OPM Seal and Link to Home Page

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20415-2000


DATE::  April 1, 1998


This memo serves to provide guidance to the labor-management relations community on determining the bargaining unit status of team leaders. The full text of case decisions cited in these pages are not available from this agency. You must contact the Federal Labor Relations Authority directly to obtain the full text of case decisions.


Responding to Administration initiatives, outlined in part by the National Performance Review, agencies across the Federal Government are reducing the number of middle management and supervisory positions by, among other things, establishing team leader positions. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has just issued the General Schedule Leader Grade Evaluation Guide which addresses work leader positions and team leader positions. The immediate labor-management relations question raised by these actions is whether team leaders are to be included or excluded from existing bargaining units.

Disagreement over the bargaining unit status of team leaders is partly due to the fact that (i) the duties associated with team leader positions aren't uniform, and (ii) the supervisors who once occupied the eliminated supervisory positions often have been selected to fill the newly-created team leader positions.

There is a wide range of duties and responsibilities associated with team leader positions, some of which may overlap with typical supervisory functions. The bargaining unit status of each team leader position can be evaluated by applying the guidance provided by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) in several of its decisions, some of which are summarized below.

FLRA decisions on the bargaining unit status of team leaders have thus far focused on whether or not the team leader consistently exercises independent judgment with regard to any of the supervisory duties listed in title 5, United States Code, section 7103(a)(10), and whether or not the team leader is a confidential employee within the meaning of section 7103(a)(13) of the Statute.

Supervisory Status Argument

In the majority of FLRA rulings, the determination of bargaining unit status for those in team leader positions hinges on whether or not the employee is one who consistently exercises independent judgment with regard to any of the supervisory duties listed in section 7103(a)(10), which reads as follows:

"[S]upervisor" means an individual employed by an agency having authority in the interest of the agency to hire, direct, assign, promote, reward, transfer, furlough, layoff, recall, suspend, discipline, or remove employees, to adjust their grievances, or to effectively recommend such action, if the exercise of the authority is not merely routine or clerical in nature but requires the consistent exercise of independent judgment, except that, with respect to any unit which included firefighters or nurses, the term "supervisor" includes only those individuals who devote a preponderance of their employment time to exercising such authority.

Principal test for supervisors.

In Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, 7 FLRA 526, 527, the FLRA said the following: "Under the definition's principal test for supervisors, an individual need only exercise one of the definition's enumerated criteria in a way that requires the consistent exercise of independent judgment to be deemed a supervisor" (Emphasis added.)

The FLRA has made several important distinctions in determining whether a team leader is also a supervisor. They are as follows:

  • No consistent exercise of independent judgment. Team leaders with responsibility for assigning work and directing employees are not supervisors where the exercise of such responsibility is routine in nature and does not involve the consistent exercise of independent judgment. U.S. Naval Station, Panama, 7 FLRA 489, 492. See also, Army Aviation Systems Command, 36 FLRA 587, 592 (which contains a very helpful summary of previous decisions on the supervisory status of team leaders) and Army Communications and Electronics Materiel Command, 9 FLRA 101.

  • Technical review of team's work. Team leaders who review the work of other employees from only a technical standpoint are not supervisors because the review function is routine and does not require the exercise of independent judgment. See Department of the Treasury, Office of Chief Counsel, 32 FLRA 1255, 1258-60; Dugway Proving Ground, Dugway, Utah, 8 FLRA 684, 686-87; and Materiel Readiness Support Activity, Lexington, Kentucky, 8 FLRA 46.

  • Consistent exercise of independent judgment. However, in Army Aviation Systems Command, 36 FLRA 587, 593, the Authority found employees to be supervisors where it was shown that they consistently exercised independent judgment in directing or reviewing other employees' work. See Bureau of Prisons, Lewisburg, 7 FLRA 126, 132-33; Department of Energy 4 FLRA 644, 651-52; Army and Air Force Exchange Service, 3 FLRA 596 at 601.

Confidential Employee Argument

In addition to the "supervisory status" argument, the Regional Director of the Authority's Washington Regional Office included a second reason in explaining the exclusion of team leaders from a bargaining unit. In this case, the Regional Director also found the team leaders to be confidential employees within the meaning of title 5 United State Code section 7103(a)(13) and 7112(b)(2) as they had "been placed in a confidential relationship with individuals who formulate or effectuate management policies in the field of labor-management relations" SSA and AFGE, Case No. WA-RP-60063.


The determination of the bargaining unit status of those in team leader positions largely remains a function of the circumstances and duties surrounding each position. In other words, the determination is made on a case-by-case basis and takes into consideration the unique and varied nature of the responsibilities of team leaders and applies the above criteria to the facts of each case.

Any questions or comments on material on this page are to be directed to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Theodore Roosevelt Building, 1900 E Street, NW., Washington, DC, 20415-2000, telephone (202) 606-2930; fax (202) 606-2613; or email lmr@opm.gov.

Page created on 21 July 1998