U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS and GENERAL SERVICES EMPLOYEES UNION, LOCAL 73, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO
OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGES
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20424-0001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
Case No. CH-CA-70412
Susan Kane, Esquire Greg A. Weddle, Esquire For the General Counsel
Before: WILLIAM B. DEVANEY Administrative Law Judge
Statement of the Case
This proceeding, under the Federal Service Labor-Management
Relations Statute, Chapter 71 of Title 5 of the United States Code,
5 U.S.C. § 7101, et seq. (1), and the Rules
and Regulations issued thereunder, 5 C.F.R. § 2423.1, et seq., concerns whether a
supervisor of Respondent told employees at its Lakeside Medical
Center, in essence, that they should not trust Union Representative
Brenda Woodall; that if they dealt with her they could lose their
jobs; that Woodall was trouble. The supervisor denied having made
any such statement to any employee at any time. For reasons fully
set forth herein-after, I have found that a preponderance of the
evidence supports the allegations of the Complaint.
This case was initiated by a charge filed on April 28, 1997,
alleging violation of §§ 16(a)(1), (2), (3) and (8) of the Statute
(G.C. Exh. 1(a)). The Complaint and Notice of Hearing issued on
September 15, 1997; alleged violation of § 16(a)(1) only (G.C. Exh.
1(b)); and set the hearing for November 3, 1997, pursuant to which
a hearing was duly held on November 3, 1997, in Chicago, Illinois,
before the under-signed. All parties were represented at the
hearing, were afforded full opportunity to be heard, to introduce
evidence bearing on the issues involved, and were afforded the
opportunity to present oral argument which Respondent exercised. At
the conclusion of the hearing, December 3, 1997, was fixed as the
date for mailing post-hearing briefs, which time subsequently was
extended, on motion of the General Counsel, to which the other
parties did not object, for good cause shown, to December 17, 1997,
and Respondent and General Counsel each filed an excellent brief,
received on, or before, December 22, 1997, which have been
carefully considered. Upon the basis of the complete
record(2), including my observation
of the witnesses and their demeanor, I make the following findings
1. The General Service Employees Union, Local 73,
Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO (hereinafter,
"Union"), is the exclusive representative for a unit of Respondent
Department of Veterans Affairs' Lakeside Medical Center
("Lakeside"), West Side Medical Center and Edward Hines, Jr.
Hospital ("Hines"), Chicago, Illinois, employees.
2. Ms. Brenda Woodall is employed full-time by the Union
as Union Representative, also referred to as Business Agent (Tr.
13, 24, 69, 70), a position she embarked upon on November 4, 1996
(Tr. 14). Prior to that, Ms. Woodall had been a Pharmacy Technician
at Hines, from which she now is on leave without pay (Tr. 14), and,
for five or six years, had served as a Union steward at Hines (Tr.
15). As Union Representative, she handles Lakeside, Hines and West
Side Medical Center (Tr. 14).
3. Ms. Woodall testified that in the middle of January,
1997, about the 22nd (Tr. 15), following a stewards
meeting at Lakeside, she was stopped on the elevator by an employee
of the Lakeside Radiology Department, Diane Halle (Tr. 20), who
expressed concerns about matters in Radiology (Tr. 16) and Ms.
Woodall told the employee she would arrange a meeting with
Radiology employees (Tr. 16). Later, Ms. Woodall arranged the
meeting, with the approval of Dr. Edwin April, Chief of Radiology
(Tr. 66), and of Ms. Sarita Ann Brown, Administrative Officer,
Radiology Service (Tr. 16, 56), and in the first week of February,
1997, met with Radiology employees (Tr. 17), including Ms. Brenda
Williams, Ms. Diane Halle, Ms. Karen Williams, a man whose first
name is James (she couldn't remember his last name), and a couple
of other people (Tr. 19). She said the employees talked primarily
about the weekend rotation (Tr. 17).
4. Ms. Brenda Williams is a Receptionist/Clerk Typist in
the Lakeside Radiology Service (Tr. 22) and on February 20, 1997
(G.C. Exh. 2), was appointed Union steward. Ms. Williams confirmed
the meeting with Ms. Woodall (Tr. 24) and recalled some of the
people present that she remembered: Karen Williams, Damion Jackson,
Diane Halle, James Warren, Priscilla Flagg, and Laverne Gaither
Some time after Ms. Woodall's meeting with the Radiology
employees, Ms. Williams thought it was about February 14 (Tr. 36,
37), Ms. Brown, Ms. Williams' immediate supervisor (Tr. 23), called
her on the telephone and asked her to come to her office, which she
did immediately (Tr. 24). Ms. Williams testified, in part, on
cross-examination as follows:
"A Sarita Brown asked me -- I think she asked me how well
did I know Brenda Woodall. I said, Well, we just met Brenda
Woodall. I don't really know her. And she said, Well, I'm
telling you now, you shouldn't trust her because she is bad
"And I was just looking at her like why would she be
telling me this? And she said, If you don't believe me, I
can call some people over Hines. She has made people lose
"Q Did she ever identify these people at Hines?
"A I told her I didn't, no. She asked me did I want the
number to the people at Hines. I told her no." (Tr.
On direct examination, Ms. Williams had testified, in part, as
"Q To the best of your recollection, what specifically
was said in Sarita Brown's office?
"A She was talking about Brenda Woodall, the business
agent for Local 73 Union Office. She was telling me that
we shouldn't trust her because she is not a good person to
deal with. She has had experience dealing with her, and she
was trouble, and if we keep dealing with her, we would lose
"Q Now, did you say anything to Sarita Brown in response?
"A I was, like, a little shocked, and then I said, Well,
I'll just judge Brenda Woodall for myself.
"And she said, Well, I have phone numbers for people at
Hines VA that I can call right now and ask, and they will
tell you that Brenda is going to make you lose your job."
5. Ms. Diane Halle, an x-ray technician at Lakeside,
acknowledged that it was she who met Ms. Woodall on the elevator
and told her she was having problems and Ms. Woodall gave her her
card and told her to call and she would come back and talk about
her case, stated that her second line supervisor, Ms. Brown (her
first line supervisor is Mr. Rick Jones (Tr. 44)), called her to
her, Brown's office on February 13, 1997, to ask what the problem
was in Radiology. Ms. Halle testified, in part, that the following
"A It was a conversation that Sarita Brown had with me.
She brought me in the office and asked me what was the
problem around the Department, what did they do about it, and
I was telling her it was due to them getting this guy this
. . .
"THE WITNESS: And we were talking about why he got it and
stuff, and then she asked me did I know anybody at Hines VA,
and I told her yes.
"And then she said, Well, you should ask some of them
about Brenda Woodall, she said, because Brenda Woodall would
sell us out. She would act like she was going to help us, and
then she'd sell us out, and we'd get fired. And she told me
not to tell anybody else this; it's between me and her."
In cross examination, Ms. Halle explained the problems more
fully as follows:
"Q What sort of junk was happening in Radiology Service at
"A Rick Jones -- they hired James Warren, Karen Williams,
Damion Jackson, and then a position became available for
Special Procedures. Priscilla Flag, myself, and James Warren
applied for it. James Warren had been with the Department for
one year. He had just graduated from school. [Ms. Halle had
been an x-ray technician at Lakeside 12 years (Tr. 43)]. They
trained Priscilla in the position for a while, and then
something got started. I don't know. They stopped training
"Then they started training James Warren, which I kept
asking them would they train me in the Department.
"Even though I had done the job before but done it
somewhere else. James Warren trained in the room for over
nine months, and when the position became available, they
said that James, myself, and Priscilla was qualified, but
they selected James Warren for the position.
"That was in November. Then in January, Rick James came
back to Priscilla and myself. James was working Saturday
"Then after he got the position, they came back and said,
James didn't -- Ms. Brown said James didn't want to work
weekends anymore and that they was going to put me and
Priscilla on his weekends. . . ." (Tr. 51-52).
Ms. Halle made a record of her meeting with Ms. Brown on
February 13, 1997, the day it took place (Tr. 50), on a "Report of
Contact" form, VA Form 119 (G.C. Exh. 3).
6. Ms. Brown, who has been Administrative Officer, Radiology
Service, since March 18, 1996 (Tr. 56), denied that she stated to
Ms. Williams that, ". . . she should not trust the union
representative, Brenda Woodall; that if she dealt with Ms. Woodall,
she could lose her job and that Woodall was nothing but trouble"
(Tr. 58) and denied that she had made that statement to any other
employees (Tr. 58). She was not asked about any meeting with Ms.
7. Ms. Orajean Pruitt, a supervisor of the Lakesidex-ray
File Room for nine years and employed at Lakeside for 17 years (Tr.
73), testified as a rebuttal witness that on February 14, 1997,
". . . Ms. Brown called me into her office to tell me about
the union, which is Brenda Woodall. She said that if you
keep listening to Brenda Woodall, you all are going to get
fired." (Tr. 74).
Ms. Pruitt made a written record of Ms. Brown's conversation on
February 14 on VA Form No. 119, "Report of Contact." (G.C. Exh. 4;
Tr. 73-75). Ms. Pruitt said she made out this "Report of Contact",
"Because I felt that it was something wrong. . . ." (Tr. 76).
8. Although Ms. Brown was recalled by Respondent and
testified about counseling Ms. Pruitt for failure to sign employee
time cards (Res. Exh. 3; Tr. 81), she was not asked, and,
therefore, did not deny, Ms. Pruitt's testimony concerning her, Ms.
Brown, calling Ms. Pruitt into her office on February 14, 1997, and
making the statement about Ms. Woodall as set forth above in
Although I have considered that Ms. Williams has been
disciplined for attendance by Ms. Brown (Res. Exhs. 1 and 2); that
Ms. Halle was denied compensation benefits (Tr. 53, 54); and that
Ms. Pruitt was counseled by Ms. Brown for failure to sign employee
time cards, nevertheless, I find their testimony credible, mutually
corroborative and Ms. Halle and Ms. Pruitt each made a wholly
corroborative written record. Ms. Brown's testimony was not
convincing; she did not specifically address Ms. Halle's testimony;
and, although recalled to testify about Ms. Pruitt's counseling,
did not deny Ms. Pruitt's testimony. Accordingly, I fully credit
the testimony of Ms. Williams, Ms. Halle and Ms. Pruitt and find
that in February, 1997, Ms. Brown stated, in effect, that Union
Representative, Brenda Woodall, should not be trusted; that she was
nothing but trouble. Such statements were coercive and tended to
discourage employees from engaging in protected activity in
violation of § 16(a)(1) of the Statute. U.S.
Penitentiary, Florence, Colorado, 52 FLRA 974, 981, 982
(1997). Respondent's contentions have been carefully considered and
have been found without merit.
Having found that Respondent violated § 16(a)(1) of the
Statute, it is recommended that the Authority adopt the
Pursuant to § 2423.41, of the Authority's Rules and
Regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2423.41, and § 18, of the Statute, 5 U.S.C.
§ 7118, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Lakeside Medical
Center, Chicago, Illinois, shall:
1. Cease and desist from:
(a) Making statements to employees to the effect that
they should not trust Union Representative Brenda Woodall; that she
is not a good person to deal with; and that she would cause them to
lose their jobs.
(b) In any like or related manner, interfering with,
restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of their rights
assured by the Statute.
2. Take the following affirmative action in order to
effectuate the purposes and policies of the Statute:
(a) Post at its Lakeside Medical Center facility copies of the attached Notice on f