Yes, we admit that this is a pet peeve for us.  If even a few attorneys submit outlandish fee requests to EEOC, MSPB or arbitrators that will hand those already looking to screw over federal employees great facts to whip up a drive to reduce employee rights—and especially the right to attorney fees. (Even if that group only limited fee reimbursements for union attorneys to the union’s actual hourly cost for their labor it would have a significant effect.) So, we are going to put a spotlight on what we believe to be the kind of facts that are feeding the anti-fed posse. Continue reading

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One of the reasons we activated Fedsmill was to overcome the disadvantage regional and local union leaders are at when they have no way to hear about case victories from other unions.  That hobbles them and it can be terminal for the employee whose career hangs in the balance. For example, when an employee in a Florida VA cemetery was AWOL 21 times over a 100-day period the agency suspended him for 14 days. (The employee also had a zero balance of annual, sick, and FMLA leave during those 100 days.) When the case got to arbitration, … Continue reading

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You have to admire a national union leadership that not only supports increased openness in how the organization is run, but also is confident enough to open the debate to all members.  NFFE has done precisely that with its web page listing the governance issues it is currently wrestling with in the first few months of its new president’s term. If you are a union leader at any level, this should be on interest.  So,  check it out.  We once had a chance to boost the chances of a union leader with an unprecedented commitment to openness and it may have been one of the most lasting good things we did for that union.

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Leadership of all the federal agencies that so deeply impact federal employee lives is about the change radically, bringing with it new challenges for some and opportunities for others. We want to get ready to respond to both, but to do that we probably have to reduce our role in operating Fedsmill.com.  Just how we do that is something we are starting to explore.  One option is transfer control to some national union or other employee advocate such as a law firm or retired fed LR/ER/HR/EEO expert. Do we partner with a university LR program? Do we just assist someone else to get their own site going from scratch and retire the Fedsmill operation? While we have begun contacting some law firms and a handful of retired, but still very involved, federal LR/ER/HR folks, we would like your ideas too.  If you have some, just send us an e-mail via the comment section after every story. It will be just between us.

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The on-line Harvard Business Review just posted a piece entitled, “Good Bosses Switch Between Two Leadership Styles.” The two styles are managing by dominating subordinates versus inspiring through the prestige of being an expert in whatever occupational filed one is in. The author makes the point that both styles can be appropriate depending on the situation. While we agree that there are situations that call for a manager to hoard all information, intimidate, coerce, threaten, and/or laud his/her power over employees, the piece strongly suggests that one reason a boss might always use a dominating style is that s/he doesn’t have the skill, talent, smarts, etc. to use any of the other styles. In fact, we wonder if this is particularly true of leaders at the top of complex, multi-departmental organizations who may have been expert in one departmental task area, but have little to nothing to offer in other departmental areas. Dominating staff, even to the point of “disappearing’ some as a warning to others, seems an especially sound hypothesis in organizations with weak oversight from executive boards, or no oversight as in privately owned entities. We ended the HBR piece thinking that maybe OPM should add a question to the annual survey to ask employees to rank their supervisor’s tendency to manage via domination techniques rather than inspiring and energizing staff. With very rare exception, nearly everyone agrees long term dominators hobble, if not destroy, organizations.

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Not that one. We are talking about the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA). It has been law for a few years and we hope many union reps have heard about it. But we worry that not very many at all know what a GINA violation looks like. One rule of thumb is that if the issue concerns a medical or mental condition and employee currently has or is thought to have that is typically a disability issue. If the issue concerns the potential for an employee or applicant having a medical or mental condition that is typically a GINA issue. Most labor agreements allow for the issue to be grieved; otherwise, pursue them through the EEO office. The two most common violations are requests for employee or applicant family medical history and demands for DNA swabs. If you want a far more thorough understanding of the law than we can provide, we recommend the 2016 posting, “A Brief Legal Overview of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.”

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If the acronym does not register a bell, maybe the widespread pronunciation will. Those of us who got into the LR business before 1979 commonly pronounced it A-SLAMMER. Still don’t know? Well, long, long ago and far, far away in a dark forest without any laws, federal sector labor relations operated under the paternal generosity of Presidential Executive Orders. And whenever an employee thought an agency or union committed an unfair labor practice, the complaint was filed with the Department of Labor’s Assistant Secretary for Labor Management Relations, the initials of which are A/SLMR. You might say the case law that came out of that office set the stage for what we have today from FLRA. In fact, if you read FLRA decisions carefully, down to the footnote, you will see more than 1,000 mentions of A/SLMR case precedent–most recently last September.  At times, it can be helpful to an advocate to trace an issue back to A/SLMR precedent to see how it compares to what FLRA has done. If you ever have the need to do so, you can find these decisions tucked away on FLRA gov on the following page: https://www.flra.gov/decisions/archival-decisions-legislative-history-foreign-service-decisions

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We probably owe NFFE an apology for not mentioning this sooner, but it web site has jumped up several notches since we last checked it out thoroughly.  And one of the best feature is it openness to folks outside of NFFE who might be looking for help. NFFE calls it the “Toolbox.” The name fits because it contains so much advice about how to fix things that union reps run into all the time. We were first impressed with how well thought out its tools are for dealing with employee disabilities. It has put a bundle of resources a click away from the user. But it most interesting tool was developed by NFFE staff and is entitled, “Federal Sector Guide to Handling Complaints.” Like AFGE which we complimented a few weeks ago for also taking an open-system approach to sharing information with all federal employees via its YouTube training films, NFFE’s contribution can only spur continuing efforts by other national unions to boost the quality of their assistance. That is one open-market we have no qualms about. Keep that competition going because a victory in one union’s local often can improve things for everyone else.

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It seems that one local court in Florida does not think so, but what would you expect from a bunch of judges who can’t be fired, have no production deadlines, and are never evaluated. This decision reminds us of the FLRA decisions which held that sudden severe increases in employee workloads do not amount to changes in working conditions. A Florida employee suffering from epilepsy asked that his manager adopt a less domineering, overbearing stress-inducing style of managing. His doctor certified that high tension and stress triggered his seizures. Too bad, pronounced the court. Asking someone to manage in a mature, enlightened manner is asking too much. Although what we would not be surprised to find is a well-tanned judge felt stress-induced seizures are not worthy of accommodations, we hope that no one will be intimidated by this decision. In fact, we are keeping our fingers crossed this decision not only gets overturned but is ignored across the land. Check out a post from the Jackson/Lewis law firm entitled, “Employee Seeking Less Stressful Work Environment Denied ADA Protections” if you want more details.

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There is a small group, in fact, let’s call it a tiny group, of attorneys in Washington who have experience in virtually every area in which a union would want its GC skilled. NFEE just snatched up one of them.  Sport fans might call it the free agent signing of the year.  Arbitrations hearings, ULP proceedings, appropriate unit disputes, FMCS/FSIP dispute proceedings, election challenges, internal union politics, managing union conventions, building membership, leading organizing drives, networking, union local training & development, EEOC & MSPB work, etc. are areas in which he has practiced and excelled elsewhere in the labor movement. Most importantly, he brings a 30-year, soul-deep commitment to union work that we are sure will benefit NFFE members. We could not be happier for NFFE and for Jeff.

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