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 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:

37 FLRA No. 37













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 pe