NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS®

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NAR Professional Standards Procedures
Role of the Grievance Committee
Form and Function

Every Board should have a standing Grievance Committee.

A Grievance Committee is separate and apart from the Professional Standards
Committee, even though their activities are interrelated [Sections 15 and 38, Code of
Ethics and Arbitration Manual].

Members should be appointed for staggered terms (generally three years) by the
Board President, subject to confirmation by the Board of Directors.

Depending on a Board's Bylaws, the Chair may be selected annually by the
Committee Members or, alternatively, be appointed by the Board President, subject
to confirmation by the Board of Directors.

It is essential for the Grievance Committee and its functions not to be confused with
the Professional Standards Committee and its functions [Professional Standards
Training Guide and Sections 18 and 41, Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual].

The purpose of a Grievance Committee is to provide a preliminary review and
screening process.
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It is similar in function to a Grand Jury.
It assures that an ethics complaint or a request for arbitration is in the proper
form.
It does not conduct hearings and does not determine Code violations.
The Chair can appoint panels from the Grievance Committee to review specific
ethics complaints and arbitration requests.
Complaints Alleging Violations of the Code of Ethics

A complaint that a Code violation has occurred alleges a breach of duty owed to the
Board, to other Members, and to the public.

Anyone (whether or not a Board Member) may file an ethics complaint.

Members (as distinguished from the public) have a responsibility to ensure that
complaints filed are not frivolous or unsubstantiated.
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NAR Professional Standards Procedures

Complaints alleging unethical conduct on the part of a Board Member are received
by the Board secretary (or Board association executive) and referred to the Chair of
the Grievance Committee [Section 20, Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual].

The Grievance Committee prevents harassment of Board Members by reviewing
and dismissing unwarranted or frivolous complaints. An "unwarranted" or "frivolous"
complaint is a complaint that, even if true, would not constitute unethical conduct.

The Grievance Committee ensures that ethics complaints are in the proper form.
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Respondent is a REALTOR®, REALTOR-ASSOCIATE® or, under Board of
Choice, is an "MLS Only" Participant, including their users and subscribers.
A complaint is filed within 180 day time limit.
A complaint specifies an Article of the Code of Ethics and charges that it was
violated.
The conduct giving rise to the complaint is real estate-related. [Professional
Standards Policy Statement #29]

However, if a complaint taken as true on its face could constitute unethical conduct,
the Grievance Committee should not determine the truthfulness of the complaint.
Rather, the complaint should be referred for a hearing before a hearing panel of the
Board's Professional Standards Committee.

If a complaint is unclear, the Chair may assign one (or more) members of the
Grievance Committee to review the alleged violation. These individuals review the
complaint and make a report to the Grievance Committee.

If the complaint is from a member of the public and is vague, overly general, does
not allege violations of specific Articles, or is otherwise insufficient, the Chair of the
Grievance Committee may assign one or more members of the Committee to assist
the complainant with preparing a proper complaint. The Grievance Committee
member assigned does not participate in the Committee's deliberations and does not
become an "advocate" for the complainant.

A Grievance Committee may:
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dismiss the complaint as unworthy of further consideration
return the complaint to the complainant indicating that the matter should be
arbitrated rather than considered as a violation of the Code
send the complaint in its original form or as amended to the Board secretary (or
Board association executive) indicating that a hearing should be scheduled
before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Standards Committee
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NAR Professional Standards Procedures
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If the complaint can be seen as the basis for an arbitration hearing and an ethics
hearing, the two matters should be sorted out, and separate hearings must be
scheduled. An arbitration hearing is always held first, followed by the ethics hearing.
Different hearing panels must be used. It is essential that the Grievance Committee
be very careful when separating arbitrable matters from allegations of unethical
conduct.

If a Grievance Committee determines that an ethics complaint is unworthy of further
consideration, the complainant should be so advised by the Board secretary (or
Board association executive). The notice should clearly indicate the complainant's
right to have the dismissal reviewed by the Board of Directors. Only those materials
and information used by the Grievance Committee in making their determination are
presented with the appeal to the Directors. Neither the complainant nor the
respondent may appear or participate at the appeal hearing. The Directors may,
following their review, direct that a hearing (either ethics, arbitration, or both) be
scheduled. (Alternatively, the President may appoint a panel of Directors to hear the
appeal, or the appeal may be heard by the Board's Executive Committee. The
decision of the appeal panel or Executive Committee is final and binding, and is not
subject to further review by the Directors.)

The Grievance Committee is not required to provide the respondent with a copy of
the allegation of unethical conduct but may, if necessary, send a copy to the
respondent and request that the respondent provide a response prior to making a
decision about whether a hearing will be necessary. Unless the Board's procedures
require a respondent to supply a response to the Grievance Committee's request,
failure to reply would not be a violation of a membership duty, but would require the
Grievance Committee to make its determination based on facts supplied in the
complaint. However, it is essential to clearly establish that the Grievance Committee
is not conducting a "hearing" but is only determining whether there is basis for
believing that a possible violation of the Code has occurred.
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The Grievance Committee may also act on its own initiative if it learns of actions that
might constitute unethical conduct (i.e., notice of action taken by the state real estate
commission, newspaper reports, etc.).

A Board of Directors has the right to direct a Grievance Committee to make such
preliminary review.
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If the Grievance Committee acts on its own initiative, or at the instruction of the
Board of Directors, and suspects that a Member's actions may constitute unethical
conduct, the Grievance Committee:
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NAR Professional Standards Procedures
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drafts a complaint
refers the complaint to the Board secretary (or Board association executive) to
schedule a hearing
designates a Grievance Committee Member who represents the Grievance
Committee in its role as the complainant to appear at the ethics hearing

If a complaint asserts multiple allegations of unethical conduct and the Grievance
Committee determines that one or more of the charges would not, under any
circumstances, constitute a violation, the Grievance Committee may dismiss that
portion of the complaint with the balance of the complaint being forwarded for a
hearing. Under such circumstances, the complainant has the right to appeal the
Grievance Committee's dismissal of a portion of the complaint to the Board of
Directors.

If a Grievance Committee feels that conduct alleged in a complaint may be the basis
for a charge of unethical conduct, but that the complaint should also cite an
additional Article(s) and/or individual(s), the Grievance Committee may add any
appropriate Article(s) and/or individual(s) to the complaint. The amendment should
not only include the Article and/or respondent added, but it should also contain a
specific change as to what conduct of the respondent resulted in the amendment.

If a Grievance Committee adds an Article(s) and/or individual(s) to a complaint and
the complainant does not agree, the Grievance Committee may file its own
complaint, and both complaints would be heard simultaneously by the same Hearing
Panel.
Requests for Arbitration

Arbitration is a non-judicial, dispute-resolving mechanism. "Dispute resolution" is
achieved by presenting facts to an impartial peer panel (Arbitration Hearing Panel)
that makes a decision about entitlement.

Requests for arbitration are filed with the Board secretary (or Board association
executive), who refers the request for arbitration to the Chair of the Grievance
Committee [Section 47, Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual].
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A member or members of a Grievance Committee may be assigned to review a
request for arbitration, if necessary.
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If additional information is required, a Grievance Committee may send a copy of a
request for arbitration to the respondent, requesting that information.
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NAR Professional Standards Procedures
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A Grievance Committee assures that a request for arbitration is in the proper form,
that the correct parties are named, that an amount in dispute is specified, that the
request was filed within the appropriate time limit, etc. [Professional Standards
Policy Statement #27].
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If it determines that an arbitrable matter exists, a Grievance Committee must then
determine whether arbitration is mandatory or voluntary, as explained in Section 44
of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual.
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If either party (complainant or respondent) believes the Grievance Committee has
incorrectly classified an issue as being subject to "mandatory" or "voluntary"
arbitration, that party has 20 days to appeal to the Board of Directors to have the
issue reclassified [Section 45, Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual].

After it determines that a matter is arbitrable and whether the matter requires
mandatory or voluntary arbitration, the Grievance Committee refers the matter to the
Board secretary (or association executive) to schedule a hearing. If the Board
provides mediation as a voluntary, preliminary alternative to arbitration, a copy of the
complaint is provided to the Board secretary (or association executive) who, in turn,
notifies both parties that an arbitrable matter exists and that the Board's mediation
facilities are available. If either party declines to participate in mediation or if the
Board does not provide mediation, the secretary (or association executive)
schedules a hearing before an arbitration Hearing Panel of the Professional
Standards Committee [Appendix V to Part Ten, Code of Ethics and Arbitration
Manual]. Alternate Procedure: The Board makes its mediation services available
prior to initial consideration of the request for arbitration by the Grievance
Committee.
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In some cases, a Grievance Committee may determine that a matter is arbitrable,
but because of the amount in dispute (too large or too small) or because of the legal
complexity of the issues, the Board should not become involved. A Grievance
Committee's decision to dismiss a complaint is final, unless either party appeals the
decision to the Board of Directors. If a decision is appealed, the Grievance
Committee reports its conclusions to the Board of Directors who, in turn, may concur
with the Grievance Committee's decision or instruct that an arbitration hearing be
held [Section 45, Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual].
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Parties to an appeal do not have the right to be present when Directors review the
matter.
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NAR Professional Standards Procedures
Summary

The Grievance Committee is separate and distinct from the Professional Standards
Committee; their roles are interrelated, yet different.

A Grievance Committee provides a preliminary, yet important screening mechanism
similar to that of a grand jury.

A Grievance Committee determines whether complaints alleging violations of the
Code of Ethics are frivolous, unfounded, or unwarranted.

A Grievance Committee determines whether matters require ethics hearings or
arbitration hearings and, in some cases, both.
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A Grievance Committee does not hold hearings or determine the merits of a
complaint or a request for arbitration.
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