US Dept. of the Navy v. FLRA, No. 10-1304 (D.C. Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
In the mid-1990's, the Navy began providing employees with bottled water after an EPA report indicated that water fountains in some Navy buildings in Newport contained components manufactured with lead. Beginning in 2005, the Navy replaced the problematic water fountains, tested the tap water, and determined it safe to drink. The Navy then stopped providing bottled water; it did not negotiate with employee unions before removing the bottled water. The unions objected to the removal of the bottled water. Funds appropriated for agency operations could be used for "necessary expenses" but not for employees' "personal expenses." As the Comptroller General has long determined, when safe and drinkable tap water was available in the workplace, bottled water constituted a personal expense for which appropriated funds could not be expended. Under federal collective bargaining law, moreover, an agency had not duty or authority to bargain over or grant benefits that were "inconsistent with any Federal law." Therefore, if safe and drinkable tap water was available at the Newport facilities, the Navy had no authority or duty to bargain before removing the bottled water.