In a decision on a dispute that arose before the current surge of telework by federal employees but whose implications could be felt after that surge in working from home is over, the FLRA has taken a wide view of management prerogatives in scheduling telework.
At issue was an NTEU proposal to allow teleworking employees to apply to increase the number of those days, up to eight per pay period. The Food and Nutrition Service had refused to bargain, saying the proposal would infringe management’s exclusive rights under labor-management law to assign work and direct employees.
In a split decision the FLRA agreed, saying the proposal would “prevent management from determining when an eligible employee may perform his or her duties away from the duty station and when that eligible employee must report to the duty station,” according to a summary by the FLRA.
The proposal also “interfered with the agency’s right to choose the method that it deems “most appropriate” for supervising employee performance,” it said.
A dissenting member, though, said the proposal “simply defines the conditions under which the Agency may decide whether to allow employees who have already been deemed eligible for telework to increase the number of days on which they can telework.” The proposal would preserve management’s discretion to deny such a request for various reasons, including that expanded telework would interfere with the agency’s ability to accomplish its work, he wrote.
“The majority’s decision mischaracterizes the meaning and effect of the union’s proposal. Moreover, it overturns authority precedent governing the negotiability of telework agreements based upon decisions bearing little relevance to the union’s proposal,” he wrote.