You might be in a bargaining unit, or covered by a union contract, but what does that really mean? What can your union do for you? Maybe a lot.
If you are facing discipline or an investigation, your union can be there with you, every step of the way. One of your most valuable union rights might be the right to file a grievance under the union contract. You may utilize the negotiated grievance procedure on your own or with the help of a union official. If the grievance is not satisfactorily resolved, the union can opt to arbitrate your dispute with your agency. During the arbitration process, both parties argue their respective positions regarding the dispute to a neutral third party, the arbitrator. Eventually, the arbitrator renders a binding decision. It is important to remember that the union may invoke arbitration regarding your dispute with your agency employer, but it is not required to. You should keep this in mind when filing your initial grievance as filing the grievance will typically prevent you from utilizing another procedure to address your dispute with your agency employer.
For example, an agency may suspend an employee for 15 days, but the employee thinks the suspension is fundamentally wrong and, in addition, is rooted in reprisal for her protected whistleblowing activity. This employee probably has three ways to challenge the suspension: a) through the union agreement; b) through an appeal directly with the MSPB; or c) by filing a whistleblowing reprisal complaint with the OSC. Even though the employee has three options, she can choose only one.
The law is confusing and understanding the pro’s and con’s of each option can be overwhelming. If you find yourself wondering which path to take, talk with our experienced attorneys. We have been representing federal employees for decades and understand the confusing and complex procedures that apply exclusively to federal employees. Contact us for an initial consultation.