DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
VA MEDICAL CENTER
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2145, AFL-CIO
Case No. WA-CA-13-0152
Jessica S. Bartlett Merritt Weinstein
For the General Counsel
Timothy M. O’Boyle
For the Respondent
For the Charging Party
Before: RICHARD A. PEARSON
Administrative Law Judge
This case involves a staff meeting for the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Medical Center, Richmond, Virginia’s (the Agency’s, the Respondent’s, or the Medical Center’s) Police Service held at a time when, in the words of one supervisor, the department had “got hit with a bunch of grievances.” Tr. 134. The supervisors in the department did not like these grievances, and at least two of them made this clear at the meeting. One, the assistant chief of police, said that filing grievances would send the “wrong message” to the chief, and it indicated that employees were ungrateful and disloyal to a man who had gone out of his way to accommodate employee requests. Tr. 134-35. The other, a lieutenant, said that a lot of the grievances being raised were “frivolous,” and he said that employees who were unhappy were free to look for other jobs. Tr. 172.
As it so happened, an employee at the meeting was surreptitiously using his iPhone to make an audio recording of the meeting. After the meeting, the employee played the recording for the president of the local union, and the president sent a copy to a Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA or Authority) Regional Office. By the time of the hearing, however, all copies of the recording had been either damaged or destroyed. While it is unclear how the recordings were damaged, all evidence indicates that they were not intentionally damaged or destroyed.
There are two main questions in this case. The first is whether I should impose sanctions on the Charging Party and the General Counsel for failing to preserve the recordings. Because the recordings were not intentionally damaged or destroyed, and because a complete recording would not have materially helped the Respondent’s case, I do not believe sanctions are appropriate. The second question is whether statements made at the meeting violated § 7116(a)(1) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute). By telling employees that filing grievances was a demonstration of disloyalty and ungratefulness, and that employees who don’t like their work should find other jobs, supervisors crossed the line from opinion to intimidation; employees hearing these comments would reasonably have hesitated to go to their Union to pursue further complaints. Therefore, these statements were unlawful.
The Federal Labor Relations Authority has found that the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Medical Center, Richmond, Virginia, violated the Federal Service Labor‑Management Relations Statute (the Statute), and has ordered us to post and abide by this Notice.
WE HEREBY NOTIFY EMPLOYEES THAT:
WE WILL NOT discourage employees from filing grievances with the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2145, AFL-CIO.
WE WILL NOT, in any like or related manner, interfere with, restrain, or coerce bargaining unit employees in the exercise of the rights assured them by the Statute.
Date: _________________ By:_________________________________________________________ (Signature) (Title)
This Notice must remain posted for sixty (60) consecutive days from the date of posting and must not be altered, defaced, or covered by any other material.
If employees have any questions concerning this Notice or compliance with any of its provisions, they may communicate directly with the Regional Director, Washington Region, Federal Labor Relations Authority, whose address is: 1400 K Street, N.W., 2nd Floor, Washington, D.C. 20424, and whose telephone number is: (202) 357-6028.