National Grievance HHS-OCR Unilateral Implementation of Awards Policy

Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil RightsI am sharing this information with you, although our Chapter does not represent HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) employees, because it depicts similar violations employees have reported in our Chapter.

NTEU has filed a national grievance and unfair labor practice (ULP) charge against HHS OCR over its unilateral implementation of an awards policy in violation of Article 27 of the CBA and in violation of 5 U.S.C. §§7116(a)(1) and (5).

On or about September 7, 2016, HHS OCR issued an awards policy and procedure for bargaining unit employees in OCR. However, OCR failed to include the Awards Committee, namely the bargaining unit employees, in the policy decision. As part of the responsibility of the joint Union-Management Awards Committee, the committee is to develop a process for recommending which nominees receive awards and recognition (guidelines, criteria, form, information, etc.).

The agency’s failure to have the joint committee create the awards policy is in violation of Article 27, Section 5.B.2(c) of the CBA. Despite multiple requests from NTEU to HHS for the agency to rescind the policy, HHS and OCR failed to respond or take any action to rescind the awards policy. Additionally, the awards policy is in contradiction to many aspects of the CBA, including: a new confidentiality policy; new committee member recusal requirements; the deletion of many non-monetary awards; predetermined monetary award distribution rates; and management approval of award nominations. Furthermore, NTEU included in the grievance instances of the agency refusing to forward nominations to the Awards Committee for consideration. Not only is the agency’s policy in violation of Article 27 of the parties’ CBA, but the agency’s unilateral implementation of the policy constitutes an unfair labor practice pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §§7116(a)(1) and (5).

As a remedy to the agency’s violation, NTEU has requested:

  1. the agency rescind the policy;
  2. the agency convene the OCR committee in order to properly determine the awards process/guidelines pursuant to Article 27 of the CBA;
  3. hold an additional award nomination period; and
  4. post a notice of the agency’s violation signed by the Secretary.