United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, Atlanta, Georgia (Agency) and National Treasury Employees Union (Union)

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59 FLRA No. 87







December 19, 2003


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

I.     Statement of the Case

      This case is before the Authority on exceptions to an award of Arbitrator Jack Clarke 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.

      For the following reasons, we deny the Agency's exceptions.

II.     Background and Arbitrator's Award

      As relevant herein, the Union filed a grievance alleging that the Agency violated Article 25, Alternative Work Schedules, of the parties' collective bargaining agreement by requiring employees on flexible schedules to establish estimated times of arrival and to call in to their supervisors if they were going to vary from those times. [n2]  The grievance was not resolved and was submitted to arbitration.

      The Arbitrator stated: "The stipulated issues raised by the merits of the grievances are whether the Agency violated Article 25 of the . . . Agreement and, if so, what shall be the remedy." Award at 21. With respect to the question of whether the Agency had the right to require employees to estimate their time of arrival at work, the Arbitrator found that, under Article 25, the Agency "may condition approval" of an employee' request for an alternative work schedule (AWS) "on the employee's providing the times at which she/he expects to arrive for and leave work." Id. at 22. The Arbitrator also found that Article 25 authorized employees electing to work an AWS "to list arrival and departure times as bands of time." Id. at 23. However, the Arbitrator found that, with certain specified exceptions, Article 25 prohibited the Agency "from insisting or requiring employees to call in if they expect to arrive at work more than one hour after the time shown on their AWS schedule." Id. at 24. Specifically, the Arbitrator cited Section 9.E. of Article 25, which provides that an employee is not tardy until the beginning of the core hours.

      Consequently, the Arbitrator concluded that, by requiring employees to state specific hours of arrival and departure and to call in if they would arrive more than an hour after the stated time, the Agency violated Article 25. As a remedy, the Arbitrator ordered the Agency to apply Article 25 in a manner consistent with the interpretation of that provision set forth in his award and to cease and desist from acting in a manner that is inconsistent with that interpretation.

III.     Positions of the Parties

A.     Agency's Exceptions

      The Agency notes that, under Authority precedent, matters pertaining to alternative work schedules, such as the flexible schedules involved herein, are fully negotiable and enforceable under the Statute, insofar as consistent with the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act of 1982, Pub. L. No. 97-221, 96 Stat. 227 (codified at 5 U.S.C. §§ 6101 note, 6120-6133) (the Work Schedules Act), and notwithstanding management's rights under § 7106 of the Statute. The Agency argues, however, that Authority precedent contains an exception to the negotiability and enforceability of contractual provisions concerning AWS. Specifically, the Agency contends, Authority AWS precedent limits this exclusion from management's [ v59 p529 ] rights to only those matters that are "integrally related to" the institution, implementation, administration, or termination of an AWS. See NTEU, Atlanta, Ga., 32 FLRA 879, 882 (1988). According to the Agency, work schedule matters that are not "integrally related to" an AWS are thus reviewable for consistency with law, including management's rights, under § 7117 of the Statute.

      The Agency also maintains that the Arbitrator's award, precluding it from requiring employees on an AWS to call in if they will be more than one hour later than their estimated arrival time, is contrary to management's right to assign work under § 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute.

B.     Union's Opposition

      The Union contends that the Arbitrator's award concerns "the administration of the parties['] AWS program." Opposition at 4. According to the Union, under Authority precedent, such matters are enforceable in arbitration unless they are inconsistent with the Work Schedules Act. The Union maintains that the award is consistent with § 6122 and § 6131 of that Act.

      Assuming that the award is determined not to concern the administration of the AWS program, the Union asserts that it is enforceable because it does not affect the exercise of management's right to assign work, but, at most, constitutes an "incidental interference" with that right. Id. at 9.

IV.     Analysis and Conclusions

      The Agency claims that the award violates management's right to assign work under § 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute. Because the Agency's exception challenges the award's consistency with law, the Authority reviews the questions of law raised in the exception and the arbitrator's award de novo. See, e.g., NFFE, Local 1437, 53 FLRA 1703, 1709 (1998). When the Authority assesses whether an arbitrator's legal conclusions are consistent with the applicable standard of law, based on the underlying factual findings. Id. at 1710. In making that assessment, the Authority defers to the arbitrator's underlying factual findings. See NTEU,