Author Archive for Neil C. Bonney

OPM Press Release “FY2016 Official Time Report Highlighting Taxpayer Funded Union Time”

I recently read a Press Release from the Office of Communications, Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The release was entitled “FY2016 Official Time Report Highlighting Taxpayer Funded Union Time Released by the U. S. Office of Personnel Management.” I was immediately struck by the inherent bias of the release which referred to “official union time” as “taxpayer funded union time.” Obviously, the intent was to suggest that taxpayers are bearing the burden to fund union official time. The article does not mention the historical give and take of the law which established official time. Instead, OPM attempts to attack federal employees who receive protection on the job from their union against unscrupulous management officials who subject them to unfair treatment. Considering management has a staff of attorneys and personnel specialists on their side to prosecute the employees, all on the taxpayer’s dime, it seems only fair the “poor working man” has somebody on their side to protect their rights. If OPM wants to issue a press release, maybe it should issue a release about how it cannot issue disability decisions in a timely manner. Hard-working federal employees, who become disabled and lose their jobs through no fault of their own, are left to wait on OPM to process their disability applications. During OPM’s long delays when the employees are not receiving any monies, the employee’s credit is ruined and sometimes they are forced into bankruptcy/foreclosure, all because OPM cannot timely review their disability applications and issue decisions. Now that is an injustice!!!

Administrative v. Criminal Investigations

The question is when is an investigation purely administrative and when is it a criminal investigation. Most federal employees are aware that they must participate in agency investigations whether they want to or not. Most federal employees also know they have a constitutional right not to self-incriminate. The problem is knowing when is an administrative investigation only administrative and when does it become a criminal investigation.

An interview may start out as an administrative interview then change into a criminal interview. Another possibility is that during an administrative interview, facts may be disclosed which will later be used to conduct a criminal investigation. The possibilities and situations are virtually unlimited. Therefore the first and most important thing to do is ask for a Union Representative.

Let’s look at a scenario as it unfolds to show the dangers of a simple administrative investigation. Someone other than a bargaining unit employee, say a contractor, was seen allegedly stealing something and the agency wants to find out if the bargaining unit employee (BUE) saw anything. The BUE is questioned and says no, he didn’t see anything because he was working with Joe Blow over in Building C that day. Come to find out, Joe Blow says he was not with him that day. Now the employee has possibly submitted a false statement, and may also be charged with being off of the job site without permission. The investigator/officer may also jump to the conclusion that since the employee lied about his whereabouts, maybe he was involved in the theft with the contractor. The employee is then brought in for further questioning and it turns out the employee wasn’t at work at all that day but falsified his time card. He now has the above charge of submitting a false statement and falsifying his time card. So a case which started out as having nothing to do with the employee now leads to a proposed removal. By the way, fraud against the United States (submitting false attendance cards and receiving funds) can then be criminally prosecuted. Wow! That went from nothing, to a removal and criminal prosecution in a flash.

So what to do? First, call a Union Representative. The Union Representative can help you recognize potential problems and/or issues.

Second, ask the reason for the interview.

Third, ask if it is a criminal interview. If they say no, don’t take their word for it. If they give you a statement that says it is only administrative, ask them for an agreement of immunity from the U. S. Attorney’s Office. After all, only the U. S. Attorney can provide you immunity.

Finally, don’t talk too much and think about your answer. It is perfectly acceptable to say you do not remember rather than risk giving incorrect information.

Grievance Arbitration vs. EEOC Complaints

The heart and soul of labor unions is the collective bargaining agreement. What makes the collective bargaining agreement so valuable is binding arbitration. So why is it that unions are sending their cases over to the EEOC for processing? Two reasons: (1) it is easier to drop a case on the EEOC for them to handle rather than to do it themselves; and (2) money. The first reason is self-explanatory. The employee is sent over to EEO and the union representative essentially washes his hands of the case or at least no longer must worry about the processing of the action. The second reason, money, is quite simple – arbitration costs money and the EEOC complaint process is free. But are unions really doing right by their membership? I estimate that as many as one-half of the EEOC cases filed are really grievances in disguise. Interestingly enough, another 25% percent could have probably been effectively brought as grievances. The question is, which is more effective? I estimate our success rate in arbitration cases hovers around 70%. Why shouldn’t it, with an independent third party hearing the cases you have selected to proceed on to arbitration. Whereas national statistics for cases going to a decision by the EEOC reflect a success rate of only about 5-6%. Although we tend to do better than the national average, the success rate in proceeding through the EEOC is nowhere near that of arbitration. Add to the disparity between success at arbitration compared to EEOC and the fact that EEOC is now taking 2-3 years to get a decision, and a person must wonder why EEOC is ever chosen over grievances. Unions need to take a hard look at how they are doing business. Do they go slow, cheap and unsuccessful (through EEOC) or do they want to put their members’ dues to work through arbitration and be much more successful?

The Merit Systems Protection Board

The Merit Systems Protection Board, commonly referred to as the MSPB, was created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 to replace the old Civil Service Commission.  The Merit Systems Protection Board is a quasi-judicial agency that hears appeals of federal employees who have been removed, demoted, or suspended for more than fourteen (14) days.  The mission of the Merit Systems Protection Board is to protect merit principles and promote an effective federal workforce free of prohibited personnel practices.

If you have questions about the Merit Systems Protection Board or need representation, please call the law firm of Bonney, Allenberg, & O’Reilly, P.C. to schedule an initial consultation with one of our attorneys.  Our firm has been servicing federal employees for more than thirty (30) years.