Simply stated, federal union officials engaged in authorized (by agency) representational activities are covered by the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) or generally speaking, worker compensation. However, union representatives engaged in the internal business of a labor organization, such as soliciting new members, picking up or delivering election notices, are not covered (with rare exceptions); or, union officials not on “authorized union time” by the agency for any purpose. Coverage under Office of Worker’s Compensation (OWCP) claims may hinge on the determination of whether the affected employee was actually on official time (authorized by agency) at the time the injury occurred. Therefore, it is critically important union officials first request official time prior to leaving any work-site (truth is, official time must be granted by the agency before you can use it anyway). Whereas, union officials on block time (such as 50% or 100%) will have less of an issue proving they were on official time. However, affected union officials must ensure they have adequate documentation in all instances. Many situations are going to be unique. You may want a second opinion from a consultant.
The Office of Worker Compensation Program defines “official time” as time granted to an employee by an agency to perform representational functions when the employee would otherwise be in a duty status (without charge to leave or loss of pay). See, FECA Procedure Manual 2-0804-16. A key word is “granted.” To reiterate, union officials who simply leave a work-site to conduct representational activities may not be covered despite their insistence otherwise. Such coverage will typically only be extended following agency inquiry into the status of the employee at the time, which may take the form of a claim controversion. See, K.L. and Department of Veterans Affairs, 107 LRP 12148 (ECAB 2007).
Somewhat ironically, these same protections do not apply to union members. For example, if any employee is off duty and meeting with a union official and sustains an injury, that injury will most likely not be covered. See,John Thomas and Department of the Air Force, (ECAB 2003).
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