President Nominates FLRA General Counsel

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By on March 28, 2019 in Human Resources with 0 Comments

Agency and union labor relations representatives have been wondering when President Trump would nominate a person to fill the position of General Counsel at the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). That nomination has now been submitted.

How Long Has GC Been Vacant?

The position of General Counsel (GC) at the FLRA is covered by the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (Vacancies Act).

Upon the resignation of the former General Counsel, Julia Clark, on January 20, 2017, Peter Sutton automatically became the Acting General Counsel as he was the Deputy General Counsel (a career position). He was the Acting GC until November 16, 2017—the statutory maximum under the Vacancies Act in the absence of a nominee to the General Counsel position.

Bird Nominated

Portrait of Catherine Bird

Catherine Bird

This week, the president named Catherine Bird of Texas, to be the FLRA’s General Counsel for a five-year term.

Ms. Bird is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration (ASA) at the Department of Health and Human Services. She is responsible for overseeing divisions such as human resources, information technology, real estate and logistics, acquisitions, and grants management.

She previously served as ASA’s Associate Deputy General Counsel. Ms. Bird graduated from Baylor University School of Law, Magna Cum Laude.

Impact of a Vacant GC Position at FLRA

In the absence of a GC, the FLRA’s Regional Offices investigate unfair labor charges (ULP) and dismisses those found to lack merit. The Regional Offices cannot issue ULP complaints. This means a complaint cannot move forward to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

There cannot be a hearing on a case as the labor relations statute states the issuance of a complaint is reserved to the discretion of the General Counsel.  5 U.S.C. §§ 7104(f)(2)(B), 7118(a)(1).

The General Counsel rules on appeals from a Regional Director’s dismissal of a ULP charge. Since November 16, 2017, no ULP complaints or ULP appeal decisions have issued.

The appointment of Ms. Bird as the next General Counsel of the FLRA now resides with the Senate.

Number of Recommendations and Appeals on Hold

As of September 30, 2018, there were 142 ULP-complaint recommendations and 158 appeals awaiting review by a new General Counsel.

Despite the absence of a General Counsel, the FLRA has continued to provide other services to the federal labor relations community including timely investigative, adjudicatory, and other case-processing services.

© 2019 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47

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