As Assistant Counsel and National Field Representative for NTEU Chapter 254, one of my many responsibilities is to assist the chapter and its more than 700 bargaining unit employees to assert our rights under the law and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) we entered with the Agency. One of the rights that we have negotiated with HHS is your right to telework (I strongly encourage you to refer to Article 26 of the CBA for specific rights and responsibilities). Every employee has the right, given certain circumstances outlined in Article 26, to either a recurring (also known as fixed or regular) telework arrangement, in which they have a fixed schedule of telework days each week, or to an episodic (also known as occasional or ad hoc) telework arrangement, which must be approved by a manager before each instance or period of time. And, there is no hard cap or limit on the number of days an employee can telework; rather, the particular work situation and job responsibilities determine this.
We recently asserted the telework rights of several of your colleagues, consumer safety officers in our Chapter, who had in place episodic telework agreements but who requested a recurring arrangement that was denied by their manager. This management denial of their recurring telework requests is very common throughout the agency, unfortunately, and flies in the face of your contractual and legal rights. Fortunately, the arbitrator who heard your colleagues’ case agreed, and ruled that the agency violated the CBA as well as the law (specifically, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010) by denying the recurring telework requests where the employees were already successfully performing their job duties while teleworking on an episodic basis. Management is taking notice of this and similar efforts to enforce your right to serve the American public as the trusted professionals that you are, without having to constantly ask permission from a micro-manager.
I am very grateful for courageous employees like these three consumer safety officers, and a few others, who are willing to work with the Chapter to grieve violations of the law and the contract. I hope this encourages you to help us enforce your rights. If you perceive an unsatisfactory telework situation of your own, or simply want to learn more about your benefits, please contact your NTEU Chapter 254 steward, and we will be happy to consult with you about your options.