Unfair Labor Practices in the Federal Sector

Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, known as the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, grants many employees of most federal executive agencies the right to organize into labor unions. It also allows them to collectively bargain through the union representative of their choice. In addition to granting these rights to covered federal employees, the Statute sets forth certain practices by labor organizations or federal employers that are illegal under federal law. These practices, called “unfair labor practices,” impede employees’ abilities to exercise their rights fully under the Statute.

Management Unfair Labor Practices
Under the Statute, the following activities, if conducted by a covered federal employer, constitute unfair labor practices:

  • Interfering with employees’ exercise of their statutory rights
  • Encouraging or discouraging union membership by discriminating in employment conditions
  • Sponsoring or controlling a labor union (routine services may be provided)
  • Disciplining employees for filing complaints under the Statute
  • Refusing to bargain in good faith with a labor union
  • Refusing to cooperate in impasse procedures or decisions
  • Enforcing any rules that are in conflict with a collective bargaining agreement that existed before the rules
  • Otherwise refusing to comply with the Statute

Union Unfair Labor Practices
Likewise, the Statute prohibits the following practices by a labor organization or union:

  • Interfering with employees’ exercise of their statutory rights
  • Attempting to cause an agency to discriminate against an employee for exercising statutory rights
  • Disciplining a union member as punishment, reprisal, or to otherwise interfere with the employee’s work
  • Discriminating in membership because of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, civil service status, political affiliation, marital status, or handicapping condition
  • Refusing to bargain in good faith with the employer
  • Refusing to cooperate in impasse procedures or decisions
  • Calling or participating in a strike, slowdown, or work stoppage or failing to take action to prevent or stop such activity
  • Otherwise refusing to comply with the Statute

Enforcement
The Statute established the Office of the General Counsel as part of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). This Office investigates and prosecutes charges of unfair labor practices. Employees, federal employers, or labor unions may file charges of unfair labor practices against either employers or labor organizations. Parties aggrieved by decisions of the FLRA may appeal the action to a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

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