I want to bring to your attention the latest arbitration decision in our ongoing efforts to force the agency to live up to their telework obligations under the contract. This grievance was filed on behalf of three Compliance Officers (COs) who had episodic telework agreements permitting telework two days per week and sought to obtain recurring telework agreements allowing telework three days per week. NTEU contended that since the employees had already successfully teleworked two days per week, and their job duties comported with the requirements of Article 26 of the parties’ Consolidated Collective Bargaining Agreement, the agency’s mission would be met with the recurring telework arrangement.
At the hearing, NTEU presented evidence that the employees were fully successful under their current episodic arrangements to telework two days per week and argued that they could continue to successfully perform their job duties under a recurring telework agreement to telework three days per week. The FDA argued that due to the intake of work and related office coverage concerns, none of the employees could telework on consecutive days, and thus the COs could telework no more than two days per week.
The arbitrator upheld the grievance in part, and denied it in part. She accepted NTEU’s evidence that the employees were successfully performing their job duties while teleworking two days per week, and ordered the agency to convert their episodic agreements to recurring telework agreements, thus relieving the employees of the need to routinely request permission to telework. However, the arbitrator accepted FDA’s contention that office coverage concerns limit these particular employees to two days of telework per week, even though she agreed with NTEU’s contention that the employees’ duties can generally be performed away from the official duty station. The decision should be helpful for employees in similar situations who wish to have episodic agreements converted to recurring agreements. Because the finding that three days of telework would interfere with legitimate agency needs for office coverage was specific to the circumstances of the office where the three grievants worked, the two-day limit is not necessarily applicable to every employee, whose eligibility for telework must be determined case-by-case.
If you have questions regarding this issue, please contact your chapter president.