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ULP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Office of the General Counsel (OGC), through its seven Regional Offices, investigates and resolves unfair labor practice (ULP) charges, and prosecutes ULP complaints.  Below are FAQs about the ULP process.  If you have additional questions, please contact your nearest Regional Office for assistance.

Who the FLRA helps

Does the Statute that the FLRA enforces cover me?

The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) covers most federal employees.  But it does not cover:

  • Non-federal employees:  including private-sector employees, contractors, or employees of state or local governments.
  • Employees of certain federal agencies:  including the Postal Service, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Secret Service.
  • Certain categories of employees:  including supervisors, management officials, and members of the uniformed services in their military capacity.

Is the FLRA the right agency to help with my problem?

The FLRA handles only labor-management issues for non-postal, federal civilian employees.  Here is a list of other common employee issues and the agencies that may be most appropriate to contact.

  1. The National Labor Relations Board (1-866-667-6572) protects the collective-bargaining rights of private-sector employees and Postal workers.
  2. The National Mediation Board  (1-202-692-5050) protects the collective-bargaining rights of railway and airline employees.
  3. For questions about labor-union officer elections, union financial practices, or reports filed by labor unions, employers, and labor-relations consultants, contact the Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards at 1-866-487-2365.
  4. If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 1-800-669-4000 or the EEO Office at your agency.
  5. If you want to appeal certain adverse personnel actions, contact the Merit Systems Protection Board to find out whether it has jurisdiction over your appeal at 1-202-653-7200.
  6. For allegations of activities prohibited by civil service laws, including Hatch Act Issues and whistleblower reprisal, contact the Office of Special Counsel (OSC)  at 1-800-255-7688.
  7. For complaints concerning activities at an agency that may violate law or involve mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety contact your agency’s Office of Inspector General.
  8. For information on employment, examinations, staffing, retirement, and benefits contact the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
  9. For questions about wages, tips, work hours, overtime, breaks, vacation pay, or the Family Medical Leave Act, contact the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division at 1-866-487-9243.
  10. For work-related safety and health questions, contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at 1-800-321-6742.
  11. The FLRA does not enforce state and local laws relating to employment, such as unemployment benefits or workers’ compensation.  For a list of state labor offices, click here.

Filing a Charge

Can I talk with someone before I file a charge?

Yes, you may contact your nearest Regional Office for:

  • A general explanation of the rights and obligations under the Statute
  • An explanation of the unfair labor practice procedures
  • Assistance in filling out forms
  • Resources and help locating information on the FLRA website
  • Assistance in identifying the relevant evidence that you will need to support your charge

Who can file a charge?

Any individual (e.g., employee), union, or agency may file a charge.  An employee may file a charge against either an agency or a union.

What should I include in my charge?

When you file a charge, you should provide a brief statement of the important facts and allegations, including the date of the incident, the location where the incident occurred, and the names and titles of the people involved.

Who should I list as the Agency's contact? 

If you are filing a charge against an agency, provide information for the agency contact in labor relations or other individual who normally handles ULP charges.  Please provide both a phone number and an email address.  Listing the director or other high level official as the Agency's contact can slow down processing of your charge.

Where should I file my charge?

File the ULP charge in the Region where the alleged ULP occurred.  If the alleged ULP occurred in more than one Region, you may file in any Region where it occurred.  You may eFile your charge (preferred).  You may also fax or mail the Charge Against an Agency Form  or Charge Against a Labor Organization (Union) Form to your nearest Regional Office.  

How long do I have to file a charge?

Generally, you have six months from when the alleged violation occurred.  Please contact your nearest Regional Office if you have further questions about the time limits.

Should I submit documents with my charge?    

Yes.  When filing a charge, you must submit to the Regional Director any supporting evidence and documents, including, but not limited to, correspondence and memoranda, records, reports, applicable collective-bargaining agreement clauses, memoranda of understanding (MOU), minutes of meetings, applicable regulations, statements of position, and other documentary evidence.  You also must identify potential witnesses with contact information (telephone number, email address, and fax number) and provide a brief synopsis of their expected testimony.  You should submit these documents separately.  

What information should I prepare or gather?

  • You should contact potential witnesses (individuals with first-hand knowledge of the events) and prepare a witness list with a brief description of each witness’s expected testimony.  Please include the witness’s title, email address, and direct telephone number (not a shared department number). 
  • You should gather any relevant supporting documents.  
  • It is helpful if you prepare a timeline of events. 
  • You should also be prepared to discuss the remedy that you are seeking and ideas about how to resolve the charge.

Examples of witnesses and relevant documents for certain types of cases:

  • Unilateral change:  (1) Contact information for witnesses who can describe the nature of the change and how the change impacted their working conditions, (2) any correspondence between the union and the agency about the change, and (3) any contract articles or MOUs that discuss the issue.
  • Formal discussion/ Investigatory interviews:  (1) Contact information for the witness(es) who attended the formal discussion or investigatory interview, and (2) any correspondence about the meeting.
  • Repudiation:  (1) Contact information for a witness who can describe how the contract provision at issue was breached and the nature of the breach, (2) a copy of the contract or MOU at issue, and (3) any other correspondence about the alleged repudiation.
  • Information request issues:  (1) Contact information for a witness who can describe the background on the request and submitting it to the agency, (2) the original request, and (3) all of the correspondence back and forth between the agency and the union about the information request.
  • Discrimination:  (1) Contact information for the employee allegedly discriminated against and for any witnesses to the discrimination, and (2) any documents showing direct or circumstantial evidence of discrimination, such as disparate treatment, union animus, pretext, failure to follow established policies, and suspicious timing.

For information on other types of cases, including the kind of evidence that may be necessary to prove an allegation, see the Case Law Outline or contact the Regional Office.

Responding to a Charge

What should I do when I receive a charge filed against my agency or union?

You should begin to gather evidence about the events in the charge, any defenses you may raise, and consider any ways to resolve the charge.

Often, the charged party's representative is different from the contact person listed on the charge.  If you are not listed as the representative on the charge, you should contact the agent assigned to the charge to provide your contact information.  You may also use the FLRA Designation of Representative form.  

Can I submit a position statement?  

Yes.  The Regional Director will ask you to provide a position statement and supporting documents in the letter opening the case.  Before submitting a position statement, you may wish to speak to the agent assigned to the case about the information you should include.    

What does the FLRA expect me to do during the investigation?

During the investigation, the agent will, where necessary, ask you to cooperate with the investigation by:

  • arranging for official time for the interview of employee witnesses
  • submitting a position statement
  • making managers or supervisors available to give sworn or affirmed testimony
  • submitting documents
  • providing background information 

All parties are required to cooperate in the investigation, including responding to the agent’s communications during an investigation in a timely manner.  

Investigation

What happens after I file a charge?

The Region will first review the charge for sufficiency.  For example, the Region will return a charge that does not have a signature or does not identify the charging or charged party.  If a charge is sufficient, the Region will docket the charge and give it a case number.  The Region assigns an agent to the case and sends out an opening letter.  The opening letter will include the agent's contact information and the deadline for the charging party to send in a witness list and supporting documents.  If you have questions about what you should submit or need an extension of time to submit the information, contact the agent.  The agent will then contact you to introduce him/herself, explain the ULP process, and begin the investigation.  If you do not hear from the agent, contact him/her directly. 

Why is an agent from another Regional Office investigating my charge?

The Office of General Counsel reassigns charges to other Regional Offices when they are filed in the wrong location or to balance workloads and process cases more efficiently and effectively.  

What happens during an investigation?

The purpose of the investigation is to obtain, analyze, and apply the relevant facts and law to arrive at an informed and proper disposition of the charge.  The agent gathers relevant documents from the charging party and will interview relevant witnesses by telephone and obtain an affidavit.  As the investigation is impartial, the agent also collects any evidence that may refute a charge's allegations.  The agent obtains, as needed, a position statement, relevant documents, and witness affidavits from the charged party.  In some cases, an agent may do an on-site affidavit or investigation.      

Regional Director Decision

What happens after the investigation?

After the investigation, the Regional Director reviews all of the evidence, including the parties' positions, and makes a decision.  If the Regional Director finds merit to the charge, s/he will, absent settlement, issue a complaint and notice of hearing to appear before an Administrative Law Judge.  If the Regional Director decides that the charge has no merit, s/he will issue a dismissal letter, unless the charging party withdraws the charge.  A Regional Director may also issue a complaint for those allegations with merit and issue a dismissal letter for the charge's remaining allegations.

What are my options if the Regional Director decides to dismiss my charge?

If a Regional Director decides that a charge has no merit, the charging party will have the option to withdraw the charge instead of having it dismissed.  If the charging party withdraws a charge, the Region sends out a short letter stating that the charge was withdrawn and the case is closed.  A withdrawal letter does not state the Regional Director's decision or why the charge was withdrawn.  A charging party cannot appeal the Regional Director's decision if s/he chooses to withdraw a charge.

If the charging party requests a dismissal letter, it will state the basis for the Regional Director's decision to dismiss the case.  It also explains the charging party’s appeal rights and gives instructions on how to appeal the dismissal.  Both parties receive a copy of the dismissal letter. 

How do I appeal the Regional Director's decision?

A charging party may appeal a Regional Director’s decision to dismiss a charge to the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) in Washington D.C. within 30 days of the dismissal.  The Office reviews all documents in the case, but the OGC will not consider any new information.  The OGC may:  (1) deny the appeal and uphold the Regional Director’s decision, (2) remand the case to the Regional Office for further investigation, or (3) remand the case to the Regional Director for issuance of a complaint.  These decisions are not reviewable in court, and parties who disagree with the OGC’s decision to deny an appeal have no further appeal rights.  For more information about the appeals process click here.

Administrative Law Judge Hearings & Authority Appeals

What happens after a Regional Director issues a complaint?

A complaint generally leads to a hearing before an FLRA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), unless there is a settlement.  The Office of Administrative Law Judges has a Settlement Judge Program to assist parties in resolving ULP complaints.  If settlement efforts are unsuccessful, attorneys from the Regional Offices represent the FLRA in prosecuting the complaint before the ALJ.  As in any court proceeding, parties prepare arguments and present evidence and witnesses. 

How long do I have to answer a complaint?

A respondent (charged party) has 20 calendar days after the complaint's date of service to file an answer to the complaint.

When will the hearing take place?

Generally, absent settlement, the Administrative Law Judge schedules a hearing within two to three months after issuance of a complaint.

What happens after the hearing?

After a hearing, the ALJ issues a decision recommending either that the Authority dismiss the complaint, or find a violation and order relief.  If no party files an appeal with the Authority, then the Authority adopts the ALJ's decision, without precedential significance, and the ALJ’s decision becomes final.

What if I disagree with the ALJ's Decision?

Any party can appeal an ALJ decision by filing exceptions with the Authority within 25 days after the date of service of the ALJ's decision.  See the Authority's Regulations for filing exceptions here:  5 C.F.R. § 2423.40.  You must file exceptions with the Office of Case Intake and Publication or through eFiling (the preferred method).  The Authority may remand a case to the ALJ, or it may make a final decision.  A party can appeal a final Authority decision in a ULP case to a federal court of appeals.

What remedies are available?

The FLRA may order make-whole remedies (such as reinstatement and backpay for discharged employees), rescission of the action at issue, and informational remedies, such as the posting (including electronic posting) of a notice in which the charged party promises not to violate the law.  The FLRA may not assess penalties.

Disclaimer:  The FAQs are intended for users’ general information.  You may not cite the FAQs as legal authority.  Particular answers may have unstated exceptions, qualifications, and/or limitations, and changes in the law may render some answers unreliable.  In addition, the information is broad and general, and it is not complete.  The FLRA expressly disclaims any purpose or intent to furnish legal advice.  You may contact your nearest Regional Office and/or an attorney in that office to discuss your specific situation or to learn more about your rights and obligations under the Statute.