United States Department of the Navy, Navy Public Works Center, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest, Great Lakes, Illinois (Agency) and National Association of Government Employees, Local R7-51 (Union)
64 FLRA No. 94
FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY
NAVY PUBLIC WORKS CENTER
NAVAL FACILITIES ENGINEERING COMMAND MIDWEST
GREAT LAKES, ILLINOIS
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
February 26, 2010
Before the Authority: Carol Waller Pope, Chairman, and
Thomas M. Beck and Ernest DuBester, Members
I. Statement of the Case
This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to an award of Arbitrator
Cyrus A. Alexander 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 granted the grievance in part, awarding the affected employees, who had been exposed to Asbestos Containing Material (ACM): (1) annual exams at the Agency’s expense and (2) if an employee separates from the Agency, the difference in the premium paid for an exam while employed at the Agency and the actual cost of the exam to the employee. For the reasons that follow, we grant the Agency’s exception and set aside the award.
II. Background and Arbitrator’s Award
The grievants are six Agency employees, who were assigned to the High Voltage Shop of the Utilities Department to remove and install new cables and equipment in an area known as “the vault.” Award at 2-3. The Agency knew that the vault area “contain[ed] [ACM] and peeling lead paint.” Id. at 3. The Agency ordered testing, which confirmed the presence of ACM. Id.
The Shop Foreman directed the employees to remove the cables and ACM. Id. at 3-4. The Foreman told the employees that only one cable out of several was ACM and that the other material was not ACM. Id. at 3. Four of the employees worked two days, including some overtime; one of the employees worked one day, plus overtime; and one of the employees worked one day removing the material and ACM. Exceptions,
Attach. 3 at 1-2. Two of the employees wore protective clothing and respirators when removing the cable identified by the Foreman as ACM; however, they wore only dust masks when removing other cables and materials in the surrounding area. Award at 3-4. After the cable with known ACM was removed, none of the employees wore full protective equipment because they had been informed by the Foreman that the remaining material was not ACM. Id.
As a result of an anonymous phone call, an employer safety specialist terminated the project due to the danger that ACM was present. Id. at 4. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued fourteen specific unsafe or unhealthy working condition violations related to the work that the employees had performed. Id.
Each of the affected employees (hereinafter grievants) was enrolled in the Agency’s medical program for potential ACM exposure, given an annual review, and counseled by the Agency’s Mental Health Department regarding the incident. Id. Further, both the Foreman and the second line supervisor were disciplined and removed from their duties. Id.
The Union filed a grievance on behalf of the employees. The parties were able to reach agreement on most issues, but asked the Arbitrator to determine whether two remedies requested by the Union -- “(1) Lifetime Medical Insurance Coverage for Physical or Mental Illness for Employee and/or Dependants Exposed to Asbestos; and (2) Yearly Monitoring or More Within One (1) Year by a Personal Physician, If Requested, At No Cost to the Employee in Addition to an Annual Asbestos Surveillance Program. Family Examinations Are to Be Included” -- had a basis in law and, therefore, stated a claim upon which relief was available. Award at 2; Exceptions at 3.
After briefing by both parties, the Arbitrator concluded that it is “unequivocal that ACM was present” in the vault area and that the full extent of the ACM, although known by the Agency, was not communicated to the employees. Award at 5. The Arbitrator concluded that all of the employees had been exposed to ACM. Id. The Arbitrator held that he could not determine what amount of exposure to ACM would result in disease, but that “prudence” requires that the employees be given annual exams at no expense as long as they remain employed by the Agency. Id. at 5-6. Further, the Arbitrator determined that, if an employee leaves the Agency prior to age 65 (when Medicare applies), the employee should obtain his or her own health insurance to pay for any examination for asbestosis, but that, if “the premium paid for the exam [was] greater than his present premium, he should be awarded the difference by the [Agency].” Id. at 6. Finally, the Arbitrator held that, because it was improbable that the grievants had exposed their family members to ACM, no family coverage would be provided. Id.
III. Positions of the Parties
A. Agency’s Exceptions
The Agency asserts that the award is contrary to law and should be set aside because it lacks statutory authority for the required remedy. Exceptions at 3-8. The Agency argues that it is prohibited from “obligating funds unless those funds have affirmatively been authorized by statute for that purpose.” Id. at 6 (citing U.S. v. MacCollom, 426 U.S. 317, 321 (1976)) (emphasis in original).
The Agency notes that all of the grievants are current federal employees except for one who is retired. Id. at 6. The Agency states that the grievants who are current federal employees are covered by both the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), which provides medical care costs and disability payments for injured employees, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB), which provides health insurance for federal employees. Id.; see also 5 U.S.C. § 8101 et seq.; 5 U.S.C. §§ 8901-8913. Further, the Agency notes that the grievant who is retired also would be covered by FECA because his qualifying injury or illness occurred during active federal employment. Id. This employee also could receive federal health insurance through a system similar to the FEHB. Id. at 7. The Agency further asserts that, in the event that FECA does not apply, the grievants could bring an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Id. (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq.).
The Agency contends that none of these statutes provides for the remedies requested by the grievants and awarded by the Arbitrator. Id. According to the Agency, where such a statutory framework does not provide for the remedies sought, an Arbitrator may not read them into the statute. Id. The Agency also argues that the Authority previously has considered insurance similar to the remedies awarded by the Arbitrator and found it to be “in direct conflict with the applicable law.” Id. (citing IBEW, AFL-CIO Local 1245, 31 FLRA 1002 (1988)).
In addition, the Agency alleges that the Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits it from committing to current or future payments when the funds are not already appropriated or available for that purpose. Id. at 8 (citing 31 U.S.C. §§ 1301, 1341, and 1517). The Agency contends that the Authority, in examining the impact of proposed liability upon an Agency and the effect of the Anti-Deficiency Act, has held that there must be “independent statutory authorization, separate and apart from the duty to bargain imposed by the Statute . . . for the expenditures required[.]” Id. at 8 (citing ACT, P.R. Army Chapter, 62 FLRA 144 (2007); ACT, P.R. Army Chapter, 60 FLRA 1000 (2005)).
B. Union’s Opposition
The Union asserts that the Agency’s exception involves arguments that the Agency previously raised before the Arbitrator. Opposition at 1. The Union further contends that coverage under FECA, FEHB, or FTCA does not preclude a remedy awarded at arbitration. Id. at 2. Also, the Union alleges that the cases relied upon by the Agency involve Authority decisions related to proposals in bargaining disputes, not to exceptions to arbitration awards. Id.
IV. Analysis and Conclusions
A. The award is contrary to law.
When an exception involves an award’s consistency with law, the Authority reviews any question of law raised by the exception and the award de novo. See NTEU, Chapter 24, 50 FLRA 330, 332 (1995) (citing U.S. Customs Serv. v. FLRA,
43 F.3d 682, 686-87 (D.C. Cir. 1994)). In applying the standard of de novo review, the Authority assesses whether an arbitrator’s legal conclusions are consistent with the applicable standard