American Federation of Government Employees, Council of Prison Locals 33, Local 3976 (Union) and United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Correctional Institution, Estill, South Carolina (Agency)
66 FLRA No. 49
OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
COUNCIL OF PRISON LOCALS 33
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
ESTILL, SOUTH CAROLINA
October 20, 2011
Before the Authority: Carol Waller Pope, Chairman, and
Thomas M. Beck and Ernest DuBester, Members
I. Statement of the Case
This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to an award of Arbitrator Lawrence M. Oberdank filed by the Union under § 7122(a) of the Federal Service Labor‑Management Relations Statute and part 2425 of the Authority’s Regulations. The Agency filed an opposition to the Union’s exceptions.
The Arbitrator denied the grievance, finding that it was procedurally deficient under the parties’ master agreement (agreement). For the reasons that follow, wedeny the Union’s exceptions.
II. Background and Arbitrator’s Award
The Agency barred the grievant from returning to work until he presented a medical certificate clearing him for unrestricted duty. Award at 3 n.1; Exceptions at 1-2. The Union filed a grievance, which was unresolved and submitted to arbitration. Award at 3. The Arbitrator bifurcated the arbitration proceedings in order to first determine whether the grievance was arbitrable. Id. The Arbitrator found that the Union had failed to comply with the agreement’s “unequivocal” requirement to state in writing, in its “Notice of Intent to Arbitrate” (arbitration notice), the issue to be litigated. Id. at 7. Consequently, the Arbitrator found that the grievance was not arbitrable, and he denied the grievance. Id. at 7-8.
III. Positions of the Parties
A. Union’s Exceptions
The Union asserts that the award is based on a nonfact because, in its view, it provided in the arbitration notice a statement of the issue to be litigated. Exceptions at 4-5; 7-8. The Union also asserts that the award is “deficient based in law.” Id. at 9. In this regard, the Union contends that the Agency lacks legal discretion “to refuse or reject medical certification.” Id. at 8 (citing 29 C.F.R. § 825.307, 5 C.F.R. § 630.1207, and Department of Justice (DOJ) Order 1630.1B).*
B. Agency’s Opposition
The Agency argues that the award is not based on a nonfact and is not contrary to law. Opp’n at 3-6. According to the Agency, the exceptions directly challenge the Arbitrator’s procedural-arbitrability determination, and, thus, do not provide a basis for finding the award deficient.
IV. Analysis and Conclusions
The Union argues that the Arbitrator’s finding that the Union failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the agreement is based on a nonfact and is contrary to law. A finding that a party has failed to comply with the procedural requirements of a collective bargaining agreement constitutes a procedural-arbitrability finding. See AFGE, Local 3615, 65 FLRA 647, 649 (2011).
The Authority generally will not find an arbitrator’s ruling on the procedural arbitrability of a grievance deficient on grounds that directly challenge the procedural-arbitrability ruling itself. U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, Reg’l Office, Winston-Salem, N.C., 66 FLRA 34, 37 (2011). However, a procedural-arbitrability determination may be directly challenged and found deficient on the ground that it is contrary to law. See U.S. Dep’t of the Navy, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla., 65 FLRA 1004, 1006 (2011) (Navy). In order for a procedural-arbitrability determination to be found deficient as contrary to law, the appealing party must establish that the determination is contrary to procedural requirements established by statute that apply to the parties’ negotiated grievance procedure. Id. at 1006-07. In addition, the Authority has stated that a procedural-arbitrability determination may be found deficient on grounds that do not directly challenge the determination itself, which include claims that an arbitrator was biased or that the arbitrator exceeded his or her authority. See U.S. Dep’t of Def., Dependents Sch. – Eur., 66 FLRA 181, 183 (2011).
Here, the Union’s nonfact exception