EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION CHICAGO DISTRICT OFFICE CHICAGO, ILLINOIS and LOCAL 3504, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
United States of America
BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL
|In the Matter of
EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY
CHICAGO DISTRICT OFFICE
LOCAL 3504, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF
Case No. 03 FSIP 94
DECISION AND ORDER
Local 3504, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union), 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 (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chicago District Office, Chicago, Illinois (Employer).
Following investigation of the Union’s request for assistance, which arose from negotiations over work hours, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through written submissions, including rebuttal statements of position. The parties were advised that, after considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deems appropriate to resolve the dispute, which may include the issuance of a binding decision. The parties’ final offers and written submissions, including rebuttal arguments, were received pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.
The Employer’s mission is to investigate charges of employment discrimination and enforce civil rights laws; it attempts to conciliate employment discrimination disputes by engaging in settlement efforts, and also it conducts outreach activities to educate employers about their obligations under the law. The Union represents approximately 85 professional and non-professional employees in the Chicago District Office (CDO) who are part of a nationwide bargaining unit consisting of approximately 1,800 employees.(1) Typical bargaining-unit positions in the CDO are attorney, investigator, mediator, administrative judge, paralegal and administrative assistant. The parties are covered by a master collective-bargaining agreement which went into effect on September 2, 2002, for a 3-year term.
Under a local agreement dating from 1996, most employees start work between 7 and 9 a.m. Core hours (work hours when employees must be on duty) for the CDO are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Work schedule options currently available to employees include a 5-4/9 compressed work schedule (CWS);(2) flexitour(3) and a gliding schedule.(4) Employees who work a gliding schedule may start as early as 6:30 a.m., even though doing so would permit them to leave at 3 p.m., ½ hour before core hours end. Also, the parties recently agreed to permit certain employees to telecommute 1 day per week.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The parties disagree over whether all bargaining-unit employees in the office should have the option of starting work between the hours of 6:30 to 9 a.m., ½ hour earlier than the current 7 a.m. starting time available to most employees.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
1. The Union’s Position
The Union proposes that for a 6-month trial period, all bargaining-unit employees in the office should be permitted the option of starting work from 6:30 to 9 a.m. As with other work schedule alternatives, the Employer retains the ability to remove an employee from a work schedule that starts at 6:30 a.m. because of tardiness or poor performance. Allowing employees the option of starting work earlier would cost the agency nothing to implement; moreover, it would be a morale booster for employees and help the agency to achieve its goal of becoming a model employer. Employees have earned the trust of management with respect to their ability to accomplish work, so the Employer has no reason to be skeptical that employees who begin work at 6:30 a.m. would be fully engaged in starting work at that time.
This earlier starting time would not be available to those who work in "charge receipt"(5) because the parties already have agreed that those employees would have work hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., to better serve walk-in clientele and persons who call during regular business hours with inquiries; thus, excluding employees assigned to charge receipt from working earlier hours should ensure that service to members of the public is not diminished. Moreover, since most interviews with members of the public are scheduled for specific times, it may benefit some complainants, who work during the day, to have the ability to meet with a staff person early in the morning before going off to his or her job. Nationwide, EEOC offices are subject to a hiring freeze and, like the CDO, many other district offices deal with large workloads, walk-in clientele, and numerous telephone inquiries from the public; yet, unlike the CDO, many of these offices permit their employees to start work at 6:30 a.m. There is nothing unique about the CDO which should exempt it from doing the same. A 6-month trial period would give the parties time to adequately evaluate the impact, if any, of a 6:30 a.m. starting time on the CDO’s ability to provide service to the public; at the end of the trial period, the parties would have the option to terminate the 6:30 a.m. starting time, modify, or retain it.
2. The Employer’s Position
The Employer proposes to retain the current starting hours which permit employees not on a gliding schedule or in charge receipt to begin work anywhere between 7 and 9 a.m. The majority of personnel in the office have positions which require extensive contact with the public, primarily through intake and investigation of charges filed against private, state, and local government employers. The current starting timeband is more consistent with the hours in which members of the public contact the office (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Retaining the current morning timeband would allow employees to be available during those hours when members of the public are likely to either telephone or come into the office. Moreover, the Employer’s proposal is consistent with the current core hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., which were negotiated locally with the Union. The CDO is unique in that it receives more inquiries and takes more charges than any other field office; because of this, and in order to better cover the workload, staff work hours should conform more closely to the times when members of the public are most likely to come to the office. Furthermore, a starting time earlier than 7 a.m. only may serve to exacerbate the persistent staff shortages in the office. Finally, the current starting time should remain unchanged since employees already have a wide variety of work schedule options available to them, including telecommuting.
Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments presented on this issue, we are not fully persuaded by either parties’ position. The Union’s proposal, which would permit all employees except those in charge receipt to start work as early as 6:30 a.m., appears to conflict with the office core hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. In this regard, an employee who starts at 6:30 a.m. and works an 8-hour tour of duty would conclude his or her workday at 3 p.m., 30 minutes before core hours end. The Employer’s position that a starting time prior to 7 a.m. would adversely affect service to the public, however, appears to be speculative, particularly in light of the fact that: (1) employees in charge receipt already are required to maintain work hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; (2) the Employer admits that "the busiest time periods for the CDO are 8:30-ll:30 a.m. and in the afternoon from 1-2:30 p.m.;" and (3) it recently agreed to permit employees to telecommute. Accordingly, we shall order the adoption of compromise wording that balances the interests of both sides by permitting some employees to start their workday as early as 6:30 a.m. while maximizing employee availability during peak times when staff and clientele are most likely to interact. In addition, we believe a 6-month pilot period should be sufficient for either party to determine whether the earlier starting time adversely affects service to the public, as the Employer predicts.