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FAA Violated Due Process in Punishing Controller Wrongly Disciplined After a Physical Altercation Initiated By His Supervisor - (10/30/2008)

CONTACTS: Kansas City Tower, Kevin Peterson, 816-294-5519; NATCA National Office, Alexandra Caldwell, 202-220-9813, acaldwell@natcadc.org

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Kansas City controller, wrongfully suspended after an FAA supervisor initiated a physical altercation with him on the job, was fully exonerated with the help of the Department of Labor, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) and an arbitrator.

In a minor disagreement that quickly escalated, the controller’s FAA supervisor shoved him after the controller disagreed with him. After filing a police report with the airport authorities the controller was issued a three-day suspension by the FAA.

Now, more than a year after the controller was suspended and a grievance was filed by NATCA, the controller has been completely exonerated of any wrongdoing. In the grievance NATCA took many issues with the way in which the event transpired and the action that was taken against the controller after the event.

One issue taken was the issuance of the suspension. Ruling that the controller should be suspended for three days the FAA supervisor that made that determination never met with the controller to hear his side of the case – relying solely on the offending party to make his decision.

Possibly the biggest offense made by the FAA against the accused controller was its negligence in informing him of his suspension in the first place – leaving him to hear about it on a local TV news channel.

Through the grievance process it was determined that the FAA's investigation of the controller lacked due process and that the controller's account of the event was more believable than the supervisor who shoved the controller therefore, the suspension was overturned.

Said Kansas City Tower NATCA Representative Kevin Peterson: “Controllers have waited a long time for the exoneration of one of our union brothers. We now have that vindication and the satisfaction of knowing that the FAA has finally been exposed for what it really is – a petty union busting administration bound and determined to abuse its controller workforce.”

Despite the FAA arguing against the controller in the proceedings the Department of Labor determined that the controller suffered an on-the-job injury as a result of the incident with the supervisor.  It was also established, with the help of the FLRA, that the FAA destroyed evidence related to the controller’s case.

An unresolved factor in the case is the lenient action the FAA took against the supervisor. The FAA only suspended him for five days – the bare minimum for a first offense under the more severe category for intimidation which carries a suggested minimum penalty of a 30-day suspension.

This ruling was made despite the fact that the supervisor’s statement and answers given during the initial investigation differed from those given in the arbitration.

Said Peterson: “A controller who was found to have done the same thing would have been disciplined for giving false or misleading answers in an official investigation.  This issue has been raised with the FAA and though disappointing I believe the FAA will choose to continue to turn a blind eye towards its supervisors’ mistreatment of the controller workforce.”

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