Law School Case Brief
United States Dep't of the Air Force v. Fed. Labor Rels. Auth. - 396 U.S. App. D.C. 290, 648 F.3d 841 (2011)
The court owes no deference to the Federal Labor Relations Authority's statutory interpretation where it has endeavored to reconcile its organic statute with another statute not within its area of expertise. The court reviews de novo the Federal Labor Relations Authority's interpretation of a statute it is not charged with administering.
The Air Force requires its Air Reserve Technicians, who are citizen-employees required as a condition of their employment to maintain membership in a military reserve unit, to wear the military uniform while performing civilian duties. The National Association of Independent Labor (Union) challenged the "compelling need" for the uniform requirement and alternatively proposed as a subject for negotiation that the Air Force provide uniform cleaning services. The Air Force claimed it had no duty to bargain over uniform maintenance because it was not a condition for employment. The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), however, determined that a union proposal for uniform cleaning was a negotiable condition of employment. The Air Force sought review of the FLRA's decision.
Can a proposal for uniform cleaning services be a negotiable condition of employment?
The court held that the union proposal for uniform cleaning was non-negotiable because it would require the use of appropriated funds for a purpose not authorized by law. The Air Force had no duty to bargain over uniform cleaning services either because the plain text of 10 U.S.C.S. § 1593 and 5 U.S.C.S. § 5901(a) did not authorize use of funds for cleaning uniforms or because the statutory silence created ambiguity and the FLRA had to defer to the permissible interpretation of 10 U.S.C.S. § 1593 by the Department of Defense, which administered the statute.
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