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United States Department of Justice v. Federal Labor Relations Authority

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

November 17, 2017

United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons Federal Correctional Complex Coleman, Florida, Petitioner
v.
Federal Labor Relations Authority, Respondent

          Argued September 22, 2017

         On Petition for Review of a Final Decision of the Federal Labor Relations Authority

          Tyce R. Walters, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the brief were Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the time the brief was filed, and Thomas H. Byron, III, Attorney.

          Fred B. Jacob, Solicitor, Federal Labor Relations Authority, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Zachary R. Henige, Deputy Solicitor, and Stephanie J. Fouse, Attorney.

          Before: Griffith and Pillard, Circuit Judges, and Edwards, Senior Circuit Judge.

          OPINION

          Edwards, Senior Circuit Judge

         This case involves the "covered-by" doctrine, which embraces a well-established principle in labor law: If a union and an employer in a collective-bargaining relationship reach an agreement on a subject during contract negotiations, neither side has a duty to bargain any further over that subject once the parties execute a collective bargaining agreement. See, e.g., Fed. Bureau of Prisons v. FLRA (BOP I), 654 F.3d 91, 94 (D.C. Cir. 2011); Enloe Med. Ctr. v. NLRB, 433 F.3d 834, 838-39 (D.C. Cir. 2005). "For a subject to be deemed covered, there need not be an 'exact congruence' between the matter in dispute and a provision of the agreement, so long as the agreement expressly or implicitly indicates the parties reached a negotiated agreement on the subject." BOP I, 654 F.3d at 94-95 (citation omitted). It does not matter whether a subject was specifically discussed or contemplated during the negotiations leading to the parties' agreement. Dep't of the Navy v. FLRA, 962 F.2d 48, 58-59 (D.C. Cir. 1992). What matters is whether a subject is within the compass of the provisions in the parties' agreement. BOP I, 654 F.3d at 94-95. The covered-by doctrine is analytically distinct from waiver. A waiver occurs when a party knowingly and voluntarily relinquishes its right to bargain over a subject; when a disputed subject is covered by the parties' agreement, however, the parties have exercised their rights to bargain over that subject. Enloe Med. Ctr., 433 F.3d at 837-39.

         The issue in this case is whether the provisions in the Master Agreement between the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Correctional Complex, Coleman, Florida ("Agency") and the American Federation of Government Employees ("Union") cover a matter with respect to which the parties had a dispute after the Master Agreement was signed. After the parties' collective bargaining contract took effect, the Agency notified the Union that it intended to consolidate the relief rosters at the four institutions in the prison complex and assign employees from one institution to relieve employees at the other institutions. The parties bargained intermittently over the matter until the Agency finally ended bargaining. Local 506 of the Union filed a charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority ("FLRA" or "Authority") claiming that the Agency had committed an unfair labor practice, in violation of §§ 7116(a)(1) and (5) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute ("Statute"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 7101-7135 (2012), when it refused to bargain with the Union over an alleged mid-contract change to the Master Agreement.

         The Agency's position before the Authority was that it had no duty to bargain because consolidated relief rosters were covered by Article 18 of the parties' Master Agreement, which established procedures for assigning employees to the sick and annual relief rosters. The Authority rejected the Agency's position, holding instead that the Master Agreement gave no indication that the parties meant to foreclose bargaining over inter-institutional assignments. U.S. Dep't of Justice, Fed. Bureau of Prisons, Fed. Corr. Complex and Am. Fed'n of Gov't Emps., Local 506, 69 F.L.R.A. 447, 449 (2016). The agency now petitions this court for review.

         In its petition to this court, the Agency argues that the court's decision in BOP I, 654 F.3d 91 (D.C. Cir. 2011), is controlling. In BOP I, we held that "Article 18 covers and preempts challenges to all specific outcomes of the assignment process." 654 F.3d at 96. This holding is directly contrary to the Authority's position in this case. The Authority argues that BOP I can be distinguished because, in this case, the parties' bargaining history indicates that they did not contemplate consolidated relief rosters when they negotiated the Master Agreement and, in addition, they negotiated over the issue pursuant to a Settlement Agreement executed in 2010. The Authority's arguments are unpersuasive.

         As BOP I makes clear:

Because the parties reached an agreement about how and when management would exercise its right to assign work, the implementation of those procedures, and the resulting impact, do not give rise to a further duty to bargain. Article 18 therefore covers and preempts challenges to all specific outcomes of the assignment process.

654 F.3d at 96. The Authority's decision in this case cannot be squared with this holding. It does not matter that the parties did not specifically contemplate consolidated relief rosters when they negotiated the Master Agreement. What matters is that consolidated relief rosters are clearly within the compass of Article 18. And it does not matter that the parties negotiated for a time over the issue after the Master Agreement was executed. Nor does it matter that the Agency agreed to additional negotiations pursuant to the Settlement Agreement. The Agency entered into the Settlement Agreement voluntarily, and made no concession that Article 18 does not cover the subjects about which it agreed to negotiate.

         We hold, in accord with BOP I, that the subject of consolidated relief rosters is covered by Article 18 of the Master Agreement. We therefore grant the petition for review and reverse the decision of the Authority.

         I. Background

         The Agency operates FCC Coleman, a prison complex consisting of four institutions. The Agency and Union finalized the Master Agreement in 1998. Article 18 of the agreement, titled "Hours of Work, " provided procedures for assigning correctional officers to quarterly work schedules. J.A. 79-86. Article 18(g) provided procedures for assigning those officers to sick and annual relief duty, which entailed covering for colleagues out on sick and annual leave. In 2009, the Agency notified the Union that, rather than continuing to have each institution in the complex handle its particular sick and annual leave-covering assignments from its own roster (as was the practice at the time), the Agency would consolidate the sick and annual relief rosters for all of FCC Coleman's institutions into one complex-wide roster ("consolidated relief roster"). This ...


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