DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY EISENHOWER MEDICAL ARMY CENTER FORT GORDON, GEORGIA and LOCAL 2017, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
EISENHOWER MEDICAL ARMY CENTER
FORT GORDON, GEORGIA

and

LOCAL 2017, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 01 FSIP 180

 

DECISION AND ORDER

   The Department of the Army, Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Georgia (Employer) filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and Local 2017, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union).

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance concerning the elimination of Anteroom 1J24 as a break room, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through an informal conference by telephone with a Panel representative. The parties were informed that if no settlement was reached, the Panel representative would notify the Panel of the status of the dispute, including the parties' final offers and her recommendations for resolving the impasse. The Panel would then take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the matter, which could include the issuance of a Decision and Order.

   In accordance with the Panel's determination, on October 2, 2001, Panel Representative (Labor Relations Specialist) June M. Marshall held an informal conference, by telephone, with the parties. They voluntarily resolved the primary dispute over Anteroom 1J24 by agreeing to discontinue its use as a break room; however, they were unable to resolve the related issue of who would be permitted to use the adjacent restroom, 1J23. Ms. Marshall has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer's mission is to provide residency training for doctors.(1) The Union represents approximately 1,400 employees who work as nurses, laboratory and X-ray technicians, food service workers, vehicle operators, and in other support staff positions at grades GS-4 through -9 and WG-3 through -10. The use of restroom 1J23 primarily affects employees who work in the Pathology Laboratory at the Eisenhower Medical Center. The parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired in September 1996, however, they are operating under a contractual rollover provision until a successor agreement is implemented.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over whether to designate restroom 1J23 as female only or unisex.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1.  The Union's Position

    The Union proposes that restroom 1J23, located near the Pathology Laboratory, be designated for use by female employees only.(2) This has been the status quo "for 15 years until a group of contract employees were moved [into] the area of [the] Pathology Lab."(3)  An additional "female restroom is needed in the Lab" because more females (50) work in the Laboratory than men (19, 7 of whom are contractor employees working at the "help desk"). Furthermore, leaving the bathroom as female only will minimize the affect of "females waiting on [work] time to use the bathroom." Male employees who work in the Pathology Laboratory have always used the mens' rooms in the Laboratory or in some other location. Finally, during the informal conference, the Union conceded that the break room in question could be relocated, thereby giving the Employer 50 percent of what it wanted; the Employer should, therefore, be required to meet the Union half way by resolving the bathroom issue on the basis of the Union's proposal.

2.  The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposes that the bathroom be designated as unisex, and a 30-to-60-day test be conducted to determine whether that designation causes any problems. At the hospital, restrooms without signs on the entry door are available to both men and women. If bathroom 1J23 were intended for women only, it would have been so designated; instead, "this bathroom [which has no sign] is used by both men and women, including the men in 1J20, [the office] which is directly adjoining the anteroom/bathroom area." These male employees have used the restroom for the last 10 months whenever the female employees in Pathology were not taking breaks in Anteroom 1J24.(4) At the "help desk," they are constantly on the telephone assisting customers with computer problems, so "having a bathroom available only a few feet away helps them to be more accessible in performing their job responsibilities."

    Contrary to the Union's assertion that 50 female employees need to use restroom 1J23, a 6-week survey shows that, in practice, only four women from the Pathology Laboratory regularly use this bathroom. Further, the Panel should reject the Union's contention that there is "always a line at the women's bathroom." In this regard, the personnel specialist for the hospital indicates that "he has yet to see a line at any women's bathroom." In addition, several other women's bathrooms are available to Department of Pathology employees within about 60 seconds walking distance from the office of the four female employees noted in the survey. The most distant women's bathroom is only an additional 15 seconds walking distance from the far end of the Pathology Laboratory. Moreover, by designating restroom 1J23 as unisex, female employees will continue to have access to a convenient facility, though it would also be used by male employees.

CONCLUSIONS

   Upon consideration of the evidence and arguments provided by the parties in this case, we conclude that a modified version of the Employer's proposal, designating room 1J23 as a unisex bathroom, but without a test period, should be adopted by the parties to resolve their impasse. While it appears that until December 2000 the restroom was used exclusively by female employees, the practice changed when contract employees began working in 1J20. In this regard, we are persuaded on the basis of the record that there was a need for this change. Permitting either male or female employees to use the restroom closest to their work area is, in our view, more efficient than their having to seek restroom facilities elsewhere on the 1st floor. Furthermore, during break periods the use of this restroom should be reduced because at least two other bathrooms are closer to the facility's new break room. As to the Union's assertion that the number of women's restrooms is insufficient, in our view, designating restroom 1J23 for use by all employees would not appreciably exacerbate any such problem, assuming one exists. Since the bathroom has been used by both males and females for the last 10 months, however, an additional test to ascertain if problems arise appears unnecessary.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because of the failure of the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted under the Panel's regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6(a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel, under 5 C.F.R. § 2471.11(a) of its regulations, hereby orders adoption of the following wording:

    Room 1J23 shall be designated as a unisex bathroom.

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky

Executive Director

November 2, 2001

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