Calling its analysis "completely backwards" and "totally inconsistent" with precedent, the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit has reversed a Federal Labor Relations Authority ruling that the Air Force was right to fire employees enrolled in a drug rehabilitation program at Arizona’s David- Monthan Air Force Base.
The Circuit ruling follows an appeal by AFGE to the FLRA decision that the employees be fired despite a negotiated agreement by which the Air Force agreed to retain employees in duty or approved leave status while they received drug treatment. AFGE maintained the FLRA decision was in violation of federal statute.
“For thirty years the precedent under the Federal Labor Statute has been that an abrogation,” repudiation, or failure to comply with a clear contractual obligation is an unfair labor practice (ULP),” said AFGE General Counsel Mark Roth.
D.C. Circuit Court Judge Harry Edwards found that the Air Force violated the contract. The court explained that when the language of an agreement can bear only one reasonable interpretation, the FLRA cannot create an ambiguity by crediting extrinsic evidence offered by a party who is seeking to nullify the terms of the agreement.
In rendering his decision, Judge Edwards called the FLRA’s actions “arbitrary and capricious” and stated that the FLRA decision had “conjured up ambiguity in unambiguous language”
AFGE expressed relief at the Circuit decision saying the FLRA was trying to set a new precedent that could have made ULP’s unavailable to federal workers. “We’re pleased that the Circuit saw through this sham and stopped the FLRA dead in its tracks in its attempt to roll back a precedent that protects AFGE Councils and Locals” said AFGE President John Gage. AFGE Local 2924 v. FLRA, USCA, DC Circuit, No. 05-1241