In late April 2014, the Chicago Regional Office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) joined with two other local agencies, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and the Illinois Department of Labor, to strengthen their collaborative efforts. The Chicago Regional Office announced that it had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with each agency. 

These MOUs provide that, during interviewing or case processing, each agency will — with the individual complainant's consent — refer charges to the other agency in cases where the alleged conduct falls within the jurisdiction of the other agency. The MOU also provides for cross training between agencies and for the creation and implementation of procedures related to sharing information between agencies, where appropriate.

Work-sharing and other types of cooperative agreements between state and federal agencies (such as those between federal and state fair employment agencies) are not uncommon. What is unusual here is that agencies involved enforce different types of labor statutes. As a result, employers may face increased scrutiny when dealing with any of these authorities. 

For example, an Illinois Department of Labor investigator looking into a wage claim may discover facts that he believes to be indicative of an unfair labor practice. Under the new MOU, he now has a channel for notifying the Chicago Regional Office of the NLRB and the ability to help initiate a charge, if deemed necessary. 

Given these recent developments, employers responding to charges or claims in front of any of these agencies should exercise particular caution at the risk of inadvertently sharing information that could trigger additional regulatory proceedings. We encourage all of our clients, when dealing with these agencies, to work with outside counsel in order to minimize the possibility of such cross referrals.