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Responding to Ridiculous Requests: The NLRB Burdens Employers with a Duty to Respond Timely to Many Irrelevant Requests
October 25, 2012
By Iris K. Tilley

On October 23, 2012, in the case of IronTiger Logistics, Inc. and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFLCIO, Case 16CA027543, the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") held that an employer had violated its duty to bargain by waiting some 4.5 months to respond to a request for information proffered by the union. While the NLRB ultimately determined that the request for information was, as the employer argued irrelevant, it found that this irrelevancy did not excuse the employer's delay.

The NLRB explained that the union's request for information involved unit employees, so it was "presumptively relevant." As a result, the union was entitled to receive a response within a reasonable time following its request. The NLRB did not define a "reasonable time," but made clear that 4.5 months exceeded this perimeter significantly. In dissent, one board member argued that the majority's ruling gives unions the latitude to "hector employers with information requests for tactical purposes that obstruct, rather than further, good-faith bargaining relationships."

While this opinion governs an employer's obligation to respond only to a "presumptively relevant" request, it serves as a reminder to employers to pay attention to their response times. An internal deadline of 30 days to respond is prudent, even when the employer's response simply explains why a particular request is irrelevant.

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