The day after enacting the Inspector General Act (IGA), which created an Office of Inspector General (OIG) in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other federal agencies, Congress enacted the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS), which, inter alia, permits union participation at an employee examination conducted by a representative of the agency if the employee believes that the examination will result in disciplinary action and requests such representation, 5 U.S.C. §7114(a)(2)(B). When NASAs OIG (NASAOIG) began investigating a NASA employees activities, a NASAOIG investigator interviewed the employee and permitted, inter alios, the employees union representative to attend. The union subsequently filed a charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (Authority), alleging that NASA and its OIG had committed an unfair labor practice when the investigator limited the union representatives participation in the interview. In ruling for the union, the Administrative Law Judge concluded that the OIG investigator was a representative of NASA within §7114(a)(2)(B)s meaning, and that the investigators behavior had violated the employees right to union representation. On review, the Authority agreed and granted relief against both NASA and NASAOIG. The Eleventh Circuit granted the Authoritys application for enforcement of its order.
Held: A NASAOIG investigator is a representative of NASA when conducting an employee examination covered by §7114(a)(2)(B). Pp. 317.
(a) Contrary to NASAs and NASAOIGs argument, ordinary tools of statutory construction, combined with the Authoritys position, lead to the conclusion that the term representative is not limited to a representative of the entity that collectively bargains with the employees union. By its terms, §7114(a)(2)(B) refers simply to representatives of the agency, which, all agree, means NASA. The Authoritys conclusion is consistent with the FSLMRS and, to the extent the statute and congressional intent are unclear, the Court may rely on the Authoritys reasonable judgment. See, e.g., Federal Employees v. Department of Interior, 526 U.S. ___, ___. The Court rejects additional reasons that NASA and NASAOIG advance for their narrow reading. Pp. 38.
(b) The IGA does not preclude, and in fact favors, treating OIG personnel as representatives of the agencies they are duty-bound to audit and investigate. The IGA created no central office or officer to supervise, direct, or coordinate the work of all OIGs and their respective staffs. Other than congressional committees and the President, each Inspector General has no supervisor other than the head of the agency of which the OIG is part. Congress certainly intended that the OIGs would enjoy a great deal of autonomy, but an OIGs investigative office, as contemplated by the IGA, is performed with regard to, and on behalf of, the particular agency in which it is stationed. See 5 U.S.C. App. §§2, 4(a), 6(a)(2). Any potentially divergent interests of the OIGs and their parent agenciese.g., an OIG has authority to initiate and conduct investigations and audits without interference from the agency head, §3(a)do not make NASAOIG any less a NASA representative when it investigates a NASA employee. Furthermore, not all OIG examinations subject to §7114(a)(2)(B) will implicate an actual or apparent conflict of interest with the rest of the agency; and in many cases honest cooperation can be expected between an OIG and agency management. Pp. 813.
(c) NASAs and NASAOIGs additional policy arguments against applying §7114(a)(2)(B) to OIG investigationsthat enforcing §7114(a)(2)(B) in situations similar to this case would undermine NASAOIGs ability to maintain the confidentiality of investigations, and that the Authority has construed §7114(a)(2)(B) so broadly in other instances that it will impair NASAOIGs ability to perform its responsibilitiesare ultimately unpersuasive. It is presumed that Congress took account of the relevant policy concerns when it decided to enact the IGA and, on that statutes heels, §7114(a)(2)(B). Pp. 1416.
(d) That the investigator in this case was acting as a NASA representative for §7114(a)(2)(B) purposes makes it appropriate to charge NASAOIG, as well as its parent agency, with responsibility for ensuring that investigations are conducted in compliance with the FSLMRS. P. 17.120 F.3d 1208, affirmed.
Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and OConnor and Scalia, JJ., joined.
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