48:1211(129)CA - - DOT and FAA and Professional Airways Systems Specialist - - 1993 FLRAdec CA - - v48 p1211
[ v48 p1211 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:
48 FLRA No. 129
FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
PROFESSIONAL AIRWAYS SYSTEMS SPECIALISTS
40 FLRA 690 (1991)
46 FLRA 103 (1992)
DECISION AND ORDER ON REMAND
December 27, 1993
Before Chairman McKee and Members Talkin and Armendariz.
I. Statement of the Case
This consolidated unfair labor practice case is before the Authority on exceptions filed by the Charging Party (PASS) to the attached decision on remand of the Administrative Law Judge. The Respondents filed an opposition to the Charging Party's exceptions. In earlier proceedings, we concluded, among other things, that Respondent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had violated section 7116(a)(1) and (5) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) by its actions in implementing Department of Transportation Order 3910.1, Drug-Free Departmental Workplace. 40 FLRA 690. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia remanded the case to the Authority for further consideration of the remedy. Professional Airways Systems Specialists Division, District No. 1 - MEBA/NMU v. FLRA, No. 91-1310 (D.C. Cir. June 22, 1992) (mem.; per curiam) (PASS v. FLRA). Subsequently, in 46 FLRA 103, we remanded the case to the Chief Administrative Law Judge for further proceedings.
The sole issue presented by the remand is whether or to what extent a status quo ante remedy should be granted. On remand, the Judge recommends that the Authority not order a status quo ante remedy. Pursuant to section 2423.29 of our Rules and Regulations, we have reviewed the procedural rulings of the Judge made at the hearing and find that no prejudicial error was committed. We affirm the rulings. Upon consideration of the Judge's decision and the entire record, we adopt the Judge's findings, conclusions, and recommendation with regard to the remedy.
In remanding, the court granted the Charging Party's petition for review only with respect to our denial of status quo ante relief. The court found that we did not provide an adequate explanation for our decision to deny status quo ante relief. The court rejected our finding that FAA had a particularly urgent need to ensure a drug-free workplace as not "supported by substantial evidence on the record." PASS v. FLRA at 3, quoting section 7123(c) of the Statute. The court stated further:
If the Authority should on remand maintain its view that urgent considerations of safety require the continuation of the testing program, it must provide a proper factual basis for its conclusion. The Authority has discretion to distinguish between different job categories -- for instance, pilots versus technicians or inspectors -- in deciding whether status quo ante relief is appropriate. Cf. National Fed'n of Fed. Employees v. Cheney, 884 F.2d 603, 610-11 (D.C. Cir. 1989). The Authority also may consider the possibility, suggested by PASS at oral argument, that a time limit be imposed on the bargaining process.
PASS v. FLRA at 4.
As the record in the case was not sufficient to provide a factual basis for conclusions as to the extent to which a status quo ante remedy might be appropriate, we remanded the case to the Chief Administrative Law Judge for further processing with instructions that a recommended order on the issue of remedy should be submitted to the Authority.
As set forth in detail in the attached decision, the Judge examined the various job categories in the PASS bargaining units that are subject to random drug testing and found that employees in all of those categories perform tasks that are essential to the safe operation of the National Airspace System that FAA is responsible for managing.(1) The Charging Party concedes this fact. Brief to Exceptions at 5. Based on the record, the Judge found that the potential exists in all of the job categories that an error could result in catastrophe for the flying public, other employees, and the FAA's operations. We agree with the Judge that the record shows that tasks assigned to each of the job categories that are subject to random drug testing have the potential, if incorrectly performed, to undermine the safety of air transportation and that such errors could result in far-reaching, including dire, consequences. Accordingly, the record provides no basis for concluding that a status quo ante remedy is appropriate for some, but not all, of the bargaining unit employees who are subject to random drug testing. Additionally, we note that although the National Airspace System is structured to minimize the likelihood that an error actually would produce a catastrophe, the potential gravity of the possible harm that could result if an employee in those job categories performed assigned tasks while impaired by drug use is of the highest magnitude. In view of that magnitude, even minimal risks are not acceptable.
In its exceptions, PASS asserts that if the status quo ante were reinstated, FAA would not be deprived of all drug testing capability but would retain the ability to test based on reasonable suspicion. This is true. However, as pointed out by the Judge, the record establishes that a number of the employees who are subject to random drug testing work without any direct supervision and, hence, are not susceptible to testing based on reasonable suspicion. Moreover, the record in this case reveals that of the 58 positive test results obtained in the PASS bargaining units since the inception of the random drug testing program, 50 resulted from random tests, 7 resulted from follow-up tests, and 1 resulted from reasonable suspicion tests. Union Exhibits 4-6. Thus, experience under the drug testing program shows that random testing detects far more drug use than reasonable suspicion testing does.(2) Although the record indicates that drug use has declined since the inception of random drug testing, experience under the random testing program confirms that there has been and continues to be some drug use by employees who are in job categories that perform tasks essential to the safety of the National Airspace System. See id. As we stated above, given the potential gravity of the possible harm that could result from drug use by such employees, even minimal risks are not acceptable.
This evidence of drug use by employees who are responsible for tasks that, if performed improperly, have the potential of causing serious harm to the flying public further supports a conclusion that a status quo ante remedy would not be appropriate in this case. Prior to implementation of the random drug testing program, the existence of such drug use was largely a matter of speculation. That is no longer the case in that the existence of drug use has been documented. We believe that once drug use has been documented within categories of employees who are assigned tasks that are critical to air safety, suspension of an existing, effective means of detecting that drug use would seriously undermine the confidence of the flying public in the safety and integrity of the National Airspace System. Moreover, we reject the argument advanced by PASS that FAA must show that reversion to the status quo ante would cause greater disruption to the effectiveness and efficiency of Agency operations than would have occurred had the Agency properly fulfilled its bargaining obligation prior to the implementation of random drug testing. Without addressing the extent to which we would apply that specific standard in other circumstances, we find that, particularly in view of the unique and critical relationship between the proper operation of the National Airspace System and public safety, the standard should not apply in the circumstances involved in this case.
We find that there is substantial evidence to support a conclusion that employees in the job categories that are subject to random drug testing perform tasks that are essential to the safe operation of the National Airspace System and that the potential exists that an error on their part could result in dire consequences for the flying public, other employees, and the FAA's operation. In view of the importance of ensuring the safety of that system and the role that the employees in the job categories that are at issue here play in assuring that safety, we agree with the Judge, for the reasons more fully expressed in his decision, that a status quo ante remedy should not be given in this case.
In so concluding, we have considered the suggestion made by PASS, and reiterated by the court, that a time limit could be imposed on the bargaining process if a status quo ante remedy were granted. In this regard, PASS had proposed as an alternative remedy that we consider issuing a status quo ante order requiring that the parties engage in intensive bargaining for a limited period of time, such as 60 days, and then submit any outstanding issues to the Federal Service Impasses Panel for resolution. Charging Party's Brief to Exceptions filed in the proceedings in 40 FLRA 690 at 26-27. While we could fashion a remedy limiting the effective length of the status quo ante, we find that the same reasons that militate against returning to the status quo ante for the duration of bargaining argue against reverting to the status quo ante for a more limited period of time. As to the specific limitation that PASS proposed to the Authority and to the court, such a period could prove lengthier and more open-ended than is at first apparent. Thus, it is possible that negotiability disputes arising during the course of further bargaining and in conjunction with impasse resolution could serve to lengthen the bargaining process well beyond the initial period suggested by PASS. Under all the circumstances, we decline to issue an order that limits the length of a return to the status quo ante by imposing a time limit on the bargaining process.
Based on the foregoing and for the reasons expressed in the attached Judge's decision, we reaffirm the Order that we issued in our decision published at 40 FLRA 690.
(If blank, the decision does not have footnotes.)
1. In addition to those categories of employee in the PASS bargaining units subject to random drug testing that specifically are discussed in the Judge's decision, the record shows that the category of Electronics Engineer, GS-855, is not separately addressed in the Judge's decision. However, there is no suggestion by any party to this case that this category of employee has a lesser role with respect to the safety of the National Airspace System than that of the categories that are described in the Judge's decision.
2. We acknowledge that this information was obtained in the context of a program that was implemented unilaterally. However, application of the fifth factor of the balancing test for determining whether a status quo ante remedy is warranted as articulated in Federal Correctional Institution, 8 FLRA 604, 606 (1982), necessarily may result in consideration of events that have transpired subsequent to, and as a consequence of, a unilateral implementation of a change in conditions of employment. That particular factor entails an examination of the extent to which a return to the status quo ante would disrupt or impair the efficiency and effectiveness of an agency's operations. Additionally, we note that the evidence on which we rely concerning experience under the random drug testing program was placed into the record of this case by the Union in support of its position.
STATES OF AMERICA
LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGES
TRANSPORTATION AND FEDERAL
SPECIALISTS, MEBA, AFL-CIO
Charging Party .
Case Nos. 3-CA-70647-1-2
40 FLRA 690 (1991)
. 46 FLRA No. 13 (1992)
G. Larry Frazier, Esquire
For the General Counsel
E. Kolick, Jr., Esquire
For the Charging Party
N. Whigham Jones, Esquire
David Tochen, Esquire
For the Respondents
BURTON S. STERNBURG
Administrative Law Judge
of the Case
This is a proceeding under the Federal Service Labor-Management
Relations Statute, Chapter 71 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code, 5 U.S.C.
Section 7101, et seq., and the Rules and Regulations issued
Pursuant to Orders dated June 22, 1992, and October 16, 1992, from
the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and the Federal Labor
Relations Authority, respectively, the
captioned cases were remanded to the
Chief Administrative Law Judge for the sole purpose of conducting a hearing
and making recommendations concerning the appropriateness of a status
quo ante remedy.
The Authority's remand order stated that a factual record should be
developed which includes "information on the nature of the work
performed by bargaining unit employees who are in the job categories that
are subject to random drug testing under DOT Order 3910.1 and the
relation-ship between work performance by those employees and aviation
A hearing was held in the captioned matter on May 18, 1993, in
Washington, D.C. All parties
were afforded the full opportunity to be heard, to examine and
cross-examine witnesses, and to introduce evidence bearing on the issues
involved herein. The
respective counsels for Respondent, Charging Party and General Counsel
filed post hearing briefs which have been fully considered.
The Professional Airways Systems Specialists, MEBA, AFL-CIO,
(hereinafter called the Union), represents two bargaining units within the
Federal Aviation Administration, (hereinafter called the FAA).
One unit, hereinafter referred to as the AF Unit, is composed of all
non-professional employees of the Airways Facilities Division of the FAA
and professional employees employed at the Eastern Regional Headquarters.
There are approximately 6,500 employees in this
bargaining unit. The
second or other bargaining unit, hereinafter referred to as AVN Unit, is
composed of some 350 to 400 employees working for the Aviation
National Field Office.
Prior to September 8, 1987, drug tests were given upon the basis of
reasonable suspicion and in connection with annual physicals.
After September 8, 1987, the FAA instituted a new drug program,
which, in addition to drug testing upon the basis of suspicion provided for
random unscheduled urinalysis testing of unit employees.
Like the old program, if an employee was found to be using drugs, he
would be allowed to retain his job under a "last chance"
agreement which required the employee to submit to follow-up drug testing.
It was the institution of the random drug testing prior to
completion of negotiations that was the basis of the Section 7116(a)(1) and
(5) finding by the Authority. As
noted above, the Authority, based primarily upon the FAA's contention that
absent the continuation of random drug testing the flying public's air
safety would be jeopardized, declined to give a status quo ante
remedy. Inasmuch as the
Circuit Court of Appeals found no basis in the record to support the
Authority's position it remanded the matter for further consideration.
Upon further review, the Authority concluded that the record was
insufficient to make a finding with respect to whether a status quo
ante remedy would indeed jeopardize the flying public and
consequently ordered the instant hearing for the purpose of developing a
record which would show how the various jobs performed by unit personnel
impacted on the safety of the flying public.
Description and Duties of Unit Personnel:
The AF unit members subject to drug testing hold the following
position titles; Electronic Technician, Engineering Technician, Computer
Operator and Maintenance Mechanic.
Electronic Technicians maintain and repair electronic systems
used in the air traffic control system.
These systems include communications equipment, radar, navigational
aids and computers. Fifty to
seventy five percent of the Journeymen Electronic Technicians hold
certification authority which enables them to certify that the various
systems which they maintain and repair are operating within prescribed
Electronic Technicians are responsible for the navigational aids
which give the distances between points, instrument landing systems which
give vertical and horizontal guidance to aircraft, "BOT and the
tack-ins" which give the aircraft the distance to airports, and the
radar which covers all the airspace within the United States.
Engineering Technicians serve as Journeymen Environmental
Engineering Technicians in the Environmental Unit in a General National
Airspace(GNAS) Sector with a high traffic airport containing a Level III or
higher Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT).
The Engineering Technicians responsibilities require the utilization
of multiple, unrelated, skills typically encountered within the
electronics, electrical, and mechanical engineering fields to independently
monitor, evaluate, operate and maintain complex electronics, electrical,
heating and refrigeration, and plants systems and/or equipment.
Failure of one of the critical environmental systems may cause a
complete breakdown in Air Traffic Control of the ATCT/National Airspace
Computer Operators perform duties related to the operation of a
complex computer system installation in a multi-programming and
teleprocessing environment, coordinate all user effort associated with the
system to provide users with desired output and/or to test new programs.
Such employees work in a three shift continuous operation
environment and allocate computer system resources to attain maximum
efficiency. They control and
monitor the Host computer system, including the central processor, the
direct access storage, the peripheral subsystems, and allocate the various
resources of the computer system. The
Host computer is the main computer from which the air traffic controllers
derive their flight information. The
Computer Operator assures the availability of the standby NAS, and assists
users in processing time critical programs such as lost aircraft, aircraft
accidents, incidents, and system errors. Additionally, they perform system
analysis for system improvement for VM/MVS/RSCS and NAS standby, and are
responsible for identifying and resolving NAS en route operational program
Maintenance Mechanics are responsible for maintaining and repairing
visual navigational aids, such as approach lights, electrical cable and
distribution systems, engine generators and air conditioning systems.
The AVN unit members subject to drug testing hold the following
position titles; Airspace System Inspection Pilot, Airborne Technician and
System Inspection Pilot
An Airspace System Inspection Pilot (ASIP) is responsible for the
development of terminal/enroute procedures and in-flight inspection
certification of air navigational aids which make up NAS.
The ASIP participates as aircraft commander or second-in-command in
the in-flight evaluation of air navigational aids and instrument procedures
for purposes of evaluating air navigational aids and instrument procedures,
and verification of system safety and operational suitability.
An Aircraft Mechanic is responsible for inspection and repair of
highly complex turbine powered reciprocating engine aircraft, interpreting
and trouble shooting pilot flight complaints and discrepancies based on the
information presented, and, detecting malfunctions on routine inspections.
The aircraft mechanic is required to work near rotating propellers,
operating jet engines, etc.
An Electronic Technician (Airborne) is responsible for airborne
analysis and evaluations of ground navigational facilities with respect to
accuracy and usability. The
Airborne technician uses highly complex avionic computerized flight
analysis systems and equipment in high performance flight check aircraft
for purposes of certifying the safety and technical integrity of the NAS.
The Airborne technician is responsible for the analysis and
technical evaluation of data through the interpretation and conversion of
analog and digital information, upon which a decision is made as to whether
the facility is operating within its assigned parameters, and can be
certified for the safe and efficient movement of air traffic through the
The FAA periodic drug testing program that was in effect immediately
prior to the random drug testing program currently in effect no longer
exists. It would take
approximately six months to a year to reinstitute the periodic drug program
which, according to the testimony of Ms. Harnetta Williams who is
responsible for FAA's internal drug testing program, was not applicable to
any of the employees currently represented by the Union.
Since the inception of the random drug testing program in September
l987, there have been 25l positive drug tests out of 74,805 random tests of
employees, or .34 percentage rate. The
cumulative rate of positives has steadily declined since l987.
The total number of positive drug tests for the PASS unit since the
inception of random drug testing is 58.
According to Mr. John Reilly, Manager of Management Staff for
the Associate Administrator for Airways Facilities, Washington, D.C., to
his knowledge, since post-accident drug testing was implemented in l987
there has been no accident attributed to the use of drugs by unit
FAA does not randomly test for alcohol or prescription drugs and
there have been occasions where FAA employees have reported to work
intoxicated by alcohol. The
employees of private contractors, such as AT&T which operates the
telephone lines which support FAA's computer system and provides important
equipment services to the Airways Facilities work force, are not subject to
random drug testing.
Due to the low rate of positive drug tests, the Inspector General of
the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recommended, and the FAA
concurred, that the rate of testing under the random drug testing program
be reduced from 50 percent of all employees subject to testing to 25
percent. In this latter
regard, the IG noted that a "positive rate of .23 percent
indicates a very low rate of drug use."
The .23 percent figure was for Fiscal Year l990.
According to the uncontroverted credited testimony of Mr. John
J. Reilly and Mr. John Daniel Pearsall, Associate Administrator for Airways
Facilities and Manager of the Sacramento Field Office, respectively, who
collectively have been employed by the FAA for some 50 years in various
capacities and have extensive personal knowledge of the duties performed by
the above cited personnel currently represented by the Union, a
miscalculation by any of the personnel could have a catastrophic impact on
the flying public, their fellow workers and the FAA's operations.
In reaching the aforementioned conclusions, both Mr. Reilly and
Mr. Pearsall described in detail the functions of the job classifications
and how an error or miscalculation by the person performing any of such job
classifications could result in disaster.
The Union takes the position that a status quo ante
remedy is warranted. In
support of its position the Union relies on, among other things, the
evidence showing that FAA has a very low rate of drug use, the fact that
positive results from random drug testing have shown such a steady decline
that the FAA has reduced the rate of random testing, the fact that there
has not been an aviation accident attributable to drug impairment of a
bargaining unit member, the fact that FAA does not test for the use of
prescription drugs or alcohol, the fact that there is no random drug
testing of employees of private contractors who perform work seriously
impacting on the safety of the National Airspace System, and that any
testimony to the contrary is based on mere speculation.
Respondent and the General Counsel, on the other hand, take the
position that a status quo ante remedy is not
warranted. Thus, while they acknowledge that there has not been an
accident which was attributable to the use of prohibited drugs by unit
personnel and that there has been a decline in the number of positive test
results from random testing, they feel that since the potential for a
catastrophic accident always exists the FAA can not, even for a short
period of time, be without a drug testing program.
While I agree that the record evidence indicates that there never
has been an accident attributable to drug use by unit personnel and that
there has been a decrease in the number of positive results from the
current random drug testing program, that employees of private contractors
whose work seriously impacts on the safety of the National Airspace System
are not subjected to drug testing and that there is no testing for the use
of alcohol or prescription drugs, I can not find that a status quo
ante remedy is in order. This
is particularly true when one considers that, a number of the unit
employees work without any direct supervision and hence are not susceptible
to drug testing on the basis of reason-able suspicion, the decrease in
positive results from the random testing is most likely attributable to
fear of discovery, the FAA is under an obligation to insure the safety of
the flying public and, discontinuance of the current random drug testing
program would result in the absence of any drug testing program for a
number of months. Add to the
foregoing conclusions, the fact that one miscue by a unit employee under
the influence of prohibited drugs could result in a catastrophe, it is
obvious, in this writers's opinion, that a status quo ante
remedy would disrupt and/or impair the efficiency and safety of the
National Airspace System operated by Respondent and be a disservice to the
Accordingly, it is recommended that the Authority not order a status quo ante remedy.