American Federation of Government Employees, Local 217 (Union) and United States, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Augusta, Georgia (Agency)

[ v60 p459 ]

60 FLRA No. 91

AMERICAN FEDERATION
OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
LOCAL 217
(Union)

and

UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
MEDICAL CENTER
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA
(Agency)

0-AR-3836

_____

DECISION

November 30, 2004

_____

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

I.     Statement of the Case

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

      The Arbitrator denied a grievance alleging that the Agency violated the parties' master agreement when it failed to promote the grievant.

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

II.     Background and Arbitrator's Award

      In October 2002, the Agency hired the grievant as a GS-9 Contract Specialist Intern, with promotion potential to GS-11. Prior to this, the grievant had been employed with the Department of Defense (DOD) as a contract specialist for almost a year. The grievant received a fully satisfactory rating with no deficiencies for the period from October 2002 through March 2003 from his supervisor at the time.

      The Union filed a grievance contending that the grievant should have been promoted to GS-11 on March 31, 2003. The parties were unable to resolve the dispute and the matter was submitted to arbitration.

      The parties did not stipulate the issues to be resolved by the Arbitrator. The Arbitrator framed the issues as follows:

Whether the [Agency] violated the Master Agreement when it failed to provide Grievant a Career Ladder Plan. Whether the [Agency] violated the Master Agreement when it failed to promote Grievant on March 31, 2003. If so, whether the Grievant is entitled to retroactive back pay.

Award at 2.

      The Arbitrator found that the grievant was not provided a Career Ladder Plan, in violation of the parties' master agreement which requires such plans to be given to employees in career ladder positions. However, the Arbitrator concluded that in order to prevail, the grievant must show that but for this contract violation, the grievant would have been promoted.

      The Arbitrator found that, although the grievant satisfied the 1-year requirement for specialized experience based on his DOD experience, the grievant was not qualified for promotion on March 31, 2003. In this regard, the Arbitrator relied on testimony of the grievant's supervisor during March 2003 that the grievant had not completed specific course requirements for promotion. The Arbitrator also noted that the grievant's current supervisor testified that the grievant was still not qualified for promotion at the time of the hearing in early February 2004 and that he still lacked the necessary skills and experience.

      Lastly, the Arbitrator noted other arguments made by the Union; namely, that the grievant was improperly denied the promotion to GS-11 in reprisal for his union activity and that the Agency failed to provide the grievant with a 60-day notice of deficiencies. Also, the Arbitrator noted that the Union claimed that the grievant was entitled to a temporary promotion because he was working at least 60 percent of the time as a GS-11. The Arbitrator found that none of these contentions was raised during the "appeals process and therefore cannot be considered." Id. at 8.

      Having found that the grievant was not qualified for promotion, the Arbitrator denied the grievance.

III.     Union's Exceptions

      The Union asserts that the award is contrary to law, rule or regulation, in violation of the Office of Personnel Management Guidelines for Merit Promotion [ v60 p460 ] (OPM Guidelines) unde 5 C.F.R. § 335.103(c)(3)(i [*]  and the parties' master agreement.

      The Union also maintains that the award "did not appropriately define all of the issues." Exceptions at 1. In this respect, the Union maintains that the Arbitrator failed to include the issue concerning the grievant's entitlement to back pay for performing work at the higher grade level more than 25 percent of the time under the parties' master agreement. Id. at 1. In the same vein, the Union excepts to the Arbitrator's failure to address the issue of the grievant's entitlement to a temporary promotion in accordance with the parties' master agreement based on his performance of the same duties as contract specialists at the GS-11 level. Id. at 2.

      Lastly, the Union maintains that the Arbitrator erred in finding that the grievant was not qualified for promotion on March 31, 2003. The Union argues that the Arbitrator was compelled to find otherwise based on her finding that the grievant met the 1-year specialized experience requirement necessary for promotion to the GS-11 level. The Union contends that since "there is no career ladder plan, [neither] the Agency nor the Arbitrator can arbitrarily substitute subjective promotion criteria in its place." Id. at 5. The Union maintains that the Agency must promote the grievant in accordance with Article 22, Section 4A.3 of the parties' master agreement, which states that "in the event that the employee met the promotion criteria, but the appropriate management official failed to initiate the promotion timely, the promotion will be retroactive to the beginning of the first pay period after the pay period in which the requirements were met." Id.

IV.     Agency's Opposition

      The Agency asserts that the Arbitrator's award appropriately defined the issues and that the award is consistent with all applicable regulations and the parties' master agreement.

V.