JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (Act), Pub. L. 95-454, 92 Stat. 1214, 5 U. S. C. § 7131(a) (1982 ed.), requires federal agencies to grant "official time" to employees
Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act, part of a comprehensive revision of the laws governing the rights and obligations of civil servants, contains the first statutory scheme governing labor relations between federal agencies and their employees. Prior to enactment of Title VII, labor-management relations in the federal sector were governed by a program established in a 1962 Executive Order.
The new Act, declaring that "labor organizations and collective bargaining in the civil service are in the public interest," 5 U. S. C. § 7101(a) (1982 ed.), significantly strengthened the position of public employee unions while carefully preserving the ability of federal managers to maintain "an effective and efficient Government," § 7101(b).
The Act replaced the management-controlled Federal Labor Relations Council with the FLRA, a three-member independent and bipartisan body within the Executive Branch with responsibility for supervising the collective-bargaining process and administering other aspects of federal labor relations established by Title VII. § 7104. The Authority, the role of which in the public sector is analogous
Petitioner, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF or Bureau), an agency within the Department of the Treasury, maintained a regional office in Lodi, California. Respondent National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU or Union) was the exclusive representative of BATF employees stationed in the Lodi office. In November 1978, the Bureau notified NTEU that it intended to move the Lodi office to Sacramento and to establish a reduced duty post at a new location in Lodi. The Union informed BATF that it wished to negotiate aspects of the move's impact on employees in the bargaining unit. As its agent for these negotiations, the Union designated Donald Pruett, a BATF employee and NTEU steward who lived in Madera, California, and was stationed in Fresno. Bureau officials agreed to meet with Pruett at the new offices and discuss the planned move. Pruett asked that his participation in the discussions be classified as "official time" so that he could receive his regular salary while attending the meetings. The Bureau denied the request and directed Pruett to take either annual leave or leave without pay for the day of the meeting.
On February 23, 1979, Bureau officials met with Pruett at the proposed new Sacramento offices and inspected the physical
Pruett had spent 11 1/2 hours traveling to and attending the meetings, and had driven more than 300 miles in his own car. When he renewed his request to have his participation at the meetings classified as official time, the Bureau informed him that it did not reimburse employees for expenses incurred in negotiations and that it granted official time only for quarterly collective-bargaining sessions and not for midterm discussions like those involved here. In June 1979, the Union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the FLRA, claiming that BATF had improperly compelled Pruett to take annual leave for the February 23 sessions.
While the charge was pending, the FLRA issued an "Interpretation and Guidance" of general applicability which required federal agencies to pay salaries, travel expenses, and per diem allowances to union representatives engaged in collective bargaining with the agencies.
Based on the NTEU's pending charge against the Bureau, the General Counsel of the Authority issued a complaint and notice of hearing, alleging that the BATF had committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to grant Pruett official time for the February 23 meetings.
The Bureau sought review in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the Union intervened as a party in that appeal. The Bureau challenged both the FLRA's conclusion that § 7131(a) applies to midterm negotiations and its determination that the section requires payment of travel expenses and a per diem allowance. After deciding that the Authority's construction of its enabling Act was entitled to deference if it was "reasoned and supportable," 672 F. 2d, at 735-736, the Court of Appeals enforced the Authority's order on both issues. Id., at 737, 738. On certiorari to this Court, petitioner does not seek review of the holding with respect to midterm negotiations. Only that aspect of the Court of Appeals' decision regarding travel expenses and per diem allowances is at issue here.
The FLRA order enforced by the Court of Appeals in this case was, as noted, premised on the Authority's earlier construction of § 7131(a) in its Interpretation and Guidance. Although we have not previously had occasion to consider an interpretation of the Civil Service Reform Act by the FLRA, we have often described the appropriate standard of judicial
On the other hand, the "deference owed to an expert tribunal cannot be allowed to slip into a judicial inertia which results in the unauthorized assumption by an agency of major policy decisions properly made by Congress." American Ship Building Co. v. NLRB, 380 U.S. 300, 318 (1965). Accordingly, while reviewing courts should uphold reasonable and defensible constructions of an agency's enabling Act, NLRB v. Iron Workers, supra, at 350, they must not "rubber-stamp . . . administrative decisions that they deem inconsistent with a statutory mandate or that frustrate the congressional policy underlying a statute." NLRB v. Brown, 380 U.S. 278, 291-292 (1965). See Chemical & Alkali Workers v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157,
Title 5 U. S. C. § 7131(a) (1982 ed.) provides in full:
According to the House Committee that reported the bill containing § 7131, Congress used the term "official time" to mean "paid time." See H. R. Rep. No. 95-1403, p. 58 (1978). In light of this clear expression of congressional intent, the parties agree that employee union negotiators are entitled to their usual pay during collective-bargaining sessions that occur when the employee "otherwise would be in a duty status." Both the Authority, 2 F. L. R. A., at 269, and the Court of Appeals, 672 F. 2d, at 737, recognized that there is no corresponding expression, either in the statute or the extensive legislative history, of a congressional intent to pay employee negotiators travel expenses and per diem allowances as well.
Despite this congressional silence, respondents advance several reasons why the FLRA's determination that such payments are required is consistent with the policies underlying the Act. Each of these arguments proceeds from the assumption that, by providing employee negotiators with official time for bargaining, Congress rejected the model of federal labor relations that had shaped prior administrative practice. In its place, according to respondents, Congress substituted a new vision of collective bargaining under which employee negotiators, like management representatives, are considered "on the job" while bargaining and are therefore entitled to all customary forms of compensation, including travel expenses and per diem allowances.
Under the 1962 Executive Order establishing the first federal labor relations program, the decision whether to pay union representatives for the time spent in collective bargaining was left within the discretion of their employing agency,
The Senate version of the bill that became the Civil Service Reform Act would have retained the last Executive Order's restrictions on the authorization of official time. S. Rep.
Respondents suggest that, by rejecting earlier limitations on official time, Congress repudiated the view that employee negotiators work only for their union and not for the Government. Under the new vision of federal labor relations postulated by respondents, civil servants on both sides of the bargaining table are engaged in official business of the Government and must be compensated equally. Because federal employees representing the views of management receive travel expenses and per diem allowances, federal employees representing the views of labor are entitled to such payments as well. In support of this view, respondents rely on the Act's declaration that public sector collective bargaining is in "the public interest" and "contributes to the effective conduct of public business," § 7101(a), as well as on a number of specific provisions in the Act intended to equalize the position of management and labor. For instance, the Act requires agencies to deduct union dues from employees' paychecks and to transfer the funds to the union at no cost, § 7115(a);
Respondents also find their understanding of the role of union representatives supported by Congress' use of the phrase "official time" in § 7131(a). For respondents, the use of this term indicates an intent to treat employee negotiators "as doing the government's work for all the usual purposes," and therefore entitled to "all attributes of employment," including travel expenses and a per diem allowance. Brief for Respondent NTEU 24-28. They suggest that, if Congress intended to maintain only the employees' salaries, it would have granted them "leave without loss of pay," a term it has used in other statutes. See, e. g., 5 U. S. C. § 6321 (absence of veterans to attend funeral services), § 6322(a) (jury or witness duty), and § 6323 (military reserve duty) (1982 ed.). In contrast, Congress uses the terms "official
The difficulty with respondents' argument is that Congress did not provide that employees engaged in collective bargaining are acting in their "official capacity," "on the job," or in a "duty status." Instead, the right to a salary conferred by § 7131(a) obtains only when "the employee otherwise would be in a duty status" (emphasis supplied). This qualifying language strongly suggests that union negotiators engaged in collective bargaining are not considered in a duty status and thereby entitled to all of their normal forms of compensation. Nor does the phrase "official time," borrowed from prior administrative practice, have the same meaning as "official capacity."
Perhaps recognizing that authority for travel expenses and per diem allowances cannot be found within the four corners of § 7131(a), respondents alternatively contend that the Authority's decision is supported by the Travel Expense Act, 5 U. S. C. § 5702(a) (1982 ed.), which provides that a federal employee "traveling on official business away from his designated post of duty . . . is entitled to . . . a per diem allowance." The Travel Expense Act is administered by the Comptroller General who has concluded that agencies may authorize per diem allowances for travel that is "sufficiently in the interest of the United States so as to be regarded as official business." 44 Comp. Gen. 188, 189 (1964). Under the Executive Order regime, the Comptroller General authorized per diem payments to employee negotiators pursuant to this statute upon a certification that the employees' travel served the convenience of the employing agency. See n. 11, supra.
Based on its view that employee negotiators are "on the job," the Authority determined that union representatives engaged in collective bargaining are on "official business" and therefore entitled to a per diem allowance under the Travel Expense Act. 2 F. L. R. A., at 269. In support of this reasoning, the Authority notes that § 5702(a) has been construed broadly to authorize reimbursement in connection with a variety
In passing the Civil Service Reform Act, Congress unquestionably intended to strengthen the position of federal unions and to make the collective-bargaining process a more effective instrument of the public interest than it had been under the Executive Order regime. See supra, at 91-93. There is no evidence, however, that the Act departed from the basic assumption underlying collective bargaining in both the public
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
"(a)(1) If any agency or labor organization is charged by any person with having engaged in or engaging in an unfair labor practice, the General Counsel shall investigate the charge and may issue and cause to be served upon the agency or labor organization a complaint. . . ."
The complaint issued by the General Counsel in this case relied on § 7116, which provides in part:
"(a) For the purposes of this chapter, it shall be an unfair labor practice for an agency —
"(1) to interfere with, restrain, or coerce any employee in the exercise by the employee of any right under this chapter;
"(8) to otherwise fail or refuse to comply with any provision of this chapter."
Second, petitioner argues that the Interpretation and Guidance is entitled to less weight since it was apparently an "interpretative rule" rather than an "administrative regulation." See n. 5, supra. Congress did, however, afford the FLRA broad authority to establish policies consistent with the Act, see §§ 7105 and 7134, and the Interpretation and Guidance was attended by at least some of the procedural characteristics of a rulemaking. See n. 5, supra. See 5 U. S. C. § 553. Compare FEC v. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, 454 U.S. 27, 37 (1981), with General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125, 141-142 (1976). In any event, we find it unnecessary to rest our decision on a precise classification of the FLRA's action. As we explain in the text, an agency acting within its authority to make policy choices consistent with the congressional mandate should receive considerable deference from courts, provided, of course, that its actions conform to applicable procedural requirements and are not "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or not otherwise in accordance with law," 5 U. S. C. § 706(2)(A). See, e. g., Batterton v. Francis, 432 U.S. 416, 424-426 (1977); FCC v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. 134, 137-138 (1940). When an agency's decision is premised on its understanding of a specific congressional intent, however, it engages in the quintessential judicial function of deciding what a statute means. In that case, the agency's interpretation, particularly to the extent it rests on factual premises within its expertise, may be influential, but it cannot bind a court. General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, supra; Zuber v. Allen, 396 U.S. 168, 192-193 (1969); Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134, 140 (1944). For the reasons set out below, we conclude that the FLRA's decision in this case neither rests on specific congressional intent nor is consistent with the policies underlying the Act.