RESOLVING DISPUTES FORMALLY
As a staff member of the UN Secretariat or the separately administered fund, programme or entity, you can formally contest any administrative decision that you believe has impacted you negatively and which may have violated your employment rights. It is important to make informed decisions when pursuing this recourse: a staff member must be aware of the pertinent Staff Regulations and Rules and their rights and obligations thereunder. Not every administrative decision that might affect a staff member’s conditions of service negatively is unlawful.
There are several steps involved in formally contesting an administrative decision. Each step has deadlines unique to that step. A staff member who wants to use the formal appeal mechanisms should be aware, before they proceed, of the steps they need to take, the sequence of those steps, and the deadlines they must meet for each step. Both the UN Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) and the UN Appeals Tribunal (UNAT) have strict deadlines (time limits) for filing applications and appeals. There is also a time limit for requesting a Management Evaluation from the Administration relating to the decision the staff member is contesting.
A time limit is the time frame within which a request, application or appeal must be filed, with the last day of the time limit being in effect the deadline to file. Applications for extension of time limits for application (UNDT) and appeals (UNAT) can be submitted to the two Tribunals, but may be denied by the judge or judges. The deadline (time limit) for requesting a management evaluation cannot be extended. It is therefore very important for staff members to keep track of the time limits for filing for each stage of the formal system and to make sure they file before the effective deadline.
Staff members should note early on the date on which a contested decision was received, as this is the basis for calculating initial deadlines.
BEFORE YOU PROCEED
Before bringing a grievance to the formal component of the system, staff members are strongly encouraged to make every effort to resolve the dispute informally. Attempts at informal resolution are often more effective when begun as early as possible.
As part of the informal process, staff should become familiar with the rules and procedures related to the matter that causes their concern. Staff members are also encouraged to speak to their colleagues, supervisor, executive officer, or a manager they trust to get their feedback and advice on how they might be able to resolve the issue within their office or department.
At any time, the staff member may also contact the Ombudsman to seek assistance, and possible intervention.
Staff of the UN Secretariat or the separately administered funds, programmes or entities may seek legal assistance from the Office of Staff Legal Assistance. This office can provide advice and counsel during the informal process, as well as if the staff member decides to proceed with a formal action.
If a staff member is not satisfied with the results of the informal process of dispute resolution, they may then wish to use the formal method of resolving disputes.
THE MANAGEMENT EVALUATION
Before you file an application with the UNDT, in most cases, you must first request a management evaluation of the administrative decision you are contesting.
A management evaluation is not a required step if (a) the contested decision involves the imposition of a disciplinary or non-disciplinary measure pursuant to staff rule 10.2 following the completion of a disciplinary process, or (b) if the decision was taken based on the advice of technical bodies. In such cases, an application contesting an administrative decision can be made to the UNDT without first having to request a management evaluation.
The process of management evaluation is designed to give management a chance to correct an improper decision, and provide acceptable remedies in cases where the decision was improper. Where a decision was taken lawfully, management evaluation provides the staff member with a reasoned explanation as to why it was considered lawful. The management evaluation process will include a review of the request to determine whether informal resolution may be appropriate. For this purpose, the office conducting the evaluation may refer matters to the entity’s Ombudsman, or may try to facilitate a settlement of the matter itself with the staff member and the decision-making office.
The scope of the management evaluation extends to the evaluation of the contested administrative decisions against the staff member’s contract or terms of appointment, including all relevant regulations, rules and administrative issuances.
UN DISPUTE TRIBUNAL (UNDT)
The UNDT is the court UN system staff members apply to when they decide to challenge an administrative decision made by an entity over which the UNDT has jurisdiction and which the Applicant believes violates their rights as a staff member. The UNDT first became operational in 2009, as part of the new UN internal justice system which was created by the UN General Assembly at that time.
The UNDT is considered the UN internal justice system’s “first instance court” because it is the first of the UN internal justice system’s two courts staff members and former staff members can apply to. The UNAT is considered the “second instance” court.
Supported by a Registry in each of its three locations in New York, Geneva and Nairobi, the UNDT has a courtroom at each location, and operates on a full-time basis.
The UNDT conducts hearings, issues orders and renders binding judgments, all relating to the administrative decision being challenged by the Applicant. Both parties, the Applicant, and the Respondent (Administration) have the right to appeal a UNDT judgment to the UN Appeals Tribunal.
Before the UNDT will consider a case, a management evaluation must be first requested by the applicant unless one is not required (see Management Evaluation).
UN APPEALS TRIBUNAL (UNAT)
The UNAT, established in 2009 by the General Assembly as part of the UN’s internal justice system, serves as the second level (appellate) review tribunal within the system. UNAT reviews appeals against judgments rendered by UNDT, the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Dispute Tribunal (UNRWA DT), as well as appeals from decisions taken by the Standing Committee acting on behalf of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board (UNJSPB,) and by those organizations, agencies and entities that have accepted UNAT jurisdiction.
UNAT meets in session, usually three times a year, to render judgments at Winter, Spring and Fall sessions, which may be held in New York, Nairobi or Geneva, and at times at other locations.
UNAT is supported by a Registry in New York.