The EEOC has formally proposed rules to end a long-standing policy of allowing union officials to use official time—paid time away from official duties during working hours—to work on discrimination complaints filed there by federal employees.
The EEOC is authorized under the Civil Rights Act to issue rules, regulations, orders, and instructions to carry out its EEO responsibilities.
“The Commission seeks to clarify that its rule concerning official time does not apply to representatives who serve in an official capacity in a labor organization that is the exclusive representative of employees in an appropriate unit. The Commission is doing this because it believes that the relevant labor relations statute articulates the best policy for determining if someone receives official time when they act for a labor organization and the Commission does not want its regulations to undermine this approach,” says a notice in the December 11 Federal Register (PDF).
The agency says that its practice of allowing official time for both employees and their representatives—typically union officials—in cases there still reflects policies used by the old Civil Service Commission before the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act gave the EEOC jurisdiction over discrimination complaints filed by federal employees.
That law further made official time for union officials in general a negotiable subject, the notice says, and “considering this design, the Commission believes that the best policy approach is to leave the determination of whether a union official receives official time” to bargaining between individual agencies and unions.
The proposed rules, published for a 60-day comment period, already have drawn opposition from federal unions who obtained and circulated a pre-publication draft version.
They have said that employees would be at a disadvantage if they could not have representation from union officials who are experienced in a complex area of the law.
Employees still could hire outside representatives if they did not wish to represent themselves, but that would come at the employee’s cost. The result, unions say is that employees might be dissuaded from bringing complaints and might lose cases they otherwise would have won.
The trio of Trump administration executive orders that are now in effect following the lifting of a court injunction against key portions meanwhile instruct agencies to restrict the amounts and allowable uses of official time that they may agree to during bargaining.
Read more, VA, EEOC Move against official time.