NEGOTIATIONS TRAINING BY MASTER NEGOTIATORS

Ask the average LR Specialist or union rep to list the various stages of the mid-term bargaining process and you are likely to hear a list of five or six, e.g., change is proposed, the union submits proposals, face-to-face bargain, mediation, impasse, agreement. While each is a recognized stage in the process, the truly experienced negotiators (or what might be called Master Negotiators) think of  it as having many more.  Listed below are the 20 discrete parts they typically plan around. The value of looking at many distinct pieces is that each has its own legal and other subtleties that Master Negotiators on either side of the bargaining table can exploit to gain an advantage or simply use to help both parties get over a hurdle.  For example, there is significant FLRA case law spelling out rules and/or options at each stage as well. Leading a bargaining team without knowing the tricks, traps, techniques, and tactics of each stage is not a wise move.  In fact, it is reckless. That is why we are so enthusiastic about the training Learning Everywhere® offers on federal sector mid-term bargaining.  Their trainers are actual chief negotiators who have sat on both sides of the table, not merely neutrals or academics who have observed, read about, or studied what the best Chief Negotiators do. They know the FLRA precedents and FSIP tendencies to rely upon and the ways to squeeze out an advantage over the other side of the table. Continue reading

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EEOC ENFORCES 9 YEARS OF BACK PAY

We can’t say enough about employees (and unions) who stay in a fight with their agencies for years and years to force the agencies to pay every dime owed.  No deals, no settlements, no compromises.  The latest bundle of decisions out of the EEOC contains just such a case where the FBI forced a disabled employee to quit her Security Specialist job by denying a reasonable accommodation.  The employee’s doggedness through the EEOC charge and complaint stages  paid off big time with an EEOC order that she be paid $481,878 in back pay, another $53,000 in interest, and $30,000 on top of that for compensatory damages.  While it is satisfying to win even a partial victory, it is an entirely higher level of joy to get everything you had coming to you. So, here is a very sincere, “Congrats” to Kesha who just took Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the cleaners in Kesha Y v. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, DOJ (FBI) EEOC No. 0120121339 (2017)

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DENIALS OF LATERAL REASSIGNMENTS CAN BE EEO ADVERSE ACTIONS

On August 25, 2016 we posted a story about a D. C Circuit court decision holding that an employee may not file an EEO complaint over a lateral reassignment because the court did not consider that kind of personnel action to be an enough of an “adverse action.”  The Civil Rights laws and regulations require employees suffer a certain level of harm before they can file a complaint in order to prevent cases over frivolous slights, personality conflicts, and ego eruptions.  We expressed our disappointment at the time over the court’s narrow view of the law and insensitivity to how harmful a lateral reassignment can be.  However, the court has come to its senses and reversed itself, which opens the door for federal employees to challenge lateral reassignments or the denial of them as violations of the civil rights laws.  Here are the details on how to do it. Continue reading

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OOPS! OUR MISTAKE, BUT YOU STILL OWE UNCLE SAM THOUSANDS

More than a few federal employees have been in this situation.  They got an increase in their pay check for what they thought was a long overdue raise, an award, a grievance settlement, or even a simple area pay adjustment.  It felt good and they started thinking about how to spend the extra cash. When they told a co-worker about the additional income and s/he said it did not sound right, the employee even checked with HR who assured her the extra money was correctly calculated. So, she spent it on a vacation, new car, college tuition, or whatever–only to learn a year or more later that the federal government decided it made a mistake sending her the money it did and it wanted it back—with interest.  When the employee went to see the same HR folks who assured her the payments were legitimate and correct, the HR staffer merely shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sorry, I guess I was wrong.  The only opinion that matters on alleged overpayments to the employee is the federal government’s.”  The employee appealed, but lost and when she asked the agency to waive her obligation to repay the money it refused.   When the employee said she did not have the money to repay, the feds said “Not to worry” because it was going to take some money out of every pay check until the debt was repaid—including her annuity checks if she retired before repaying it.  Continue reading

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“HELLO, MCFLY, ANYONE HOME? THINK, MCFLY, THINK!”

Biff said it best on behalf of all those whose words are too often ignored when he uttered this line in “Back to the Future.” It was only last April when we explained the need for unions to think more creatively about remedies for ULPs and grievances with the posting entitled, “Aggghhhhhh! This Mistake Hurts!” That was about the fifth time in the six years we have been posting.  Yet, there is a decision coming out the full FLRA soon where once again the union (and FLRA’s General Counsel’s (GC) staff) failed to pursue all the remedies available to them. Continue reading

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AGENCY OBLITERATES UNION BACK PAY AWARD- UNIONS BEWARE

Even if you heavily favor unions over management you have to admit that “Congrats” are in order for the Federal Bureau of Prisons based on 64 FLRA 775.  One of the most aggressive and talented unions in the country, AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals, filed a grievance against the Bureau claiming that overtime had been improperly assigned over the course of a year and asked for full back pay.  An arbitrator found that the agency violated the contract, but could not determine the specific employees entitled to a piece of a very big back pay pot or how much each was owed.  So, he told the agency to calculate the value of all the overtime improperly assigned and to divide that money equally among everyone who was even eligible for working the overtime. AND THAT IS WHERE THE BUREAU OF PRISONS KNEW THAT IT HAD CAUGHT THE ARBITRATOR, AND UNION THAT SUPPORTED THAT REMEDY, IN A VERY BIG BLUNDER. Continue reading

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EEO CHEAT SHEET

We love blog posts that briefly list and describe arguments we can make on behalf of employees in one situation or another. They are great tools for structuring employee grievance interviews about the facts or for building up the agency rep’s anxiety with an extensive list of legal hurdles s/he will have to clear if the agency does not settle the case. The Boston Employment Attorney Blog has a wonderful one listing a dozen ways to prove an agency’s explanation for why it made a personal decision is “pretext,” which is legalese for pure BS. It is entitled, “Inferring Pretext in Employment Discrimination Cases: A Baker’s Dozen.”  It is something we recommend you bookmark or print and tuck in your EEO file for the next time a member walks in with a discrimination complaint. For those LR/ER/HR specialists looking to avoid problems and mistakes before they occur, this can be a powerful aid. For example, the next timea manager makes a personnel decision that just does not seem right, triggering your spidey sense, run the decision and any offered explanation for it through this list to identify the obvious weak spots or outright lies.

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EMPLOYEE WINS BACK PAY RETROACTIVE TO 1996

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that a good labor relations fight is not worth the time and effort.  We just saw a case where someone applied for a job in 1996, was rejected and challenged the agency alleging its promotion procedures were illegal, among other things.  While the case took nearly two decades to work its way through all the motions and appeals, in the end the EEOC ordered the agency to retroactively give him the job retroactive to 1996 with back pay, interest, all the step increases and promotions he would have normally received, annual and sick leave earnings and retirement credit. Moreover, since he is one of a group or class of applicants who were similarly treated illegally this decision should lead to big back pay bucks for them. If you want details on how the applicant was able to go back more than two decades read. Congrats to the employee and his representative for insisting on every dime the agency owes t he employee. Brenton v. Dept. of Transportation, EEOC No. 01201630554 (June, 2017)

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BECAUSE MANAGEMENT’S DECISION SHOCKED HER IT NOW OWES HER $$$$ 

We have posted more than a few stories on this blog about how employees can get compensatory damages when they are victims of discrimination.  That money is not only on top of any back pay and interest, but it can go as high as $300,000.00 extra.   All an employee need do to get this extra money from EEOC or an arbitrator is meet the criteria—and EEOC just issued a decision highlighting a little known way to meet the eligibility criteria.  It ordered an agency to pay an employee $10,000.00 in compensatory damages based solely on being “shocked” over not getting a job.  See Bernetta v. Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, EEOC No. 0120161513 (August, 2017).  The Commission does not take the shock effect on an employee lightly and in another recent case awarded $192,000 in compensatory damages to an employee shocked over being put on emergency suspension for reasons ultimately found to violate law. Erwin B., v. Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster, EEOC No. 0720150029 (March 2016)

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WHAT AGENCIES THINK WHEN UNIONS TERMINATE THEIR OWN LEADERS

AFGE recently terminated its second highest elected official, which makes this a good time to think through how agencies might react and unions can counter those reactions. Continue reading

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