Legal Briefs: Lunch money

Every Friday on, Legal Briefs reviews cases that involve, or provide valuable lessons to, federal managers. We report on the decisions of a wide range of review panels, including the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Federal Labor Relations Authority and federal courts.

After the Air Force stripped employees of their 20-minute paid on-the-job lunch period, an arbitrator ordered the department to reinstate the paid breaks and compensate affected employees with overtime pay.

On appeal, the Federal Labor Relations Authority said the pay award must be set aside, and remanded the case to the arbitrator to determine an appropriate remedy.

The FLRA's reasoning behind nixing compensation was that paying the complainants overtime implied they had worked beyond their usual eight-hour workday. According to the FLRA, under the Fair Labor Standards Act time set aside for eating does not fall under the category of additional work time, unless it involves tasks "controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer."

The FLRA said the arbitrator's award also violated the Back Pay Act, noting that the complainants were paid for an eight-hour workday, regardless of whether their lunch period was paid or unpaid.

DoD, Air Force, Travis AFB and AFGE, Local 1764, FLRA (100 FLRR 1-1106), June 16, 2000

Certification vs. Verfication

According to an agreement between the American Federation of Government Employees and the Air Force, union representatives were required to have their time and attendance forms verified and signed by the union president or a designee.

The Air Force filed a grievance with an arbitrator alleging that certain AFGE representatives were verifying their own time and attendance sheets, violating the agreement. The arbitrator found in favor of the Air Force, noting that certifying one's own T&A sheet was improper and violated the parties' agreement.

AFGE appealed to the Federal Labor Relations Authority on the grounds that the arbitrator's decision was based on Defense Department regulations pertaining to certification, not verification. The FLRA upheld the arbitrator's decision, noting that he used the two terms interchangeably in his final analysis.

DoD, Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson AFB and AFGE, FLRA (100 FLRR 1-1107), June 19, 2000

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