National Labor Relations Board:

Action Needed to Improve Case-Processing Time at Headquarters

HRD-91-29: Published: Jan 7, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 7, 1991.

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Carlotta C. Joyner
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) handling of regionally decided cases appealed to NLRB headquarters, focusing on: (1) the length of time taken to decide appealed cases since 1984; (2) factors contributing to excessive delays; and (3) the need for additional administrative or legislative actions.

GAO found that: (1) the 33 NLRB regional offices resolved the vast majority of cases within 1 year; (2) NLRB headquarters reviewed about 5 percent of regionally decided cases; (3) between 1984 and 1989, NLRB headquarters decided about 67 percent of the appealed cases within 1 year, but 10 percent of appealed cases took from 3 to more than 7 years to decide and 17 percent took more than 2 years; (4) between 1984 and 1989, median processing times for appealed cases were among the highest in NLRB history; (5) median times for decisions on appealed unfair labor practice cases ranged from 273 to 395 days; (6) median times for decisions on appealed representation cases ranged from 190 to 256 days; (7) although NLRB headquarters timeliness improved in 1989, reduced delays were probably due to NLRB working on the oldest cases and a reduction in the number of cases; and (8) case delays resulted from a lack of standards and procedures to prevent excessive delays, lack of timely decisions on major cases that delayed the consideration of related cases, and NLRB headquarters turnover and vacancies.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee (formerly the House Government Operations Committee, Labor-Management Relations Subcommittee), has no plans to develop legislation addressing administrative reforms needed in NLRA/NLRB.

    Matter: To help reduce the problem of NLRB member turnover and vacancies, Congress may wish to provide for more continuity of members. Congress could amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 to include provisions similar to those applicable to other agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that would allow NLRB members whose terms are ending to either stay at NLRB until their replacement has been confirmed or continue for a limited period while a replacement is being sought.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NLRB established written standards of 6 months for each stage and a total time of not more than 2 years to decide cases, established required procedural corrective actions, and implemented new monthly monitoring reports to identify cases that exceed 6 months in any stage and the number of cases that need to be decided to meet its goal of having no cases over 2 years old as of September 30, 1991.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, NLRB, should: (1) establish standards for the total length of time a case should be at NLRB and a time for each decision stage that, when exceeded, requires corrective action; and (2) specify the corrective actions that NLRB members and staff should take when those targets are exceeded. Such action could range from more extensive NLRB involvement in addressing delays during the first two decision stages to more frequent use of the existing policy option of issuing decisions without waiting for untimely written dissents during the final decision stage.

    Agency Affected: National Labor Relations Board


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