Federal Arbitration – 66 FLRA No. 80
The Union filed a grievance and went to arbitration on behalf of a Multifamily Housing Representative who had never received a disciplinary action, until he was issued a ten day suspension after sending a joking email that included a photograph of a gun.
The employee was subsequently subjected to an investigation and interrogation by a Federal Protective Service (FPS) Inspector and Special Agent. Even though the investigation was closed shortly after it began, and there was no finding that the employee was a threat, the Agency issued the ten day suspension.
After a two-day hearing, the Arbitrator issued a decision that found the Agency did not have just cause to issue a ten day suspension, and ordered the Agency to reduce the suspension to one day, pay all backpay and interest per the Back Pay Act (BPA), and as the losing party, to pay all of the arbitrator’s fee and expenses, per the parties’ agreement.
The Arbitrator subsequently denied the Union and Grievant reimbursement for attorney’s fees/costs. The Union appealed the denial of the attorney’s fees and costs. In a decision that was referred to as one of the ten most influential Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) decisions in Federal Sector labor law in 2012, the FLRA reestablished the standard for attorney’s fees in cases where the Agency knew or should have known that its discipline would not be upheld.
The FLRA ordered that the Agency was required to pay attorney’s fees and costs, and remanded the matter back to the parties and Arbitrator. On remand, the parties reached a confidential settlement agreement that resolved the matter.
A copy of the decision can be read at https://www.flra.gov/decisions/v66/66-80.html.