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The decision of the Authority follows:
43 FLRA No. 102
FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
CARSWELL AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
January 31, 1992
Before Chairman McKee and Members Talkin and Armendariz.
I. Statement of the Case
This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to an award of Arbitrator J. D. Dunn 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 Agency filed an opposition to the Union's exceptions.
The grievance alleged that the Agency discriminated against three employees on the basis of race when the Agency gave performance awards to employees. The Arbitrator determined that he did not have jurisdiction over the grievance because the subject matter of the grievance was excluded from the coverage of the parties' grievance and arbitration procedure. 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
Out of 18 employees in the Agency's Meat Market, 13 received cash awards for the appraisal period beginning February 1, 1989, and ending January 31, 1990. Three employees filed a grievance. The grievance was not resolved and was submitted to arbitration. The parties agreed to bifurcate the hearing before the Arbitrator and that the Arbitrator would first decide whether "the subject matter of the grievance [was] appropriate for arbitration[.]" Award at 7. If the Arbitrator found that the matter was arbitrable, he would then consider the merits of the grievance. The parties stipulated that the issue on its merits was as follows:
Whether the Grievants were discriminated against on the basis of race when they received their performance awards for the appraisal period beginning 1 February 1989 and ending January 31, 1990. If so, what is the appropriate remedy?
Id. at 10.
The Arbitrator found that the grievance was not arbitrable. He stated that Article XXXIV, Section 7 of the parties' collective bargaining agreement provides that "[a]ll EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] complaints will be processed under the appropriate regulations including FPM [Federal Personnel Manual] chapter 713." Id. at 7. The Arbitrator found that the subject of the grievance before him was "clearly an 'EEO complaint.'" Id. at 15.
The Arbitrator noted that when the parties signed their agreement on July 20, 1978, collective bargaining in the Federal service was governed by Executive Order 11491, as amended. According to the Arbitrator, the Order "mandated that 'statutory appeal matters' be excluded from collective bargaining [and] [t]he language of Section 7 of Article XXXIV is consistent with E.O. 11491." Id. at 16. The Arbitrator further noted that collective bargaining in the Federal sector is now controlled by the Statute, and although the Statute does not mandate the exclusion of statutory appeals from collective bargaining agreements, the Statute "does state that 'any collective bargaining agreement may exclude any matter from application of the grievance procedure.'" Id. Stating that the "decision that must be made is clear[,]" the Arbitrator found that: (1) the grievance concerns a racial discrimination issue; (2) "EEO complaints" are excluded from coverage of the grievance and arbitration procedure; and (3) the subject of the grievance is excluded from coverage of the negotiated agreement. Id.
In so finding, the Arbitrator rejected the Union's argument that the Agency's jurisdictional argument was untimely raised. The Arbitrator held that the issue of whether a subject of a grievance has been excluded from the coverage of the grievance and arbitration procedure is a jurisdictional challenge that "may be raised for the first time even at the arbitration hearing . . . ." Id. The Arbitrator noted that "[t]he late voicing of a jurisdictional question might be grounds for requesting postponement of an arbitral hearing so that the surprised party would have time to prepare its case[,]" but stated that the Union did not request a postponement in this case. Id.
Accordingly, the Arbitrator ruled that he did not have jurisdiction to decide the issue on its merits.
The Union contends that the award is contrary to law and the parties' contract. The Union asserts that it has the right to file EEO complaints under the contract and that the Arbitrator demonstrated anti-Union bias by ignoring evidence submitted by the Union and contract restrictions placed on the parties in raising arbitrability issues. According to the Union, the Agency violated the contract by untimely raising its arbitrability argument and the Arbitrator improperly supported the Agency's claim.
As an initial matter, the Agency contends that the Union's exceptions should be dismissed because the Union failed to properly serve its exceptions on the Agency and "did not correct that error until after being sent two separate orders from" the Authority. Opposition at 1. The Agency also contends that it did not waive the jurisdictional issue, contrary to the Union's assertion. According to the Agency, "[j]urisdictional issues are never waived." Id. Further, the Agency asserts that it advised the Union at least four days before the arbitration hearing that it intended to raise jurisdiction as an issue and that the Union "did not request additional time to respond to this issue, despite being apprised of the fact that [it] could make such a request." Id.
V. Analysis and Conclusions
We conclude that the Union's exceptions are properly before us and that they provide no basis for finding the award deficient.
We reject the Agency's claim that the exceptions should be dismissed because they were improperly served on the Agency. The Agency acknowledged that the Union "correct[ed] [its] error" regarding service on the Agency after being notified by the Authority. Id. Moreover, the Agency had an opportunity to file, and did file, an opposition to the exceptions. Under these circumstances, noting the absence of any prejudice to the Agency, we conclude that the exceptions are properly before us.
We reject the Union's claim that the award violates law. The Union cites no law, and none is apparent to us, with which the award conflicts. In resolving the matter before him, the Arbitrator applied the relevant provision of law, section 7121(a)(2) of the Statute, which provides that "[a]ny collective bargaining agreement may exclude any matter from the application of the grievance procedures which are provided for in the agreement." 5 U.S.C. § 7121(a)(2). Under this provision, parties may agree to a grievance procedure having narrower coverage than that permitted under the Statute. U.S. Department of the Treasury, Customs Service, Southeast Region and National Treasury Employees Union, 43 FLRA No. 72 (1992).
We also find that the Union provides no basis for finding that the award is deficient because the Arbitrator misinterpreted the parties' collective bargaining agreement. We construe the Union's exception as a contention that the award fails to draw its essence from the parties' collective bargaining agreement.
To demonstrate that an award is deficient because it fails to draw its essence from an agreement, a party must show 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 of the agreement; or (4) does not represent a plausible interpretation of the agreement. For example, American Federation of Government Employees, Council 236 and General Services Administration, Region 9, 43 FLRA No. 80 (1992). The Union fails to establish that the award is deficient under any of these tests.
Based on his interpretation of the parties' agreement, the Arbitrator concluded that the Union's grievance was not arbitrable under Article XXXIV, Section 7. The Arbitrator found that: (1) the grievance raises a racial discrimination issue; (2) EEO complaints are excluded from coverage of the grievance and arbitration procedure; and (3) the subject of the grievance is excluded from coverage of the negotiated agreement. The Union has failed to demonstrate that the Arbitrator's conclusion that, under the parties' agreement, the grievance was not arbitrable is irrational, unfounded, implausible, or evidences a manifest disregard for the agreement. Rather, the Union's exception constitutes nothing more than disagreement with the Arbitrator's interpretation and application of the agreement, as well as an attempt to relitigate this issue before the Authority. Therefore, this contention provides no basis for finding the award deficient. See, for example, Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah and American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, Local 1592, 39 FLRA 1282, 1286 (1991) (Ogden).
Finally, to the extent that the Union claims that the award is deficient because the Arbitrator was biased against the Union, we reject this contention as well. To demonstrate that an award is deficient on this basis, it must be shown that: (1) the award was procured by improper means; (2) there was partiality or corruption on the part of the arbitrator; or (3) the arbitrator was guilty of misconduct by which the rights of a party were prejudiced. See U.S. Department of the Air Force, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, Tinker Air Force Base and American Federation of Government Employees, Local 916, 35 FLRA 700, 704 (1990).
The Union has not demonstrated that the award was procured by improper means, that there was partiality or corruption on the Arbitrator's part, or that the Arbitrator was guilty of misconduct by which the rights of any party were prejudiced. Accordingly, the Union's allegation that the Arbitrator was biased provides no basis for finding the award deficient. See National Labor Relations Board and National Labor Relations Board Union, 35 FLRA 421, 427 (1990). In our view, the Union's exception constitutes mere disagreement with the Arbitrator's interpretation and application of the parties' agreement. As noted above, such disagreement provides no basis for finding the award deficient. See Ogden.
The Union's exceptions are denied.
(If blank, the decision does not have footnotes.)