Washington—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) recently scored an impressive victory in its efforts to protect the jobs of employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
After the VA presented its case during a recent hearing, the arbitrator granted an AFGE motion for a decision based on the agency’s inability to provide a compelling reason for firing four employees and downgrading another employee. The arbitrator then issued a decision reinstating all five employees to their previously held positions and grades.
The arbitrator’s decision followed the filing of a grievance by AFGE Local 940 for workers at the VA’s Pension Maintenance Center in Philadelphia. In the grievance, the union argued that the firings were unfair and unreasonable.
Martin Cohen, assistant general counsel for litigation, AFGE, said of the arbitrator’s decision, “We obviously are pleased that the arbitrator recognized that hard-working employees were unjustly fired because upper-level management didn’t communicate its expectations to the employees. We hope this decision makes employers realize that you can’t fire people for not doing something if you never told them to do it in the first place.”
The VA charged the workers with not properly processing rejected claim applications. However, agency management disciplined the employees without notice and without any indication that the employees were doing their jobs improperly. In issuing her decision, labor arbitrator Marilyn M. Levine, Esq., concluded that, “There is no evidence that the grievants were not working, or that they were wasting time, or engaging in non-work related activities. Fundamental due process requires that individuals have some knowledge of the fact when they are putting their jobs in jeopardy. I find that the grievants had good reason to believe they were properly performing their job duties.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.