LR Corner
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NATCA Prevails in Shift Change Arbitration

The union recently prevailed on a case regarding the agency’s refusal to grant an employee’s request for a shift change. As background, on November 13, 2009 the grievant was scheduled to work 7 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. She had a family obligation in the afternoon and requested to work 5:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m, but was denied. When her request for the shift change was denied she requested annual leave for the remainder of the afternoon so that she could leave early. That request was approved.

In support of its decision to deny the shift change request, the agency made several arguments. First, the agency contended that it is an inherent management right for the agency to determine the staffing needs of the agency pursuant to 5 USC 7106; this includes, particularly, considering the staffing and workload needs of the losing and gaining shift as a precondition to a decision on an individual’s request for a shift change. The agency’s decision to deny the leave request was based upon the low volume of air traffic during the period requested, compared with the high volume occurring during the grievant's original shift. The union asserted that, based on Article 32, Section 5 of the CBA, the agency is required to approve the grievant’s shift change request if it considers the staffing and workload of the losing and gaining shifts and those needs are adequately met. It is the union’s argument that the needs of the losing shift were adequately met because the agency approved the grievant’s request to use annual leave (vacation time) beginning at 1:00 p.m. for the remainder of the afternoon. If the agency required her presence from 3:45 to 5:00 it would have denied her request that day for annual leave. The needs of the gaining shift also would have been adequately met between the hours of 5:45 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. with the addition of a third employee.

The arbitrator determined that the agency had adequate staffing levels, and the grievant’s request for a shift change should have been approved. The arbitrator held that the parties negotiated and agreed under Article 32 of the FAA national agreement pertaining to shift changes. The language of Article 32, Section 5 in particular, requires that the requested shift change shall be approved if staffing needs are adequately met. This language makes clear that if management determines that, given the workload, the staffing will be adequate if the shift change is permitted, then granting the request for that change becomes mandatory. While the first sentence requires that the agency consider the staffing and workload of both the "gaining" and "losing" shifts, the arbitrator concludes that the second sentence, with its mandatory requirement, focuses on the "losing" shift. The arbitrator noted that because the agency permitted the grievant to take the same period of time off work that she requested as part of her shift change request, but required her to take it as annual leave, it undermines the agency’s argument that either the gaining or losing shift would have been affected had the shift change request been granted. In fact, the arbitrator concluded that “the evidence presented at arbitration leads to the conclusion that the agency would not have granted the annual leave to the grievant if her absence would have left the agency without adequate staffing levels.” 
The arbitrator ruled that the evidence did not support the conclusion that the agency's staffing needs would not have been met that afternoon if the grievant had been permitted to switch to the earlier shift, and therefore, the change should have been granted under Article 32. Because there was a clear violation of the agreement, the grievance was sustained and the agency was ordered to credit the grievant with one hour and fifteen minutes of annual leave time.

Grievance against RVA Settled

NATCA settled a grievance with RVA regarding disrespectful behavior from a supervisor. NATCA filed grievances regarding mistreatment of two employees, who were verbally berated and subjected to obscenities by a supervisor. NATCA alleged that the supervisor’s actions were a violation of company policy and the contract. RVA agreed to have the manager provide a verbal apology to the affected employees in order to settle the grievance. This was done, and the grievances were resolved.

Grievance over Credit Card Misuse Settled
NATCA and the FAA settled a grievance over a five-day suspension for credit card misuse. The employee was not on official government travel and used the government credit card for cash advances for personal use. Despite the agency’s concern about the seriousness of the offense, NATCA contended that the discipline should be mitigated. The employee used the credit card due to financial difficulty. The employee paid back the money and expressed remorse about the matter. Additionally, the employee had no prior discipline and has many years of federal service. Ultimately, the agency agreed to reduce the five-day suspension to a three-day suspension. The agency also agreed to pay the employee two days of pay.