9/5/12: In a decision last week, an independent federal arbitrator ruled that SEC management in the New York Regional Office ("NYRO") violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") between the SEC and NTEU by reassigning a part-time Staff Accountant and mother of two to a full time schedule. The arbitrator ordered the agency to restore her prior part-time schedule.
The grievant in this case, Jacqueline Fine, is a Grade 14 Staff Accountant in the NYRO who worked for a number of years for the SEC on a half-time schedule. Ms. Fine took maternity leave a couple of years ago after the birth of one of her children. On her return to work, she was informed by ARD Robert DeLeonardis that she would no longer be permitted to work on her prior part-time schedule, but would instead now be required to work fulltime. Under Article 8 of the CBA, the SEC may not unreasonably deny a request for a part-time schedule. Ms. Fine turned to the SEC employees' Union to help her work with NYRO management to find a way to restore her prior schedule. Those efforts were unsuccessful and the Union filed a grievance on her behalf.
NYRO management denied the grievance, asserting that Ms. Fine's part-time schedule somehow interfered with workload and staffing needs at the NYRO. The SEC claimed that staffing levels and mandated functions at the NYRO had dramatically changed, necessitating that the mother of two move to a fulltime schedule to retain her job.
After an arbitration hearing with several management witnesses, Arbitrator Mary Bass found that "none of these [SEC] propositions was substantiated at the hearing by substantial evidence." To the contrary, the arbitrator found that the relevant staffing levels had actually increased during the period in question. She also found that the NYRO workload and mandated functions had not changed appreciably.
NTEU steward James Hanson, who represented Ms. Fine in this case, said, "The arbitrator got it right in this case. Congress officially recognized the importance of part-time schedules for federal workers almost thirty years ago in the Federal Employees Part-Time Career Employment Act of 1978. This law was clearly intended to help working moms like Jackie Fine balance parenting and family opportunities with their jobs. Our agency should be forward looking on work-life balance issues."
Arbitrator Bass ordered the SEC to return Ms. Fine to her original part-time schedule and to restore all annual leave she was required to utilize to balance her work schedule and family life before the dispute was resolved. She also retained jurisdiction to determine whether to order attorney's fees in the interests of justice.
"The NYRO is the largest regional office at the SEC," Chapter 293 President Greg Gilman noted today. "It just makes no sense for the SEC to assert that somehow the NYRO couldn't get its job done without moving this mom from a part-time to a fulltime schedule. In a broader sense, it is unfortunate that we are required to litigate these types of issues at all -- particularly at a time when SEC employee morale has been steadily on the decline, as evidenced by the agency's declining scores in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey."