HOPING FOR THE BEST FOR OUR LAW ENFORCEMENT COLLEAGUES

The last ten days have seen someone ignite a firestorm of criticism against federal law enforcement personnel merely for doing the job they were appointed to and bound by law to do. Not surprisingly, the lies and liars stoking this hatred are pushing the less well-balanced of their supporters to think it is an act of patriotism to harass, harm or even kill federal officials or their families.  That means the odds of this happening are higher than normal.  So, it is a good time for unions representing feds in law enforcement occupations to solicit any ideas their members have to boost protections and push agency leaders to make some changes. It also would not hurt to urge all unit members to be a little more alert over the next few weeks to potential risks in the workplace.

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HERE COME THE REMOTE WORK GRIEVANCES

Agencies are quickly moving to limit remote work now that the worst COVID pandemic appears to be behind us and we thought we would pass along what may be the best thought out union grievance we have seen trying to enforce employee remote work protections.  If you are working this issue, click over to the AFGE Councill 222 web page to look at their grievance.  While we are not suggesting all unions try to produce as prodigious a document as 222’s, a quick reading will spark more than a few ideas for most unions to use. We want to add one tip, however.  When drafting your remedy request, ask for employees to be reimbursed any leave they took that they might not have had to take had they been on remote work.  For example, if they took leave at 4 p.m. for a MD appointment at 5 p.m., why should not that leave be reimbursed.  After all, had the employee been working at home she might not have had to take the full hour to travel there.  Getting an arbitrator to order retro leave reinstatement opens the door to reimbursement for any attorney fees the union can claim. Don’t miss the union’s three information requests either on this web page.

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UNION NEGOTIATORS MUST READ AND STUDY THIS CASE

FLRA just issued a decision loaded with lessons for union negotiators. It involved an agency unilaterally implementing ground rules for the renegotiation of the term agreement.  The agency threw the proverbial kitchen sink full of defenses up in the arbitration and its appeal to FLRA.  We are not going to summarize the case beyond that here, leaving it to you to read the details—and there are many. But we are going to highlight below a few things from the case that no union negotiator should forget. The case is Dep’t of Navy, Jacksonville, NC and AFGE Local 2065, 73 FLRA 137 (2022). Continue reading

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MSPB EXPLAINS WITHIN-GRADE INCREASES        

It does not happen often; in fact, it is quite rare.  But agencies do deny within-grade or step increase and when they do it almost always falls to the union to grieve and possibly arbitrate the denial.  We have posted two FEDSMILL.com pieces aimed at helping union reps work their way through one of these cases, i.e., “Union Rep Test #11 (WIGI/ALOC)” and “When Not to Grieve WIGI Denials.” Given that neither was intended to provide a complete guide to the process, we thought you might find it helpful to know about MSPB’s own guide entitled, “Determining an Acceptable Level of Competence for Step Increases, April  2021.”

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IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO COLLECT YOUR CASH

One of the sad facts facing federal employees seeking justice on the job is that it can take years to get your money.  But as most recently demonstrated by some female DEA agents, agencies can be forced to pay for injustices it inflicted on employees as late as 30 years after the fact. Check out their story at FNN. So, don’t let anyone ever tell you it is too late to get the cash you are owed.

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UNION RESPONSES TO MONKEYPOX

Just saw a blog posting entitled, “What Employers Need To Know About Monkeypox” which struck us as a reminder that we have seen nothing out there about how unions should be reacting to this.  We recommend that union leaders look over the actions that author suggests employers take and develop some bargaining proposals from them  to push the agencies to act. 

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WHAT UNION REPS CAN DO THAT EMPLOYEES CAN’T

All employees do not have equal legal rights.  Union representatives have far more rights than most.  In fact, they have far more rights than the average manager. So, if you hear anyone asking the question, “What Can the Union Do for Me?” here is just a short list of the powers a union rep can put to work for employees the minute a union is certified in an election.  We strongly urge local union leaders to copy this article and share it with the entire unit so that those who are not yet paying dues see what they may be missing out on if they ask the union for help. Continue reading

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UPDATE!MONEY FOR HIGHER-GRADED WORK

I love standing around, preferably in a bar, listening to a couple of well-respected, high-class union lawyers talk about a problem employees are having.  More than a few times in my career it has caused me to silently ask myself, “Well, why not try this?”  I had one of those moments last week in the mid-tavern discussion.  Thanks to some political operatives at OPM a federal manager can order a GS-7 employee to do GS-9, 11, 12 or even higher-level work and never pay the employee more than the GS-7 salary.  That could go on for months, years or decades and all the current case law permits a fed to do about it is to get paid at the higher rate for no more than 120 days out of every 365.  Even then, only those feds under a collective bargaining agreement that mandated payment would get it. But then I had a thought. Continue reading

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COURT SAYS, “SLEEPWAKING INTO CO-WORKER’S” BED NOT PROTECTED

We can’t think of the last time we agreed with an employment law decision out of the 5th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Louisiana.  Indeed, we often wonder whether it is still angry over the Emancipation Proclamation, giving women the right to vote, and virtually all statutory employee rights. We were reminded of its anti-employee, knuckle-dragging approach to the law when we read its most recent employee-rights proclamation.  It seems the employee suffers from a disability that causes her to sleepwalk. So, one night while off-site at a training conference, she got up, left her room, walked to a co-worker’s room, knocked, was let in, and promptly got into his bed. The room’s occupant called security and got her safely back to her own room. Everyone agreed she was sleepwalking and that was due to a disability.  Consequently, when her employer fired her, she filed suit claiming disability discrimination. It seemed like a slam-dunk win for her, e.g., no dispute she is disabled or that it caused the sleepwalking, it occurred outside duty hours, no one was harmed, etc. But the good old boys and gals at the 5th Circuit, still reliving the pre-Civil War glory days and led by the Bible-slinging Supreme Court Justice Alito, upheld her termination by… Continue reading

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HOW TO STOP RAMPANT SELECTING OFFICIAL INCOMPETENCE

Thanks to the managements’ rights provision of the labor law federal selecting officials foolishly think they have something akin to Papal infallibility when they rule as to who should be selected for promotion. Afterall, the law says that employees cannot grieve a selecting official’s decision so long as s/he is working off a properly rated and ranked best qualified list. But what is not said is that you can challenge the selection if the official violated law or government-wide regulation despite the BQ list being properly ranked and certified. And given how reckless many selecting officials are unions should rarely pass up the opportunity to do so—as a new EEOC decision out of SSA shows. That selecting official passed over a candidate eligible for selection to choose two other employees who were members of a different race and gender. BINGO! GOTCHA! GAME OVER! I’M BUYING! Here is why. Continue reading

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