This is a snapshot extracted from the Foreign Service Grievance Board Annual Report to Congress for 2011. Seventy new cases were filed with the Board in 2011, a 25% increase over the 56 cases filed in 2010 (which was a 30% increase over the cases filed in 2009). All but 11 cases were filed by Department of State officers.
Yes, it’s mid-June 2012, but the report had only recently surfaced online. The annual report is submitted to the Committee on Foreign Relations at the United States Senate (SFRC), the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the House of Representatives (HFAC) and the Director General of the Foreign Service at the State Department (DGHR).
Total cases filed 70
Implementation Dispute 0
The following dispositions were cited for the 52 cases closed in 2011:
Agency Decision Affirmed 20
Agency Decision Reversed 2
Partially Affirmed/Partially Reversed 5
Note: Agency Decision Affirmed means that the grievance filed with the Board was denied and the grievant did not prevail. Agency Decision Reversed means that the grievance was sustained in whole or in substantial part. Dismissals refer to cases in which the Board found no proper basis to proceed (e.g., dismissal due to mootness, denial of motion for reconsideration, lack of jurisdiction, timeliness, etc.).
Average time for consideration of a grievance, from the time of filing to a Board decision: 41 weeks.
Pending before the Board as of December 31, 2011: 59 cases
The 70 new cases docketed in 2011 involved Foreign Service personnel from the following agencies:
Department of State 59
U.S. Agency for International Development 5
Department of Commerce 4
Department of Agriculture – FAS 2
No cases were filed in 2011 involving the Peace Corps or the Broadcasting Board of Governors (which includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, TV Martì, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks).
The FSGB cites the challenge of electronic documents:
The Board members’ responsibilities for managing case documentation have grown increasingly challenging as paper documents have been supplanted by electronic documents transmitted as e-mail attachments. The time-consuming and frustrating task of organizing and working with a body of information dispersed into hundreds of inconsistently-named electronic files does not represent the best use of Board members’ limited and valuable time. In the closing months of 2011, the Board’s staff confronted this problem by devising a system for consolidating, organizing and naming electronic case documentation in a way that will significantly simplify this aspect of Board members’ work – and which will also provide them with better tools for working with the ROP and related documents. Our implementation of this system commenced in January 2012, and next year’s report will include a more detailed description and assessment of the Board’s Electronic Record of Proceedings (eROP).
The Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) by the way, functions as the primary dispute resolution entity for the Foreign Service. And its importance is shown by the lack of resources for the FSGB website, and its stone-age search function. Straight from the FSGB:
“We have not been able to make planned improvements to the FSGB website (FSGB.gov) because of a lack of resources and logistical considerations, but we have managed to keep the site current with recently decided cases and other information for both public and internal use. We hope to implement some of the planned improvements during the current year.”
At least the more recent records of proceedings or ROPs are now available in PDF files and not just Word docs. We’ll be in the lookout for website improvements in the next six months or the next annual report, whichever comes first.