Thursday, December 02, 2010
NATCA Wins Over $67,000 in Attorney Fees in Whistleblower Case
In the culmination of a series of victories, NATCA won a large attorney fee award related to whistleblower retaliation. The grievant is an outspoken critic of FAA’s airspace redesign efforts. He raised numerous claims before Congress and was then given a warning by FAA. Later, he was issued a 30-day suspension for alleged misconduct. While his warning appeal went before the MSPB, he pursued a suspension grievance through arbitration. The MSPB ruled in his favor finding the warning was a direct result of retaliation. In the grievance, the arbitrator found that the suspension was tainted in part by FAA’s having relied on the earlier warning and by the same kind of retaliatory animosity as was present in the warning. Consequently, the arbitrator ordered the suspension overturned. Last week, the arbitrator again ruled in NATCA’s favor, ordering FAA to pay NATCA over $67,000 in attorney fees and costs; the total amount requested. In support of the fee request three claims were made: a) that fees were mandatory because of the whistle-blowing retaliation statute; b) that fees were proper under the FSLMRS which allows for fees for a prevailing grievant wrongly charged or otherwise subjected to an improper “adverse action;” and c) that fees were also proper under the Back Pay Act, and under our CBA. The FAA argued that the Back Pay Act (and our CBA language) are unconstitutional and can’t be applied after FAA Reform. The arbitrator decided that he did not have to address that claim on the merits since there were other, independent bases for granting the petition (whistle-blowing protections and the FSLMRA). As such, the arbitrator agreed that, under the first two arguments posited by NATCA, that fees were warranted and mandatory.
His ruling should make it clear that even in non-whistle blower cases we can still get fees (aside from the Back Pay Act) when we prevail in an adverse action case. So, this is a huge precedent on that basis – in addition to granting all our arguments about the number of hours spent, the proper hourly rate, etc.
With NATCA's Assistance, Member Wins OWCP
A NATCA member has just won her case after years of effort, determination and hard work. The member suffered with stress-related problems due to retaliation and hostile treatment by her FAA management and others. She received an accommodation and performed staff work, but was then removed from that and terminated. She filed an OWCP case, which was initially denied. However, after pursuing several appeals, she was finally prevailed. NATCA assisted her in the appeals, and she ultimately received full OWCP benefits after more than two years of effort.