folder Professional Standards
Processing a Complaint
Two Committees of the Association handle the complaints -- The Grievance Committee and the Professional Standards Committee. Their functions are described next.
What is the Grievance Committee?
Generally, the Grievance Committee functions somewhat like a grand jury. However, it plays a different role in both an ethics complaint case and an arbitration case. If it is an Ethics complaint the Grievance Committee must determine if there is a violation of the Code of Ethics. If it is an Arbitration request, they must determine if it is an arbitrable issue such as a money dispute concerning which REALTOR® is entitled to cooperative commission in a transaction.
Ethics - The Grievance Committee reveiws complaints received by the Association. The Committee determines whether the complaint sufficiently merits further consideration. It does not determine guilt or innocence. After reviewing the complaint the committee will either:
- Forward the case for a hearing
- Dismiss it, if the complaint is determined to be frivolous, harrassing or unfounded, or
- Postpone its decision to get more information from you or to determine that the case may be more appropriately considered for arbitration.
Also, before they reach a decision, the Committee may request a reply from the Respondent(s) regarding your complaint. If the Committee dismisses your complaint, you have the right to appeal dismissal to the Board of Directors. In the case of an appeal, the Directors re-examine only the materials submitted to the Grievance Committee. The Directors can then either uphold or overturn the Committee's decision. If your complaint merits further consideration, it will be sent to the Professional Standards Committee for a hearing.
Arbitration - The Grievance Committee's role in arbitration functions only to make a preliminary investigation. The results of this investigation will determine whether the matter is subject to arbitration. Arbitration is sometimes a duty and sometimes a privilege. The Grievance Committee must decide whether your situation fits into the duty or the privilege category.To determine which category an arbitration fits into, the Grievance Committee must consider these points:
- Whether you are authorized, under the rules, to invoke arbitration.
- Whether the controversy described is an arbitrable matter.
- Whether the arbitration is mandatory or voluntary to the people involved (this simply means whether arbitrating the dispute is compulsory, or not).
- Whether either the amount in dispute is too small or too large, or the matter is too legally complex for the Association to consider.
Such a review could result in releasing Association members from their obligation to arbitrate. This would free you to seek other recourse in order to resolve the dispute.
If the Grievance Committee determines that a matter is arbitrable, it may also notify the parties that a mediation procedure is available as a preliminary, voluntary alternative to arbitration. If the Committee forwards the complaint or request for a hearing, it is assigned to the Professional Standards Committee.
You may also appeal a dismissal of an arbitration request to the Executive Committee. The Directors review the information and can uphold or overturn the Grievance Committee's decision.
What is the Professional Standards Committee?
The function of the committee is to hold ethics and arbitration hearings. If the Respondent(s) has not already been requested to reply to your complaint, it will be at this time. A hearing will then be scheduled and you will be notified of the hearing's date, time and place. The hearings provide an opportunity for the Complainant and the Respondent to explain his or her side of the story by presenting testimony and witnesses, if any.
Once all the facts have been presented, a Hearing Panel, consisting of members of the Association chosen on the basis of experience, temperament and objectivity, will determine whether the Code of Ethics has been violated, or, in the case of an arbitration, how the dispute should be settled.
The Association will inform you about each step of this process as it occurs. The Association will also give you instructions about the hearing procedures prior to the hearing. The entire process will usually take a minimum of 60 days, but may take longer.
CLICK HERE for several resources, and forms to file complaints, to help you understand what filing and processing an ethics complaint and arbitration request entails, and the general process you can expect when filing an ethics complaint or arbitration request with the Firelands Association of REALTORS