be filed within two months of the problem, however, this can be waived for any reasonable cause. Clients should be reminded that the longer they wait, the more difficult it may become to re-establish facts of a case. All clients should be encouraged to find a personal advocate unrelated to DRVT to assist them in the grievance process.

Grievances are to be turned in directly to the Executive Director.  The grievant shall receive an acknowledgment within a week, along with the time frame expected to investigate it.  Investigation should be completed within a month. The client should be regularly informed as to progress. The grievant has the right to be directly interviewed and can have a support person (advocate, friend, family member) with them. A grievant may also choose not to be interviewed, though they should be reminded that it will be more difficult to give a fair assessment without their personal explanation. The handling of the details of investigations is up to the managerial discretion of the Executive Director, subject to the appeal process. The determination made must be in writing.

The grievance result may be appealed for any reason within a month after receiving the decision, by giving oral or written notice to the Executive Director. Appeals are examined by the Budget & Finance Committee of the Board of Directors. The Committee acts within its own discretion on details of processing an appeal, but usually witnesses and appellant are re-interviewed. The appeals process is expected to be completed within a month, with a written reply to the appellant. The Executive Director shall keep the appellant informed of the Committee's progress.

Any allegations of a conflict of interest shall be referred to the Executive Committee.

Violations of the Grievance Policy shall be considered under the same guidelines as established in the policy on violations of policy.

Part II

If, at any time prior to or upon the filing of a grievance it becomes evident that the complaint involves an allegation of abuse (physical, sexual, psychological or emotional) by staff, the normal process shall be suspended. A staff person hearing of such a complaint shall not attempt informal resolution, but rather will strongly advise the client to seek an independent advocate to assist them in filing a complaint. The Executive Director shall be immediately notified, and he/she shall inform the Executive Committee.

When the complaint is received the Executive Director will immediately turn the investigation over to the DRVT pre-established independent investigator. Other than the Executive Director's responsibility for locating, retaining and supervising the investigator, no DRVT staff or volunteers shall be involved in the investigation, unless contacted as witnesses. The Executive Director will ensure that the investigator maintains contact with the grievant on the progress of the investigation.

An appeal will follow the same process with the Personnel Committee as in any other case.

Click here to download the DRVT Grievance Form (pdf format)