The AFGE Legal Rights Attorney Program & How to Seek Assistance

The AFGE Legal Rights Attorney Program (“LRA Program”) in the General Counsel’s Office (GCO) provides attorney representation in cases brought by AFGE Councils and Locals on behalf of members. The LRA Program offers free attorney representation to Councils and Locals for meritorious administrative cases (such as arbitrations and Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) appeals or other appeals to review boards) where both back pay and attorney’s fees are available.

In order to provide a better understanding of the LRA Program, this information is divided into three parts. First, we explain the referral and evaluation process for Councils and Locals that wish to obtain the services of a Legal Rights Attorney, as well as the responsibilities of a Council or Local which obtains LRA Program assistance. Second, we describe the relevant criteria used by GCO in evaluating referred cases. Third, we briefly outline reasons why the LRA Program is beneficial for Councils and Locals. Questions may be directed to GCO at 202-639-6424.  You may also download our brochure on AFGE's Legal Rights Program.

How to Seek the assistance of Legal rights Attorneys

AFGE’s LRA Program offers attorney representation to Councils and Locals that have cases which they intend to bring to arbitration or to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) or to some other personnel appeals board, including so-called mixed cases involving a discrimination claim together with other issues. Cases must meet evaluation criteria set by GCO.

Cases that involve solely unlawful discrimination issues (e.g., age, race, color, sex, religion, disability, national origin, or retaliation relating to the EEO process) should be referred directly to AFGE’s National Vice President for Fair Practices. LRA Program attorneys do not handle such cases.

STEP ONE - Once a final decision is made by a Council or Local to invoke arbitration or to file a MSPB appeal or some other appeal to a review board, the Council or Local President must fax, or overnight mail, to the General Counsel documentation – including the Local’s address, telephone number, and fax number -- that is sufficient to allow GCO immediately to contact the Council or Local, complete a review of the case and make a decision on whether to accept the case for handling. NOTE: Until GCO notifies the Council or Local that GCO will provide representation, the Council or Local is responsible for meeting all grievance and/or case deadlines.

  • For a disciplinary case (removal, suspension, reduction in grade, or reduction in pay), a furlough case, or a performance-based case (reduction in grade or removal), the documentation initially submitted must include at a minimum: the proposed action, the employee’s written response, the agency’s final decision, and copies of the grievance or MSPB appeal or other appeal and any management replies. In an overtime or promotion case the documentation initially submitted must include at a minimum: copies of the grievance or other appeals and any management replies.
  • In all cases a copy of the pertinent collective bargaining agreement must be submitted.
  • If arbitration has been invoked, a MSPB appeal filed, or another type of appeal filed, the date(s) of any scheduled hearing must be clearly indicated. At least four weeks’ lead-time is necessary to complete the evaluation and to prepare for a hearing, due to existing case commitments. 

STEP TWO – Upon receipt by GCO of a case file from a Local or Council, an attorney is assigned to evaluate the case. The Local or Council should call GCO (202-639-6424) to confirm that the case file has been received by GCO and that the case has been assigned. Normally the evaluation will take five work days from the date of GCO receipt of the case file. If a case is accepted, the Local or Council will be notified in writing and an attorney will be provided at no cost. AFGE’s Legal Representation Fund will pay for the attorney’s travel, lodging and per diem. If a case is not accepted for representation, the Local or Council will be notified in writing. The appropriate AFGE National Vice President and Council President will be notified in writing of case acceptance or rejection. 

STEP THREE – The Council or Local agrees to accept the following responsibilities when notified of the acceptance of the case for LRA program assistance:

  • Updating the case documents provided to GCO as specified in STEP ONE above as they become available and keeping GCO advised of all communications regarding the case and current pertinent contact telephone numbers and email addresses.
  • Meeting all deadlines for any case submitted for review until the Council or Local has been notified in writing that the case has been accepted for LRA Program representation.
  • Handling all communications with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, including requests for arbitration panels.
  • Managing the grievance or appeal process until a hearing date has been scheduled. Generally, GCO will not even begin the evaluation of a case until after a decision has been made by a Council or Local to proceed to a third party appeal.
  • Committing to see the case through to the end. The Local or Counsel must be committed to invoke arbitration or to file an appeal, or already have done so.

Case Evaluation Criteria

AFGE’s GCO will determine in its sole discretion, based on all of the circumstances, whether to provide attorney assistance for cases, based generally on the following criteria:

  • The Local or Council must have fully complied with STEP ONE above.
  • The type of case must be appropriate, that is, arbitration, appeal to the Merit System Protection Board, or appeal to another administrative review board (not the EEOC or FLRA) which has authority to order back pay and attorney’s fees.
  • The case must involve one of the following: discipline with loss of pay (removal, suspension, reduction in grade or pay), overtime pay under title 5 or the Fair Labor Standards Act, performance-based action with loss of pay, denial of promotion, or denial of a monetary entitlement.
  • The case must be arbitrable or appealable: all time limits must have been timely met, the employee must have valid appeal or arbitration rights (e.g., is not a probationary employee), and the subject matter must be appropriate (e.g., not a classification appeal or other non-grievable matter).
  • There must be at least a fifty/fifty chance the case can be resolved to the satisfaction of the Local or Council. In the event of success on the merits a reasonable chance of obtaining fees must exist.
  • Preference will be given to those cases which involve extraordinary circumstances, including violations of constitutional or civil rights, retaliation against union officials, and/or outrageous conduct by an agency or management official.

LRA Program Benefits 

LR Attorneys are experienced litigators, part of the AFGE legal team under the supervision of AFGE’s General Counsel, and committed to the best possible representation. Additionally, there are no costs to the Council or Local for an LR Attorney, and in some arbitration cases a portion of the arbitrator’s fees may be paid from AFGE’s Legal Representation Fund (LRF).

  • All travel, lodging, and per diem costs of the attorney area are paid from the LRF.
  • Any separate costs of litigating attorney’s fee disputes before an arbitrator are paid from the LRF.
  • If attorney's fees are recovered, the Council or Local will be reimbursed for the Council or Local's portion of the arbitrator's fee up to a maximum of $3,000 per case not to exceed the actual amount of the fees recovered. For example, if there is an arbitration cost of $2,985, the Council/Local's reimbursement will be $2,985.

Legal Rights

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