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62

OCTOBER 2016

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

AFSA NEWS

AQ&Awith the Foreign Service Grievance Board

The Foreign Service Griev-

ance Board exists to resolve

individual grievances brought

by members of the Foreign

Service, ensuring the fullest

measure of due process for

FS employees.

Employees who have a

complaint about certain

aspects of their employment

may submit a grievance to

their agency outlining their

concerns and including any

provisions of law, regulation

or policy they believe have

been violated or misapplied.

For a list of common griev-

ances, visit the AFSA website

www.afsa.org/grievance-

guidance. If the employee’s

grievance is not resolved to

her/his satisfaction at the

agency level, the employee

may appeal to the Foreign

Service Grievance Board.

Please note that former

employees may file a griev-

ance only with respect to an

alleged denial of an allow-

ance, premium pay or other

financial benefit.

FSGB members are

appointed by the Secretary

of State from nominees

approved by AFSA and the

foreign affairs agencies and

adjudicate from 43 (2015) to

126 (2011) appeals in a year.

The board currently consists

of 17 members, with a mix

of professional arbitrators

and retired Foreign Service

employees.

AFSA, through our Labor

Management team, fre-

quently assists members

with FSGB appeals. In this

Q&A, the Chairman of the

FSGB, Garber Davidson,

answers some common

questions about the board’s

functions and relationship

with AFSA. Chairman David-

son is a lawyer with extensive

experience in international

economic development. He

was a Senior Foreign Service

officer at USAID, where he

served both overseas and

in Washington as an agency

lawyer. Mr. Davidson served

as AFSA’s USAID vice presi-

dent from 1994 to 1996. He

retired from the Foreign Ser-

vice in 1996 and has served

as FSGB chairman since

October 2011.

Q: Who can bring a case to

the FSGB?

A:

The Foreign Service Act of

1980 determines the Foreign

Service Grievance Board’s

jurisdiction, both as to who

may bring a case and what

about. You have to be a cur-

rent or former member of

the Foreign Service—whether

tenured (“career”), unten-

ured (“career candidate”), on

a limited appointment (as is

the case with some security

agents and visa adjudica-

tors, for example), an eligible

family member or a retiree to

bring a case. Former mem-

bers of the Service may only

grieve financial issues.

It is important to under-

stand that, with the excep-

tion of separation-for-cause

cases, the FSGB only takes

cases on appeal. So the

board will only hear cases

that have already been

denied at the agency level.

Most grievances are resolved

at the agency level, however,

so the FSGB never sees

them. For the past several

years the board has received

about 50 to 60 cases annu-

ally, from the Department

of State, USAID, the Foreign

Commercial Service, Peace

Corps and the Foreign Agri-

cultural Service.

Q: How big is the FSGB, and

what are the backgrounds

of the members selected to

serve on it?

A:

The FSGB currently has 17

members, about two-thirds

of them annuitants of the

foreign affairs agencies and

one-third attorneys with

employment law expertise

or judicial experience. The

make-up of the board is sub-

ject to change, as members

come up for renewal every

two years and renewal is not

automatic.

Currently the ranks

include two former ambas-

sadors, two senior judges

from the District of Colum-

bia’s Superior Court, a

former chief administrative

law judge at the Depart-

ment of Labor, a former

deputy assistant secretary

for the Bureau of Human

Resources, a former direc-

tor of performance evalu-

ation at the Department of

State, and retired Senior

Foreign Service officers from

USAID and Commerce. Not

all members of the board

have formal legal training,

but they have the option to

receive research support

from a part-time contract

appeals counsel, a retired FS

veteran of USAID’s Office of

the General Counsel.

Q: How well informed is the

FSGB about the Foreign

Service experience, its

uniqueness and its chal-

lenges?

A:

The majority of board

members have served full

Foreign Service careers. But

the Service is an evolving

institution, so FSGB staff

make sure the members

receive key announcements

and Office of the Inspector

General and news reports,

and speakers are invited

to quarterly meetings and

for brown-bag lunches to

discuss current issues affect-

ing Foreign Service careers.

Three of the five full-time

staff positions are filled by

active-duty Foreign Service

members.

Q: What are some features

of the FSGB that differenti-

ate it from other adjudica-

tory institutions?

A:

The power the FSGB has

that is most appreciated by

grievants is that of being able

to order interim relief while

the appeal is being consid-

ered. So, for example, the

board can order an agency

to postpone disciplining an

individual while it consid-

ers whether the penalty is

fair. Also, if both the agency