Defense Security Assistance, Development Center (Agency) and American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2004 (Union)

[ v59 p270 ]

59 FLRA No. 41



LOCAL 2004




September 30, 2003


Before the Authority: Dale Cabaniss, Chairman, and
Carol Waller Pope and Tony Armendariz, Members [n1] 

I.      Statement of the Case

      This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to an award of Arbitrator J. Joseph Loewenberg filed by the Agency under § 7122(a) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) and part 2425 of the Authority's Regulations. The Union filed an opposition to the Agency's exceptions.

      The Arbitrator sustained the grievances of three employees and ordered them retroactively promoted with backpay. We find that the remedy is deficient, and we strike it. We remand to the parties for further proceedings.

II.      Background and Arbitrator's Award

      The Agency was established in 1997 as the result of a merger of separate programs of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Union filed a grievance, which claimed that the Agency had acted improperly by not promoting employees after their transfer to the Agency. The matter was submitted to arbitration where the Arbitrator framed the issue as whether the Agency had violated law or the parties' collective bargaining agreement when it did not select five specified employees for promotion.

      The Arbitrator denied the grievance as it pertained to two of the employees. As to the other three employees, he sustained the grievance. He ruled that as to these employees, the Agency had violated 5 U.S.C. §§ 2301-2302 and the parties' collective bargaining agreement. As a remedy, he ordered the Agency to retroactively promote these employees with backpay to the date of the grievance.

      In explaining the remedial order, the Arbitrator stated the following:

Would any of the three grievants have received promotions in 1998 if management had not engaged in improper actions? It is not possible to know the answer. The theoretical ideal might be to roll back the clock, make management correct its improper actions, and let the promotion process proceed. Given the length of time since the improper actions and intervening events, such a course is unrealistic. The only appropriate remedy, both to correct the violations and to put management on notice of the seriousness of prohibited actions, is to award the three named grievants promotions and back pay retroactive to the date of the grievance.

Award at 23.

III.     Positions of the Parties

A.      The Agency

      The Agency contends that the remedy of retroactive promotions with backpay is deficient as contrary to the Back Pay Act, 5 U.S.C. § 5596, and § 7106(a)(2)(C) of the Statute because the Arbitrator did not determine that there was a causal connection between an improper action by the Agency and the failure of the named grievants to be promoted.

B.      The Union

      The Union contends that the remedy is not deficient. The Union argues that the remedy is not contrary to § 7106(a)(2)(C) because "there is absolutely no basis for the Agency to claim that the arbitrator's decision to promote the grievants was not a reconstruction of what the Agency would have done had it not violated the law . . . ." Opposition at 14. The Union argues that the remedy is not contrary to the Back Pay Act because "all three grievants were not promoted as a direct result of the unwarranted personnel actions. This establishes a sufficient causal connection to support an award of back pay under the Back Pay Act." Id. at 15. [ v59 p271 ]

IV.      Analysis and Conclusions

      The Agency's exceptions dispute the award's consistency with law. Accordingly, the Authority reviews the questions of law raised by the award and the exceptions de novo. See NTEU, Chapter 24, 50 FLRA 330, 332 (1995).

      An award of a retroactive promotion with backpay is authorized under the Back Pay Act only when: (1) the aggrieved employees were affected by an unjustified and unwarranted personnel action; and (2) the personnel action resulted in a loss of pay by the employees because of a failure to be promoted. See, e.g., Soc. Sec. Admin., Office of Hearings and Appeals, Paducah, Ky., 58 FLRA 124, 125 (2002) (Office of Hearings and Appeals). In determining whether an award of a retroactive promotion with backpay is deficient, the Authority examines whether there is a causal connection between the unwarranted personnel action and the failure to promote. See id. With respect to the requirement of a causal connection, the Authority examines whether the arbitrator has found that but for the unwarranted action, the loss of pay, allowances, or differentials would not have occurred. See United States Dep't of Health and Human Services, 54 FLRA 1210, 1218-19 (1998) (an examination of whether a pay loss would have occurred but for the unwarranted action "amplifies" the causal connection requirement of the Act).

      We conclude that the remedy of a retroactive promotion with backpay is deficient because it is contrary to the Back Pay Act. The Arbitrator did not find and the record does not establish that the three grievants would have been promoted if the Agency had not violated law or the collective bargaining agreement. Rather, the Arbitrator specifically found that it was not possible for him to determine whether any of the three grievants would have been promoted if management had not acted improperly. Consequently, the remedy of a retroactive promotion with backpay is deficient as contrary to the Back Pay Act and must be set aside. [n2]  See Office of Hearings and Appeals, 58 FLRA at 126 (nothing in the arbitrator's finding