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Position Descriptions and the Assignment of Work

It is important to note that the agency’s reliance upon position descriptions themselves does not constitute an assignment of work. Instead, the use of a position description is an indication of the agency’s decision regarding work assignments. As such, union proposals and contract language regarding position descriptions are negotiable and do not inherently impact the right of management to assign work. Instead, the union has a clear right to ensure that the position descriptions relied upon by management are accurate and appropriate. See Marine Corp Logistics Base, 57 FLRA 275 (FLRA 2001).

While bargaining unit employees have a right to have an accurate position description, the agency does have the right to assign work that is not directly contained in a position description. The FLRA has ruled that a proposal that restricts an employer’s right to assign duties to the discrete scope of the position description is non-negotiable. See Letterman Army Medical Center 29 FLRA 456 (FLRA 1987). To preclude the agency from making work assignments that are unrelated to the bargaining unit employee’s core duties, the union has negotiated language that establishes a process for those assignments. Such a process is not an infringement upon management’s right to assign work because it constitutes both a procedure and an appropriate arrangement. See NOAA, Air Operations Center 48 FLRA 232 (FLRA 1993).

To avoid management’s unfettered exercise of its right to assign work, the union has negotiated language regarding position descriptions and job categories. The parties have agreed that assignments of work beyond the employee’s job category or primary duties must have a reasonable relationship to the individual’s official position description or job category. The FAA and NATCA have agreed to a process for amending the relevant position description or job category: when the assignment of duties that are not reasonably related to the official position description or job category becomes routine, the description or job category will be amended. NATCA has reserved its right to negotiate such changes in accordance with the mid-term bargaining provisions of the various collective bargaining agreements.

If an employee is asked to perform duties that appear to be beyond the primary duties of the position, he or she may not refuse to perform those duties. The agency still maintains the right to determine what particular duties are assigned to specific employees. See Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, 62 FLRA 328 (FLRA 2007). The individual has a right to receive clarification as to how the assignment corresponds to the stated core duties. If there is a belief that such an assignment is beyond the typical expectations, contact your union representative to engage the agency in negotiations. Such negotiations will include: altering the position description, establishing a procedure for making assignments outside of the primary duties, and ensuring equity in the assignment of the duties.