LR Corner
Monday, May 30, 2011

Arbitrator Upholds Removal for AWOL
NATCA received an adverse decision in a removal case. The FAA removed an employee for AWOL and failure to follow leave procedures when he was arrested at the workplace and absent due to the arrest and subsequent incarceration. The agency argued the employee’s leave request through his union representative, and delay in submitting a leave request form upon his return was improper. The agency argued his absence affected the agency’s function and impacted his training. The agency argued that the appropriate leave for incarceration is AWOL and removal was appropriate for a third AWOL offense. NATCA argued that the employee followed leave procedures to the best of his ability and that he should not be penalized for awaiting further instruction about his leave as he was advised to do. NATCA argued that his absence did not have any impact on operations or coverage as well as did not have any effect on his training. NATCA also argued that leave can be used to cover incarceration. Moreover, NATCA distinguished prior discipline, contended that the table of penalties is merely a guide, and presented other mitigating arguments. The arbitrator denied the grievance and upheld the removal. 

First, he found the employee was AWOL, as he did not request prior approval for his absence, and supported the agency’s denial of annual leave for the period of incarceration. Second, he found the employee substantially failed to follow leave procedures, noting the requirement to contact a manager to explain the need for unscheduled leave, as well as the employee’s responsibility to follow up on his leave status and to request leave upon his return. Third, he found that there was a nexus between the charges and the efficiency of the service to warrant discipline, noting the effect of his absence on the agency operation and his training. Fourth, he upheld the penalty, noting removal for a third offense of AWOL in the table of penalties and finding that there were no compelling mitigating factors sufficient to warrant a reduction in penalty.