49:0525(45)AR - - AFGE, Council of Prison Locals, Local 171 and Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Correctional Institution, El Reno, OK - - 1994 FLRAdec AR - - v49 p525

[ v49 p525 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:

49 FLRA No. 45

















March 17, 1994


Before Chairman McKee and Members Talkin and Armendariz.

I. Statement of the Case

This case is before the Authority on exceptions to an award of Arbitrator Don J. Harr 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 Arbitrator denied a grievance alleging that the Agency improperly administered its program to obtain and act on information relating to employee indebtedness. For the following reasons, we conclude that the Union's exceptions fail to establish that the award is deficient. Accordingly, we will deny the exceptions.

II. Preliminary Matters

The Agency requests that the Authority not consider attachments to the Union's exceptions. In this regard, the Agency notes that the Union initially failed to: (1) file with the Authority the correct number of copies of its exceptions; and (2) serve Agency officials with the exceptions. The Agency contends that, when the Union corrected these deficiencies, the Union included attachments to the exceptions which were not included with its initial filing.

The Union initially filed with the Authority a complete copy of its exceptions, including all attachments. That is, the Union did not include more or different attachments with the copies later filed with the Authority or served on the Agency. Therefore, we deny the Agency's request that we not consider the attachments to the Union's exceptions.

III. Background and Arbitrator's Award

According to the Arbitrator, Agency employees are subject to certain initial background investigations by the Office of Personnel Management and subsequent, periodic investigations by the Agency, which include examinations of employees' financial credit records. If "derogatory" credit information is uncovered as a result of a periodic investigation, the Agency notifies the affected employee and provides the employee an opportunity to explain the situation.

Award at 2.

A grievance was filed contesting the Agency's practice with respect to periodic investigations into employees' credit records. When the grievance was not resolved, it was submitted to arbitration, where the Arbitrator framed the issue as follows:

Does the Agency violate any of their authority when requesting employees to resolve derogatory debt information obtained through the pre-employment process and the [5] year reinvestigation process?


Before the Arbitrator, the Union alleged that the Agency had "taken on the role of a collection agency" and coerced employees to pay debts "whether . . . just or not just." Id. at 4 (emphasis omitted). As a remedy, the Union requested, among other things, that the Agency "cease and desist acting as a collection agency, discontinue use of integrity questions about just debts, and refund all monies to employees" which had been used to pay unjust debts. Id.

The Arbitrator noted testimony from an Agency witness that employees facing financial difficulties were more susceptible to bribery attempts from inmates and that, as such, the Agency had an interest in investigating employees' financial situations. Moreover, the Arbitrator found, based on the record before him, that the Agency did not act as a collection agency or an intermediary for creditors and did not force employees to pay debts. The Arbitrator concluded that the Agency did not "act[] outside of its authority or policy[]" by requesting and acting on information concerning employees' credit records. Id. at 5. Accordingly, the Arbitrator denied the grievance.

IV. Positions of the Parties

The Union claims that the Agency acted as a collection agency and, in so doing, violated law,(1) regulation,(2) and certain Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) decisions.(3) The Union also claims that the Arbitrator failed to address the Union's request for "any corrective action deemed appropriate." Exceptions at 3.

The Agency argues that the Union's exceptions constitute mere disagreement with the Arbitrator's award and do not demonstrate that the award is deficient.

V. Analysis and Conclusions

The Arbitrator found that, although the Agency received credit reports from a local credit bureau, the Agency did not act improperly with respect to soliciting and acting on information concerning employees' credit histories and concluded specifically that there was no evidence to support the Union's claims that the Agency acted as a collection agency or as an intermediary for creditors. In view of the Arbitrator's findings, the Union has not shown that the award conflicts with law, regulation, or MSPB decisions prohibiting agencies from so acting. For example, U.S. Department of the Air Force, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, Tinker Air Force Base and American Federation of Government Employees, Local 916, 43 FLRA 963, 967 (1992). In this regard, the Union's reliance on the Fair Debt Collection Act of 1977 is misplaced. The Fair Debt Collection Act, by its terms, regulates the collection of debts from consumers. As the Arbitrator specifically found that the Agency did not act as a collection agency, the Union has not established that the award conflicts with the plain wording of either the Act or with 28 C.F.R. § 45.735-15, which prohibits an employing agency from acting as a collection agency. Moreover, the Union has not demonstrated that the Arbitrator's finding