24:0006(2)AR - HHS, SSA and AFGE -- 1986 FLRAdec AR



[ v24 p6 ]
24:0006(2)AR
The decision of the Authority follows:


 24 FLRA No. 2
 
 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND 
 HUMAN SERVICES, SOCIAL SECURITY
 ADMINISTRATION
 Agency
 
 and
 
 AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT 
 EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
 Union
 
                                            Case No. 0-AR-1253
 
                        ORDER DISMISSING EXCEPTIONS
 
    This case is before the Authority on exceptions to the bench
 ruling(s) of Arbitrator Justin Smith filed by the Agency pursuant to
 section 7122(a) of the Federal Service Labor Management Relations
 Statute and section 2425.1 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations.
 For the reason stated below, it has been determined that the exceptions
 must be dismissed as untimely filed.
 
    This case involves a dispute submitted to the Arbitrator concerning
 official time for representational activities.  By agreement of the
 parties, a two-phase arbitration process was established to resolve the
 basic dispute and the resulting numerous individual grievances.  The
 first phase involved the interpretation of the official time provisions
 of the Statute and the parties' collective bargaining agreement.  In the
 second phase, the Arbitrator held hearings to resolve, by bench
 decisions when practicable, specific grievances pending in various
 regions of the Agency.  The exceptions in this case have been filed to
 bench decisions of the Arbitrator rendered at ex parte hearings held on
 August 6 and 7, 1986 at which the Agency declined to participate.  The
 official transcript of the hearings was apparently served on the parties
 by mail on September 24, 1986.
 
    Under section 7122(b) of the Statute, as amended, /1/ and section
 2425.1 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations, as amended, /2/ which
 amendments are applicable to exceptions pending or filed with the
 Authority on or after March 2, 1984, and under sections 2429.21 and
 2429.22 of the Rules and Regulations, which are also applicable to
 computation of the time limit here involved, any exceptions to the
 Arbitrator's rulings in this case had to be filed, that is, received in
 the national office of the Authority not later than the close of
 business on September 4 and 5, 1986, respectively.  However, the
 Agency's exceptions awere not filed with the Authority until October 23,
 1986.
 
    The Agency asserts essentially that because the instant arbitration
 hearings were conducted ex parte, no representative of the Agency was
 present at the hearing to be served with notice of the Arbitrator's
 bench decisions in question.  The Agency contends, therefore, that since
 its exceptions were filed within thirty days after it was served with
 the official transcript of the hearing, which is the date that it
 received notice of the Arbitrator's bench decisions, the exceptions were
 timely filed.
 
    It is well settled, particularly in cases involving other related
 bench rulings between these same parties, that the Arbitrator's bench
 rulings are final when rendered and ripe for filing exceptions with the
 Authority at that time.  See American Federation of Government Employees
 and Social Security Administration, 21 FLRA No. 14 (1986);  U.S.
 Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration
 and American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, 22 FLRA No. 16
 (1986);  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security
 Administration and American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO,
 23 FLRA No. 19 (1986).  Further, with respect to the due process
 considerations raised by the Agency, the Authority concludes that such
 argument must be rejected.  The record clearly indicates that while the
 Agency did not participate at the instant hearings at which the
 Arbitrator's bench awards were made, it voluntarily chose not to do so
 and, thus, acted at its own peril.  Consequently, in these
 circumstances, the fact that the Agency was not served with the
 Arbitrator's bench decisions when they were rendered at the hearings did
 not toll the related time periods for filing exceptions which began on
 August 6 and 7, 1986, and expired on September 4 and 5, 1986,
 respectively.
 
    Accordingly, as the Agency's excepti