DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS METROPOLITAN CORRECTIONAL CENTER SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA and LOCAL 3619, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS

METROPOLITAN CORRECTIONAL CENTER

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

and

LOCAL 3619, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

 

Case No. 99 FSIP 44

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 3619, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union) and the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Metropolitan Correctional Center, San Diego, California (Employer) filed a joint request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119.

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute, which concerns appropriate attire for on- and off-site training, the last unresolved issue in negotiations over a successor supplemental agreement, should be resolved on the basis of written submissions from the parties. The parties were also advised that upon considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, which could include the issuance of a Decision and Order. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer operates a Federal correctional facility that detains inmates who are in custody of the U.S. Attorney General.(1) The Union represents 205 bargaining-unit employees who work in positions such as correctional officer, secretary, facility and cook foreman, physician assistant, psychologist, carpenter, and teacher at grades GS-4 through -12 and Wage Supervisor -3 through -10; employees in the latter group are designated supervisory because they oversee the hands-on work of inmates. They are part of a nationwide consolidated unit of about 21,000 employees covered by a master collective bargaining agreement which is due to expire on March 8, 2001.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties essentially disagree over whether correctional officers should be permitted to wear jeans and sneakers during training sessions.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes the following:

Staff attending training, whether at the institution or a remote site, will dress in uniform, civilian casual business attire, or professional business attire, as indicated at the time of the training. Leisure/sports attire, e.g., shorts, tank tops, sweat shirts, sweat pants, tennis shoes, sandals, T-shirts, jeans, or provocative clothing is considered unacceptable. Inappropriately dressed staff will be asked to correct their attire prior to attending the sessions.

Employees attending training during regular working hours should be dressed professionally because they are on duty and represent the agency. Furthermore, such dress would "correspond to generally accepted attire in the San Diego business community." When these employees return to the workplace in response to an emergency or staffing shortages, such attire assures that they will not be confused with inmates. In this regard, "inmates in the receiving and discharge area may be dressed in street clothing, jeans, T-shirts, sweat shirts/pants, etc., and staff dressed similarly could be mistaken for an inmate." Practices at Glynco, Georgia, where new employees are trained, are not good examples of what employees should wear because new recruits are not required to respond to emergencies. They also are not in the public eye since that training occurs outside of the community. As to the wearing of uniforms in public, with one exception related to a period of heightened security following threats received at some Federal agencies last year, no directive has been issued to discourage wearing official attire in public; currently, most uniformed employees wear such attire to and from work and when getting lunch in the community. Should an employee’s clothing be damaged while performing official duties, as the Union posits, the loss can be recouped through the filing of a tort claim. Finally, in response to concerns raised by Union, dress shoes are currently worn by non-uniformed employees on a daily basis, and they have not been identified by the Safety Office as causing a safety hazard.

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union’s proposal reads:

Staff attending training, whether at MCC San Diego or a remote site, will have the option of wearing their usual working clothes or civilian casual attire. Casual attire will include Jeans and Sneakers as long as they are neat and clean. Training includes but is not limited to A.R.T.,(2) retreats, and other class room environment. Training that includes any type of physical activities such as but not limited to are self-defense, shooting range, side-handle baton, disturbance control, etc. may wear casual attire that is comfortable for them.

Although the Employer claims to be proposing a "relaxed" dress code, its proposal would impose a more restrictive dress requirement, reversing a 10-to-20 year practice of permitting employees to wear jeans and sneakers du