37:0494(37)AR - - Union of Public Works Center, San Francisco Bay Employees and Navy, Navy Public Works Center, San Francisco, CA - - 1990 FLRAdec AR - - v37 p494



[ v37 p494 ]
37:0494(37)AR
The decision of the Authority follows:


37 FLRA No. 37

FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY

WASHINGTON, D.C.

UNION OF PUBLIC WORKS CENTER

SAN FRANCISCO BAY EMPLOYEES

(Union)

and

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY

NAVY PUBLIC WORKS CENTER

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

(Activity)

0-AR-1859

DECISION

September 25, 1990

Before Chairman McKee and Members Talkin and Armendariz.

I. Statement of the Case

This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to the arbitration award of Dr. Grady L. Mullennix filed by the Union under section 7122(a) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) and part 2425 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations. The Activity did not file an opposition to the Union's exceptions.

The grievance claimed that three grievants improperly were denied reimbursement for travel expenses. The Arbitrator denied the grievance, finding that (1) the claims for travel expenses were not timely filed, and (2) even if the claims had been filed timely, the Activity's denial of the claims was not improper.

For the following reasons, we conclude that the Union's exceptions provide no basis for finding the award deficient. Accordingly, we will deny the exceptions.

II. Background and Arbitrator's Award

In 1983 and 1984, the grievants were reassigned from the Activity's facility in Alameda, California to the facility in Novato, California. In November 1987, the grievants filed claims for reimbursement for expenses resulting from travel from their homes to the Novato facility.

The Activity's denial of the grievants' claims for travel expenses was grieved and ultimately submitted to arbitration on the following issue: "Is the Employer required to pay the travel claims filed by the three Grievants . . . ?" Award at 1.

Before the Arbitrator, the Union claimed that the grievants were temporarily assigned to the Novato facility in 1983 and 1984 and, as such, were entitled to reimbursement of their travel expenses pursuant to Article 27, section 2 of the parties' agreement, which provides:

The permanent duty station for employees of the [Activity] has been established as the area within a thirty-five (35) miles driving distance through the most reasonable route from Building 796 at the Oakland Army Base. Employees may be permanently assigned, by use of Standard Form 50, to any location within the defined permanent duty station. It is within normal job requirements of all employees to travel from their residence to their permanent assignment without reimbursement. Employees may be temporarily assigned (No SF 50 issued) to any location within the defined permanent duty station, with the exception of . . . Novato, California or . . . Vallejo, California, without reimbursement for travel. Any employee temporarily assigned to [Novato or Vallejo] from any other location within the defined permanent duty station or from [Novato or Vallejo] to another location within the permanent duty station will receive reimbursement from their residence to their temporary assignments. Under no circumstances will a Standard Form 50 be issued for the purpose of avoiding travel pay.

Id. at 5. The Union asserted that a Standard Form 50 (SF-50), which is required to effect permanent assignments, was not issued to any of the grievants until 1989, after they were reassigned to the Alameda facility.

The Activity asserted that the grievance should be denied because (1) the grievants' claims for travel reimbursement were not timely filed, and (2) the grievants had been permanently assigned to the Novato facility and, as such, they were not entitled to travel expenses. With respect to the latter point, the Activity argued that its failure to issue SF-50's to the grievants when they were assigned to the Novato facility did not affect the permanent nature of those assignments. The Activity also maintained that Article 27, section 2 of the parties' agreement did not require the Activity to issue SF-50's to effect permanent assignments.

The Arbitrator noted first that the grievants' claims encompassed, in part, travel expenses incurred 3 to 4 years before the claims were filed. The Arbitrator found the parties "did not anticipate the filing of claims [3] or [4] years after the expenses were incurred." Id. at 7. The Arbitrator cited Public Works Center San Francisco Bay (PWCSFB) Instruction 7230.1C which, according to the Arbitrator, provided that "claims for trips will be submitted not later than the fifth workday of the month following the month in which the expense was incurred." Id.

The Arbitrator also found that the grievants' assignments to the Novato facility were permanent. The Arbitrator noted that the grievants: (1) asked or volunteered to be assigned to the Novato facility; (2) performed the same work at the Novato facility that they had performed at the Alameda facility; and (3) did not claim entitlements to reimbursements for travel expenses until their Novato assignments were terminated. The Arbitrator stated that it was "difficult for a reasonable person to classify as temporary a work assignment doing the same work in the same place for [3] to [4] years." Id. at 8.

The Arbitrator stated that "in spite of the Employer's error" in not issuing SF-50's, the grievants did not consider their assignments as temporary or, "[a]t least the [g]rievants acquiesced in the treatment of their assignments as permanent." Id. (emphasis in original). The Arbitrator concluded that although there was "a strong question" about the timeliness of the grievants' claims for reimbursement, his decision did "not have to rest on the determination of that question since the ruling is that the work assignments of the [g]rievants were not temporary." Id.

Finally, the Arbitrator agreed with the Union that the Activity's issuance of SF-50's to the grievants after the grievance was filed "probably violated the spirit" of the last sentence of Article 27, section 2 of the parties' agreement. The Arbitrator found, however, that the probable violation was a "moot point since under the ruling, no valid claims were pending." Id. (emphasis in original).

As his award, the Arbitrator denied the grievance.

III. The Union's Exceptions

The Union claims that the award is deficient because the Arbitrator erred in concluding that the grievants' claims for travel reimbursement were untimely filed. According to the Union, a portion of the PWCSFB Instruction relied on by the Arbitrator provides that there is no applicable time limit for claims which exceed $100.

The Union also claims that the Arbitrator's ruling that the grievants' work assignments were not temporary violates law, rule, and regulation. The Union maintains that "Article 27 of the collective bargaining agreement defines temporary assignments as an assignment in which 'no standard Form 50 was issued.'" Exceptions at 4.

Finally, the Union maintains that the Arbitrator erred "as a matter of law" in finding that the issue of the Activity's issuance of the SF-50's after the grievance was filed was moot. Id. at 5. The Union states that: "The remedy to this violation is payment of the travel money owed. This issue is not moot." Id.

IV. Analysis and Conclusions

We conclude that the Union has failed to demonstrate that the Arbitrator's award is deficient under section 7122(a) of the Statute.

As noted above, the Union claims that the Arbitrator's ruling that the grievants' assignments to the Novato facility were permanent violates law, rule, and regulation. The Union cites no law, rule, or regulation with which the award allegedly conflicts, however, and none is apparent to us. Accordingly, we reject the Union's claim that the Arbitrator's finding that the grievants' assignments were permanent violates law, rule, or regulation.

We construe the Union's claim that Article 27, section 2 of the parties' agreement defines temporary assignments as those in which no SF-50 is issued as an assertion that the Arbitrator's award fails to draw its essence from the parties' agreement. In order for an award to be found deficient because it fails to draw its essence from the agreement, the party making the allegation must demonstrate that the award: (1) cannot in any rational way be derived from the agreement; or (2) is so unfounded in reason and fact, and so unconnected with the wording and the purpose of the agreement as to manifest an infidelity to the obligation of the arbitrator; or (3) evidences a manifest disregard for the agreement; or (4) does not represent a plausible interpretation of the agreement. See, for example, U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Mapping Agency Aerospace Center, St. Louis, Missouri and National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1827, 35 FLRA 1307, 1309 (1990). These tests, and the private sector cases from which they are derived, make it clear that an award will not be found to fail to draw its essence from an agreement based on claims that the arbitrator misinterpreted the agreement. Id.

The Union has not demonstrated that the Arbitrator's award is deficient under any of these tests. The Arbitrator noted the parties' disagreement over the interpretation of Article 27, section 2, and found, based on the evidence and arguments before him, that the grievants' assignments were permanent. We find nothing in Article 27, section 2 on which to base a conclusion that the Arbitrator's finding is implausible, irrational, or in manifest disregard of the agreement. Accordingly, we find that the Union has not demonstrated that the award fails to draw its essence from the agreement. We conclude, instead, that the Union's argument constitutes mere disagreement with the Arbitrator's interpretation and application of the parties' agreement. As such, it provides no basis for finding the award deficient. See id. at 1310.

The Union has not demonstrated that the Arbitrator's finding that the grievants' assignments were permanent is deficient. Accordingly, we need not address the Union's exception regarding the timeliness of the grievants' claims for reimbursement. As noted above, the Arbitrator stated that his award "did not have to rest" on a determination of whether the grievants' claims for travel reimbursement were timely because "the ruling is that the work assignments of the [g]rievants were not temporary." Award at 8. Consistent with the Arbitrator's award, therefore, it is unnecessary to determine whether the Arbitrator's ruling on the timeliness of the claims was erroneous.

Similarly, the Arbitrator found that the Activity's probable violation of the agreement with respect to the issuance of SF-50's after the filing of the grievance was moot because "no valid claims were pending[]" at that time.

Id. (emphasis in original). The Union has not demonstrated that the Arbitrator's finding concerning the permanent nature of the grievants' assignments was deficient and, accordingly, has not demonstrated that there were valid claims pending at the time the Activity issued the SF-50's. Consequently, the Union's exception to the Arbitrator's conclusion that the issue concerning those S