You have employees, some of whom are represented by a union.  The union makes a request for information or documents concerning some of your non-union employees and the work they are performing.  Do you need to do anything; and if so, what and when?  A recent decision by The National Labor Relations Board in Iron Tiger Logistics, Inc. answered these questions. 

The National Labor Relations Act imposes a duty on both the employer and the union to bargain in good faith.  A corollary to that obligation is the obligation to provide, upon request, information that is relevant to the other side’s performance of its duty to bargain.  Additionally, a party must respond within a reasonable period of time to a request seeking what appears to be relevant information even when the party believes it has grounds for not providing the information. 

Thus, when presented with a request for what, on its face, appears to be information relevant to the obligation to bargain, you must respond within a reasonable period of time to that request.  If for some reason you do not believe the information really is relevant, or you have some other objection to providing the requested information such as burdensomeness, cost, etc., then you still must respond in a reasonable period of time and inform the union of the basis for refusal to provide the requested information.  A party commits an unfair labor practice, breaching its obligation to bargain in good faith, when it fails to respond at all or within a reasonable period of time to an information request even if it subsequently is found that the requested information is not relevant and, therefore, need not be produced. 

What will be found to constitute a reasonable period of time to respond will depend upon the facts of each case and the information or documents sought.  Four and a half months of silence before informing the union that the sought-after information would not be provided was found to be an untimely response in the Iron Tiger matter.  Thus, the employer was found to have violated the Act by failing to bargain in good faith when it did not respond to the union’s information request.  This finding was made even though the employer’s ultimate response was found to be legally correct, and the sought-after information was, in fact, not relevant and not required to be produced.

Allison Williams focuses her practice in the area of labor and employment law, litigation, and higher education law. Ms. Williams' practice includes cases pending in state and federal courts, as well as actions pending before the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Board, the West Virginia Human Rights Commission, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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