A HUD Office of General Counsel (OGC) Attorney (Performance Rating: Outstanding) requested on September 11, 2015, to telework 3 days per week. On September 16, the employee learned that she was approved for 2 days but not a 3rd. The employee contacted NFFE 1450 on September 30, 2015, to request assistance.
In response, NFFE 1450 conducted a nationwide survey of HUD attorneys and their telework schedules and learned that although the labor management agreement allowed up to 3 days of telework, that OGC had not permitted its staff to have three days as a “national informal policy”.
A Step 1 grievance was filed on October 1, 2015, and Regional Counsel Kimberly Nash denied the grievance on October 29, 2015, for multiple reasons including:
- Onsite office coverage and client availability-sometimes in instances of exigencies-means weighing your requested workplace flexibilities against the needs of clients, work demands, as well as assuring others similar leave and workplace flexibilities.
- Certain closings, particularly new construction closings, happen at the work site and do not ordinarily close by mail.
- Surveys and construction documents related to site and physical structures are awkwardly oversized and may involve large surface areas for review. Reviewing these documents at the office site is preferable due to their size and the opportunity for collaborating with Multifamily technical professionals.
- I consider it appropriate to promote regularity and continuity of operations, e.g. closings, staff meetings, client trainings, attorney work-collaborations such as mentoring and training, as well as client-work collaborations.
- Client collaborations and OGC trainings for client offices are best facilitated when a certain level of face-to-face communication is maintained.
Unhappy with the response, the Step 2 grievance was filed on November 12, 2015. The parties held a grievance hearing which included the presentation of extensive material to show that Grievant was the most productive Attorney in the region. Also present was a Subject Matter Expert (Marcell Insua) who spoke about the differences in how San Francisco and Los Angeles handle closings. This information was key for having a discussion on how the work could be accomplished remotely.
Regional Administrator Ophelia Basgal upheld the grievance on January 22, 2016, stating “based on the information in the grievance and the information provided in the grievance meeting, I am accepting your “trial period” offer for the three days of telework. The trial is being accepted based on your stated commitment to flexibility based on the operational needs of the office. The three days of telework per week pilot will begin on a date mutually agreed upon by you and your supervisor but no later than 14 calendar days from the date of this decision. The trial will last for 90 days. At the expiration of the 90 days, your supervisor will determine if the telecommuting arrangement is having an adverse impact on operations. If not, the three days telework shall continue unless modified by your or your supervisor.”
(Above: Ophelia Basgal)
Obtaining this successful outcome required persistence and creativity in obtaining good evidence to show that the work could be accomplished successfully. The grievant, another satisfied NFFE 1450 member, wrote:
“Thank you so much for everything you did to make this happen, Liz (McDargh), Marcell (Insua), Susan (Sheftel), and Martha (Murillo). You guys have no idea how much this means to me and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without your efforts, guidance, work, time and support. It means a lot to me. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”