Attached is a regular arbitration award out of Fort Lauderdale, FL. I believe this is the first regular arbitration panel award on this issue and the APWU prevailed.
Arbitration Advocate Jeff Riddell presented an excellent case where an employee was diagnosed with COVID-19 and requested administrative leave, yet it was denied even though the decision tree allows for administrative leave. The grievance utilized the template sent out earlier this year. Arbitrator Miles ruled that the denial of the administrative leave was arbitrary and capricious. Arbitrator Miles wrote:
"The point here is that the Postal Service, not the Arbitrator, has determined that Administrative Leave is to be paid under the circumstances when an employee is exposed in the workplace or it may be granted to an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 if his/her leave balance is insufficient to cover the absences. The request of Mr. Negron-Rodriguez for Administrative Leave was denied, but no explanation was provided as to why it was denied. It is recognized that in the case of a positive COVID-19 employee, the grant of Administrative Leave is permissive, but every contract imposes upon each party a duty of good faith and fair dealing in its performance and its enforcement. Even where the contract allows for the exercise of discretion on the part of the employer, the employer's action's may not be arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory or unreasonable. Here, the Postal Service could not identify any instance when Administrative Leave was granted to a COVID-19 positive employee who had insufficient leave to cover the absence. It also could not identify in which case Administrative Leave would be granted or in which case it would not be granted. There has just not been any grant of Administrative Leave despite the pronouncement of the COVID-19 Decision Tree. Administrative Leave is included in the Handbooks and Manuals and the Postal Service has determined that it will be paid in one scenario, or may be granted for COVID-19 related issues experienced by employees, if the employee's leave balance is insufficient.
Therefore, for the above reasons, and based upon the particular circumstances surrounding this case, it is found that the denial of the Grievant's request for Administrative Leave, without explanation, was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. Mr. Negron-Rodriguez met the requirements for the payment of Administrative Leave since his leave balance was insufficient to cover his absence due to a positive COVID-19 test result. Therefore, it is found that the Postal Service violated the provisions of the Agreement and the grievance filed on behalf of Mr. Negron-Rodriguez is sustained. As the remedy, all absences listed as LWOP for the period of time Grievant was off work due to his positive COVID-19 virus test on January 14, 2021 until his return to duty shall be changed to Administrative Leave and Mr. Negron-Rodriguez shall be made whole for those days of absence at his hourly rate of pay.
Feel free to share this award and consider its findings and persuasive value when more of these cases reach arbitration. Also, please remind everyone that employees who are positive for COVID-19 can and should file OWCP claims and then request Continuation of Pay (COP) for lost work when they are ill. It is easy to apply for. Questions on OWCP can be directed to Charlie Cash