NASA v. FLRA, 527 U.S. 229 (1999)

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OCTOBER TERM, 1998

Syllabus

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION et al. v. FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS

AUTHORITY et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 98-369. Argued March 23, 1999—Decided June 17, 1999

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 NASA's OIG (NASA-OIG) began investigating a NASA employee's activities, a NASA-OIG investigator interviewed the employee and permitted, inter alios, the employee's 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 representative's 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 investigator's behavior had violated the employee's right to union representation. On review, the Authority agreed and granted relief against both NASA and NASA-OIG. The Eleventh Circuit granted the Authority's application for enforcement of its order.

Held: A NASA-OIG investigator is a "representative" of NASA when conducting an employee examination covered by 7114(a)(2)(B). Pp. 233-246.

(a) Contrary to NASA's and NASA-OIG's argument, ordinary tools of statutory construction, combined with the Authority's position, lead to the conclusion that the term "representative" is not limited to a representative of the "entity" that collectively bargains with the employee's union. By its terms, 7114(a)(2)(B) refers simply to representatives of "the agency," which, all agree, means NASA. The Authority's conclusion is consistent with the FSLMRS and, to the extent the statute and congressional intent are unclear, the Court may rely on the Author-ity's reasonable judgment. See, e. g., Federal Employees v. Depart-

229

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