In a 2-1 decision in IronTiger Logistics, Inc., the NLRB recently held that an employer has a duty to respond in a timely manner to a union’s information request, even where the requested information is ultimately deemed to be irrelevant.

Under the NLRA, a unionized employer must provide, on request, information that is relevant and necessary to the union’s role as the employees’ exclusive bargaining representative. The NLRB has required that employers respond promptly to such requests—either by providing the requested information, or by providing the union with its reasons for not doing so.

In IronTiger Logistics, the employer did neither: it never furnished the requested information to the union, and waited four and a half months to notify the union that it did not believe the data was relevant. That prompted the filing of an unfair labor practice charge, and the employer successfully defended its refusal to provide the information on the grounds that the data simply was not relevant.

Despite agreeing with the employer and finding that it had no duty to furnish the underlying information, the NLRB still concluded that the employer acted unlawfully “by not timely responding in some manner” to the union’s request. In the NLRB’s view, good faith bargaining requires a prompt response even when an employer may have a justification for not actually providing the requested information. According to the NLRB, the burden placed on employers in this respect is “minimal” and serves to encourage parties to address potential disputes before they disrupt the collective bargaining relationship and give rise to costly litigation.

Under the NLRB’s holding, employers cannot ignore union information requests although the information sought may, indeed, be irrelevant. The NLRB requires a prompt response, even if it is simply an explanation of the reasons why the employer is not providing the information.