Management representatives often have access to the best electronic legal research tools to help them deal with the union. However, it is unusual that a union can afford services such as Cyberfeds, Lexis or Westlaw, or even has the training to get the most out of them. But union leaders can make up for that disadvantage by making good use of several free web sites that provide very useful information.
OPM- This protector of all things management has one of the best web sites at www.opm.gov. Its “Subject Index” placed in the upper right hand corner of the page gives the user access to an alphabetical list of concepts that arise often for union representatives. For example, it not only gives you quick, readable advice about things like “organ donor leave” and what a “Nature of Action” code is, but it also has a decent list of what is and is not negotiable on dozens of subjects. Find that at Negotiability Determinations, Federal Labor Relations Authority. It also has a good tool for searching for the formal OPM decisions on compensation and leave disputes. Find it at http://www.opm.gov/payclaims/
FLRA- The Authority is a great source if case law and procedures is what you are looking for. (See www.flra.gov) Browse their black bar menu before you do anything else, but if you need to know what case law says go to “Decisions” then “Authority Decisions” and then “Decision Text” where you can enter key words to start your search. Don’t miss the “Office of the General Counsel” page and especially the “Case Law Outline” and “Guidance” pages. They are pure gold.
FSIP- It has advance and decisions can be found as another page on the FLRA page. (www.flra.gov)
EEOC- The Commission is also a helpful stop when looking for answers because it has a web site devoted solely to federal employee issues at http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/ Go to the page labeled Federal Sector Appellate Decisions if you want to find case law related to the problem you are dealing with. Use the search box on that page and if you want to know what the prima facie test is for discipline actions, it will take you to hundreds of case decisions where that is discussed. But before you leave EEOC, check out the Employee & Applicants drop down menu on its main page. It is just loaded with advice on every kind of discrimination.
MSPB- This is where you want to start if you are interested in adverse actions, unacceptable performance actions, appraisal system requirements, RIFs, some veteran rights, whistleblowing, and, when you are facing something particularly bad, MSPB can order the agency to “stay” the action until it has a chance to investigate. That case law can be searched here too. (www.mspb.gov)
Special Counsel- This site offers information about whistleblowing, prohibited personnel practices, USERRA, and Hatch Act matters. (www.osc.gov)
GAO- The General Accounting Office (www.gao.gov) is a good place to look for critiques about how your agency is being run as well as about various Human Resource issues. These can generally be found under the menu of Reports and Testimonies. The other valuable menu item is titled Legal Decisions, which deals with whether certain expenditures of money are legal, particularly expenditures on federal employee expenses such as leave, travel, compensation, etc. GAO no longer addresses those issues but its historical decisions can be valuable.
GSA- This (www.gsa.gov) is where you want to go to find three commonly needed areas of regulations, i.e., the Federal Travel regulations, the Space Management regulations, and the Telework regulations.
DOL- Although it only regulates a few areas in the federal sector, its site is also invaluable. (www.dol.gov) the best places to start looking is entered at the top of the home page and titled “A to Z” and “Site Map.” The Department’s “ELAWS” page is an excellent place to find out about labor laws in general, and particularly about FLSA overtime rules. The “ELAW Advisor” is an interactive device that will take your answers to a few questions and tell you whether you have a violation of law or not. But as always to be sure check with a licensed attorney before taking any significant action based on it. This is also where you can get help on worker compensation issues (http://www.dol.gov/owcp/) and the Standard of Conduct rules for running union elections. (http://www.dol.gov/olms/regs/compliance/complcsra.htm)
Search USA.GOV- This is the place to go if you want to see what other agencies are doing on a particular topic. For example, if you want to see what they are doing with the issue of “priority consideration” just enter that term in the top-of-the page search box and behold what it delivers. The Advance Search page enables you to narrow down what you want.