MARCH 2002

Our Regular Reminder

This is a reminder to all our union clients of the various services available through our firm. Most of our retainer agreements provide for unlimited legal advice, on-site visits and filing and processing of unfair labor practice charges. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to have one of us conduct training, meet with employees or review a- case for arbitration or MSPB. We are also just a phone call or a fax away if you need help or feedback researching any legal issue on federal sector employment. Check out our web site at http://minahan.wld.com .

Welcome New Clients

We are delighted to announce that AFGE Local 3283 has joined our family of retainer clients. Local 3283 represents employees at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Cleveland, Ohio. Their sister Local is Local 2040 at DFAS, Denver, which has been a retainer client of ours since 1988. Welcome aboard!

Your Unknown "Insurance Policy"

Many federal employees are unaware of 31 USC 3721, which allows an agency to reimburse an employee for damage or loss of personal property incident to federal service. The agency may pay a claim up to $40,000.00. The employee must present the claim within two years, the employee must prove that her personal property was lost or damaged in connection with employment and that the possession or use of the property was reasonable under the circumstances. The employee must also show that she was not responsible for the loss or damage through her own negligence. Significantly, the employee does not have to show that the loss or damage was caused by the fault of someone else; loss or damage are enough in themselves to justify the compensation. Examples of possible claims under this statute are damage to one's private vehicle while using it in the course of employment or loss of luggage while traveling on official business. We suggest that clients ask their agencies for the agency regulation on claims under this statute. Remember that the agency's denial of a claim under the statute can be the basis of a grievance.

Unreasonable Search

A federal employee filed a lawsuit protesting a search of her personal documents. The employee had filed an EEO complaint and was keeping detailed notes about her telephone calls with the managers she accused of discrimination. Those managers got into a locked cabinet where she kept those notes at work while she was on leave and examined the notes. The D.C. Circuit ruled that the employee had a right to file a lawsuit alleging that the managers violated her Fourth Amendment right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. Stewart v. Evans, 40 GERR 114 (D.C. Cir., January 11, 2002).


MSPB Retaliation? Impossible!

It is always interesting to see what happens when the guardians of our rights are accused of violating the rights of their own employees. The Special Counsel recently announced a settlement with the MSPB over a claim by the MSPB's Atlanta Regional Director that -he was subjected to retaliation for filing a grievance over his performance appraisal. The Special Counsel agreed with him and MSPB then decided to raise the Regional Director's performance appraisal and provide him with performance awards that had been denied to him. According to the article, the Regional Director commented that "the experience of being a complainant in the system had opened my eyes to the frustration felt by federal employees using the appeal process." 40 GERR 71. Welcome to the jungle!

Protected Screen Saver

With the dawning of the 21" Century, it's not enough to safeguard our right to wear union buttons in the workplace. The NLRB recently ruled in favor of an employee who was prohibited by her employer from displaying a union screen saver on her computer work station. The NLRB found this to be an unfair labor practice since the employer allowed a variety of personal, non-work- screen savers on the work stations. Saint Joseph's Hospital, 169 LRRM 1049 (December

No "Credit Hours" for Travel

The FLRA addressed the issue of "credit hours" in flex-time schedules in Internal Revenue Service, 57 FLRA 640 (2001). Employees at that particular facility were allowed to work additional hours, known as credit hours, beyond their basic work requirement to vary the length of the work day or work week. An employee claimed credit hours for time spent traveling on government trips. The FLRA ruled that credit hours may not be allowed-for travel time since travel time is not considered "hours of work".

Reinstatement Even if Former Position Abolished

The Federal Circuit ruled in favor of an Indian Health Service employee who won on a claim of whistleblower reprisal. The employee alleged that after she complained of fraud, waste or abuse, her responsibilities were taken away from her and she was transferred to another job. Later, the agency transferred all the work of that particular facility to an Indian tribe. After the employee won her whistleblower reprisal case, the agency said it could not reinstate her to her former position because the work had been transferred to the Tribe. The Federal Circuit ruled she was still entitled to a remedy. According to the Federal Circuit, the agency is obligated to offer her another position within the agency that comes as close as possible, to matching the duties, pay and benefits of her former job. Wainwright v. HHS, 40 GERR 138 (Fed. Cir. January 10, 2002).