Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Arbitrator Finds That Grievant Failed to Comply With Leave Restriction Letter and Upholds Suspension
The grievant was suspended for 14 days for unauthorized absence and failure to follow leave procedure.
The grievant is an Electronics Engineer with 21 years of FAA service. Due to back injury, the grievant was on a medical accommodation which afforded him flexible work schedule but a requirement to call his supervisor if he was to arrive to work later than 9:30 a.m.
One day in October 2008, the grievant called the supervisor at 10 a.m. to advise her that he would arrive to work in about an hour due to his back pain. He took medication and fell asleep. When he awoke, he reported to work around 2 p.m. His supervisor was expecting him at work around 11 a.m. When he did not show until 2 without a call, she placed him on AWOL between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and charged him with failure to follow leave procedure.
On December 24, 2008, the grievant reported to work after 9:30 a.m. due to traffic. The grievant claimed he arrived at 9:45 a.m., but the supervisor stated he reported at 10:00 a.m. He did not call to report his delay.
In forming her decision, the arbitrator relied heavily on the grievant’s Reasonable Accommodation Letter as the basis in which she found the agency had sufficient evidence to show the grievant failed to follow leave procedure and was on AWOL. She noted that the accommodation letter was very specific in outlining the leave request procedure, highlighting the requirement to call by 9:30 a.m. to report any delays. Because this was not followed, the arbitrator concluded that he committed the misconduct.
From there, the arbitrator opined that being on AWOL and failing to follow leave procedures do have a nexus between the misconduct and the efficiency of the service. During the October incident, one of the airports the grievant’s organization provides engineering support to experienced a power outage. Because the supervisor could not locate the grievant, she testified she lost confidence to assign the grievant on the outage issue. The arbitrator linked the charge of AWOL to the supervisor’s testimony that the grievant was unreliable to assign him work.
From there, the arbitrator turned to penalty. She determined that the 14-day suspension was within the agency's Tables of Penalties for a second offense and, thus, progressive in nature given the grievant’s prior five-day suspension for a similar offense. Despite the union’s arguments that the mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating factors, and that the 14-day suspension was excessive and unreasonable, the arbitrator rejected the arguments stating that the grievant’s demonstration of unreliability and his prior discipline outweighed the mitigating factors of his long service and satisfactory performance.
Thus, the arbitrator concluded that the evidence supported the agency's position that the 14-day suspension issued to the grievant was for such cause as to promote the efficiency of the service.
With this reasoning, the arbitrator denied the grievance.