The National Labor Relations Board has adopted a final rule amending its election case procedures to reduce unnecessary litigation and delays. The rule will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, December 22, and is due to take effect on April 30, 2012.
The rule is primarily focused on procedures followed by the NLRB in the minority of cases in which parties can’t agree on issues such as whether the employees covered by the election petition are an appropriate voting group. In such cases, the matter goes to a hearing in a regional office and the NLRB Regional Director decides the question and sets the election.
Going forward, the regional hearings will be expressly limited to issues relevant to the question of whether an election should be conducted. The hearing officer will have the authority to limit testimony to relevant issues, and to decide whether or not to accept post-hearing briefs.
Also, all appeals of regional director decisions to the Board will be consolidated into a single post-election request for review. Parties can currently appeal regional director decisions to the Board at multiple stages in the process.
In addition, the rule makes all Board review of Regional Directors’ decisions discretionary, leaving more final decisions in the hands of career civil servants with long experience supervising elections.
Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce and Member Craig Becker voted in favor of the rule, which was prepared following a public meeting in late November. Member Brian Hayes dissented from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and voted at the November 30 public meeting against proceeding with publication of a final rule. The final rule provides the opportunity for publication of a separate dissenting statement prior to the effective date of the rule.
In recent years, only about 10 percent of NLRB election cases have gone through the hearing process. Such elections have been held on average 101 days after the election petition was filed with a regional office.
“This rule is about giving all employees who have petitioned for an election the right to vote in a timely manner and without the impediment of needless litigation,” said Chairman Pearce.
The amendments to the election case procedures in the new rule were drawn from a more comprehensive proposal put forward by the Board in June. More than 65,000 comments were submitted following publication of the broader proposal in the Federal Register. In a discussion introducing the new rule, the Board majority explained that it was holding for further deliberation parts of that proposal that had generated the most debate while moving ahead with parts considered relatively “less controversial.”