(WASHINGTON)— The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today applauded a decision by the District of Columbia Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) awarding two previously terminated District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) employees nearly a year’s back pay with interest. PERB held that WASA committed an unfair labor practice and didn’t bargain in good faith with AFGE Local 872 when it refused to fully implement an earlier arbitration award mitigating the employees’ terminations to unpaid six month suspensions.
The two employees were originally removed from duty on February 14, 2005 and subsequently grieved their terminations. On August 16, 2005 Arbitrator Jane Rigler concluded that while WASA had reason to discipline the employees, termination was “an unreasonable sanction.” Rigler determined that the employees should be reinstated, without pay, within 10 calendar days of her Aug. 16 decision and treated as though they had been suspended without pay for the period between February 14, 2005 and their reinstatement date, August 26, 2005.
“The PERB decision underscores the general rule that an agency may not avoid compliance with a final and binding arbitration award merely because the agency disagrees with the award’s outcome,” said AFGE General Counsel Mark Roth.
WASA refused to comply with the arbitrator’s decision, filed an appeal and ultimately refused to reinstate the employees until July 24, 2006. Consequently, AFGE filed an unfair labor practice complaint requesting compliance with the earlier arbitration award and back pay with interest for the employees for the period they remained suspended in excess of six months (from August 26, 2005 to their July 2006 reinstatement date).
In rendering its strongly worded decision, PERB noted that, “WASA’s failure to comply with the terms of the award is not based on a genuine dispute over the terms of the award, but rather on a flat refusal to comply with the award…WASA has no ‘legitimate reason’ for its on-going refusal to provide [the affected employees] with compensation for the period August 26, 2005 to July 24, 2006...”