Fulfilling union information requests can sometimes be tedious. But as a new National LaborRelations Board (NLRB) decision shows, before you simply flat-out refuse to turn over the requested data, it’s important to make a good faith assessment of the relevance of the request.
Union Steward Files Info Requests
Over one three-month period, the chief union steward at the North Shepard Station post office in Houston, Texas, made nearly 50 separate information requests—which were all ignored by postal officials—in connection with grievances. Some of the unfulfilled information requests concerned sick leave policies, work schedules, medical conditions of employees, and working conditions, as well as leave requests and records.
Rather than explain why the information wasn’t provided, the Postal Service claimed the information requests and the underlying grievances were frivolous and made in bad faith. The union took the matter to the NLRB.
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Past Pattern Leads To District-Wide Posting
The NLRB found the bulk of the union’s requests for information were relevant to pending grievances and thus should have been granted. By refusing to respond to those requests, said the board, the Postal Service had violated National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provisions barring interference with employee rights and refusals to bargain in good faith.
The board noted the Houston postal district had a history of similar NLRA violations. In fact, the board had previously ordered specific facilities in the postal district to post notices that they had violated information requests required by the NLRA.But these previous postings, said the board, didn’t remedy the problem. Therefore, citing a pattern of unlawful conduct, the board ordered the Postal Service to post a notice at all of its Houston district facilities—even in locations in which no violations were alleged—stating it had violated federal labor law and promising not to interfere with protected rights. The NLRB also ordered the Postal Service to provide, on re-request, all the information found to be wrongfully withheld.
Don’t Dodge The Issue
So how do you know when you have to provide information requested by a union? If there’s a probability the information is relevant and will aid the union in serving as the employees’ bargaining representative or in fulfilling its statutory duties, you’ll likely have to turn it over. What’s more, the NLRA imposes a good-faith requirement on employers’ dealings with unions. So if you fail, either deliberately or negligently, to comply with information requests, you could get hauled before the NLRB.
To avoid problems, be sure you have a system in place so legitimate requests don’t fall through the cracks. And if you’re unsure whether you can withhold requested information, check with a labor expert.