FLRA substantiates union accusations against EEOC, over reentry

Thirty-nine of EEOC’s 53 offices are in areas with high COVID-19 transmission.

Thirty-nine of EEOC’s 53 offices are in areas with high COVID-19 transmission. Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

The federal anti-discrimination agency, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, said it was committed to bargaining “in good faith” with its labor representatives—but stopped short of committing to roll back its unilaterally implemented reentry plan.

A regional director at the Federal Labor Relations Authority last week issued a formal complaint against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission following allegations from its labor union that the agency unilaterally implemented its return-to-office plan without completing mandatory collective bargaining negotiations.

Between March and May, EEOC and the American Federation of Government Employees Council 216, which represents agency employees, tried unsuccessfully to iron out a memorandum of understanding governing the agency’s reentry plan.

Despite the Biden administration’s guidance stating that agencies should complete bargaining obligations prior to requiring employees who had been on full-time telework due to the pandemic to return to the office, EEOC required employees to begin coming to the office at least once per week on May 16, without reaching an agreement.

As a result, the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the FLRA. Last week’s decision by acting Atlanta regional director Brent Hudspeth determined that there was enough evidence that EEOC violated federal labor law to bring a formal complaint and scheduled a hearing before an administrative law judge for February 2023.

“[EEOC] implemented the change in [bargaining] unit employees’ conditions of employment . . . without providing the union with an opportunity to negotiate over the procedures and appropriate arrangements of the change,” the complaint states. “By [this conduct, EEOC] has been refusing to negotiate in good faith with the union and violating the statute.”

Rachel Shonfield, president of AFGE Council 216, said she was “very excited” that the FLRA validated her union’s allegations.

“It really was shocking and concerning when the EEOC unilaterally imposed reentry without finishing bargaining under the statute,” she said. “That’s not the way it’s supposed to happen. Even beyond that, the Biden administration had put out guidance regarding reentry and negotiating an MOU with the unions before reentry was supposed to occur, so we were surprised that at EEOC they would just go forward without first doing an MOU with the union.”

Since the May complaint, the union has filed a second unfair labor practice claim over EEOC’s implementation of phase 2 of its reentry plan, increasing the amount of time employees are expected to be in the office to two days per week. That has come amid a stark uptick in COVID-19 transmission in much of the country, and it has been no exception for EEOC.

At the start of reentry, three agency offices were in regions with high COVID-19 transmission, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of last week, that number has ballooned to 39 of EEOC’s 53 offices. Shonfield said she has heard reports where the disease likely spread within agency offices, making her worried about the prospect of EEOC implementing phase 3 of reentry, which currently does not have a scheduled date but would involve reopening offices to the public.

“During phase 2, there’s been a period where there was an exponential rise in our offices being located in areas that have been moved to high transmission,” she said. “We’ve heard many reports of COVID positive staff, and there are some instances where it seems pretty clear that other employees ended up becoming COVID positive when they were in the office on the same day as the folks who were initially reported as positive. It’s creating just a great deal of anxiety.”

According to EEOC’s workplace safety plan, when an office is in a region with high COVID-19 transmission, the only policy changes are those requiring all employees and visitors to wear masks and for non-vaccinated people to comply with the agency’s COVID-19 testing regimen.

EEOC spokesman Victor Chen said that EEOC is reviewing the FLRA’s complaint. He said that the agency is “strongly committed” to bargaining in good faith with AFGE, although he declined to say if management would seek a settlement with FLRA and roll back reentry in order to complete its collective bargaining obligations.

“We view the union as a valuable partner in ensuring a safe and productive return to the agency’s physical workplaces so that we can serve the American people, including the most vulnerable workers, many of whom may have difficulty reaching us virtually,” Chen said.

Chen declined to answer questions regarding how current trends of COVID-19 transmission might affect the agency’s implementation of the third phase of reentry, or whether the agency has set a date for that change.

“The reentry plan expires at the end of 2022,” he said. “While EEOC employees have continued to work diligently through the pandemic, it is important that the EEOC reopen our doors, reestablish our physical presence in the communities we serve, and provide critical services to vulnerable employees and applicants who most need our help. Throughout the reentry process, we will continue to work to protect the health and safety of the EEOC’s dedicated employees and the American public.”

This article was also published on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site. 

NEXT STORY: Data-driven HR management faces uphill climb

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.