Attachment to NAO 202-711, Labor-Management Relations Procedures Handbook

Issued 03/20/09; Effective 03/10/09

Attachment to NAO 202-711, Labor-Management Relations Procedures Handbook PDF

Table of Contents

  1. Purpose and Application
  2. General
  3. Management Accountability
  4. Recognition of and Dealings with Unions
  5. Resolution of Third Party Labor-Management Disputes
  6. Final Authority


.01 Purpose. This Handbook sets forth guidance and procedures to be followed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) management officials to assist them in meeting their responsibilities under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (5 U.S.C. 71) and Department Administrative Order (DAO) 202-711, Labor-Management Relations.

.02 Application. The guidance and procedures detailed in this Handbook apply to all levels of management in all organizational components of NOAA, supplements NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 202-711, and is subject to revision consistent with law, rule or regulation.

.03 Definitions. The terms as used in this Handbook are defined in 5 U.S.C. 7103(a).

Back to Top


.01 Basic Principles. Labor-Management Relations (LMR) in NOAA is governed by the following policies and principles established by 5 U.S.C. Ch. 71, DAO 202-711, and NAO 202-711:

Back to Top


.02 Management Rights. In dealing with unions, management shall ensure that the following management rights, set forth in 5 U.S.C. 7106, are protected and retained.

.02 Another list:

However, the exercise of the foregoing rights may entail an obligation to bargain the impact and implementation of such management decisions.

.03 Conflicts of Interest. Managers and supervisors must avoid actual or apparent conflict of interest between their activities and official responsibilities.

a. Although the following individuals may join any union, they may not act as a representative of, participate in the management of, or be represented by any such organization that is subject to the Federal Labor-Management Relations Statute (5 U.S.C. Ch. 71):

  1. Management officials and supervisors (this group would include NOAA Corps Commissioned Officers);
  2. Employees engaged in personnel work in other than a purely clerical capacity; and
  3. Confidential employees – Employees who act in a confidential capacity with respect to an individual(s) who formulates or effectuates policies in the field of labor-management relations.

b. No employee shall carry on any activities, as an officer or agent of a union, that conflict or give the appearance of conflicting with the proper exercise of, or are incompatible with, his or her official duties or responsibilities. Should a management official or supervisor become aware of such an apparent conflict or incompatibility with reference to an employee in an exclusive unit, he or she shall inform his/her servicing Workforce Management Office (WFMO) Advisor immediately. The servicing WFMO Advisor shall conduct such investigation of the matter as is necessary, prepare a written summary of findings and recommendations, and forward the summary to the NOAA Labor Relations Officer (LRO). The NOAA LRO, in consultation with the servicing WFMO Advisor and appropriate Line or Staff Office management representative shall be responsible for coordinating resolution of the matter.

.04 Authorities and Responsibilities. The authority to make decisions concerning LMR matters rests with Line and Staff Office (LO/SO) management. The decision-making process must provide for the advice, counsel and guidance from knowledgeable Department of Commerce, Office of General Counsel (OGC), NOAA, and WFMO Advisors. To ensure the proper coordination and resolution of NOAA LMR issues, the following structure has been developed:

a. Each organization (LO/SO) with a group of employees that are represented by a labor union shall designate a labor-management representative:

Back to Top


.01 Awareness.

a. To improve the ability to accurately recognize and fulfill their labor-management relations responsibilities, all NOAA managers and supervisors must be familiar with the laws, rules, and regulations that govern federal sector labor relations. This specifically includes collective bargaining agreements and Memoranda of Understanding between Line and Staff Offices and their respective labor unions.

b. All NOAA managers and supervisors are required to complete a labor relations course provided through the Commerce Learning Center. The course provides an overview of federal sector labor relations and basic education regarding managers’ labor relations obligations - whether or not they work in organizations that have labor unions.

.02 Proficiency. The LO/SO Labor-Management Representatives are the foundation of the effort to promote and protect the interests of NOAA and its continuing operations. WFMO will facilitate the convening of the LO/SO Labor-Management Representatives, WFMO Advisors, NOAA LRO, and OGC annually or often as needed, for labor relations training; presentations by federal agencies involved in labor relations; and information sharing/discussions to continually enhance their ability to effectively and efficiently manage the labor relations activity within each LO/SO.

.03 Compliance.

a. Prior to the imposition of new policies, procedures, and/or operational tools that alter the existing conditions of employment of the workforce, the unions that represent the interests of these employees shall have the opportunity to comment on; request information pertaining to; and/or request to bargain, as appropriate, on the substance and/or impact of the implementation of the new requirements. Failure to provide the appropriate opportunity to the unions in advance of implementation constitutes a violation of the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute (the Statute).

b. All proposed organizational changes, policies and/or procedures with NOAA-wide application, and operational tools that affect NOAA employees shall be cleared through the WFMO/OGC Review Process prior to finalization and publication to NOAA employees through the structure identified in Section 2.04 of this Handbook.

c. The WFMO/OGC Review Process will document the agency’s immediate and prospective labor relations obligations regarding each proposed change. In addition, the process will ensure fulfillment of NOAA’s obligation to provide National Consultation on proposed substantive changes within the organization.

Back to Top


.01 National Consultation Rights (NCR).

a. NOAA has granted national consultation rights (NCR) to the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO). The NOAA LRO will assure that NWSEO is afforded the opportunity to exercise their national consultation rights.

b. All NCR activity shall be coordinated through the NOAA LRO. The LRO is responsible for ensuring that the union meets the established criteria for NCR and that action is taken to extend appropriate recognition. Coordination includes obtaining and ensuring that the views of the LO/SO and Department, if appropriate, are considered.

c. A union holding NCR may raise personnel policy matters, including requested changes in personnel policies, practices, and procedures of interest to employees they represent, either in writing or through conferring in person with the appropriate officials. If not the first point of contact on such matters, the NOAA LRO is to be informed immediately of the contact. The LRO shall be responsible for coordinating the consideration of the union's views and suggestions.

.02 Dealings with Organizations Holding Exclusive Recognition.

a. Day-to-Day Operations. The servicing WFMO Advisor is the primary contact within the area serviced for all issues relating to LMR. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Interpretation of the language in the Statute.
  2. Whether or not employees are in bargaining units, represented by a union, covered by a negotiated agreement, etc.
  3. Interpretation and application of articles and clauses in a negotiated agreement he or she administers.
  4. Union rights to attend formal discussions and examinations of employees in connection with investigations.
  5. Granting/withholding the use of NOAA facilities, services, and equipment to unions.
  6. Labor relations implications of changing conditions of employment in the area serviced and appropriate notification to the union.
  7. Union, management, and employee rights during union organizing campaigns and membership drives.
  8. Representation of management's interests and officials before third parties.
  9. Processing grievances under the negotiated grievance procedure.
  10. Use of official time by employees to conduct representational activities.

b. Negotiation of Agreements. Management and unions holding exclusive recognition have a mutual obligation through appropriate representatives to meet at reasonable times and bargain in good faith on negotiable matters. Such obligation does not compel either party to agree to any specific proposal advanced, or require concessions on any specific matter.

1. The bargaining obligation includes:

2. When union recognition is at a national level, heads of LO/SO or their designees shall appoint the members of management's negotiating team. For negotiations with local units of recognition, the top management official at the level of recognition may appoint the members to management's negotiating team. Depending on the level of negotiations (national or local) the following suggests prospective management team members:

3. For nationwide negotiations, or those involving a bargaining unit in an area serviced by two or more WFMO servicing offices, the NOAA LRO shall coordinate with all affected servicing offices and recommend to the Head of the LO/SO one or more WFMO representatives to serve on the team. The NOAA LRO may also participate in the negotiations.

4. Heads of LO/SO or their designees shall coordinate the designation of chief spokesperson, with the NOAA LRO and affected WFMO Advisors when the negotiations cover nationwide bargaining units or a bargaining unit in an area serviced by two or more WFMO servicing offices.

5. Top level management shall arrange for authority on negotiable matters to be exercised by the management chief spokesperson. The delegation of this authority shall be made in writing and a copy forwarded to the appropriate WFMO servicing office.

6. All Proposals (management and union initiated) exchanged during negotiations shall be reviewed prior to management submission and/or response by the servicing WFMO Advisor(s) or the NOAA LRO. The review process, including consultation with OGC, will provide comment(s) on negotiability, language ambiguities, and conformity with DOC and NOAA policy, etc.

7. At the earliest possible date, the servicing WFMO Advisor will forward a draft copy of a negotiated agreement to the NOAA LRO. The management negotiating team should establish in the ground rules or otherwise, the specific date which will be considered as the date of execution for calculating the 30 day review period required by law. The NOAA LRO shall forward a copy of the executed agreement to the Department of Commerce Office of Human Resources Management for Agency Head Review. The NOAA LRO will also forward a copy of the agreement to DOC/OGC. Where two or more WFM servicing offices are involved in the negotiations, the chief spokesperson shall designate which servicing WFMO Advisor has this responsibility.

8. Approval of agreements shall be given within 30 days of the date of its execution, if it conforms to applicable law, rule, or regulation. An agreement which has not been approved or disapproved within 30 days from the date of its execution shall go into effect without the required approval and shall be binding on the parties subject to the provisions of applicable law, rule, or regulation.

9. When management at the level of exclusive recognition contemplates taking action which will affect conditions of employment of bargaining unit personnel, the following procedures shall be followed, as appropriate:

(a) Changes affecting nationwide bargaining units or such units that cross WFMO servicing areas:

  1. Prior to the final decision and notification on proposed changes in conditions of employment, the proposing office shall contact the NOAA LRO to determine if the propose changes warrant presentation to unions with national consultation rights for consultation pursuant to the Statute.
  2. The management official proposing the change shall forward a written copy of the proposal to the LO/SO labor-management representative, appropriate servicing WFMO Advisor, and the NOAA LRO.
  3. The LO/SO labor-management representative shall notify the exclusive representative(s) of the proposed change and coordinate any subsequent bargaining on such.

(b) Changes affecting local bargaining:

  1. The management official proposing the change shall forward a written proposal to his/her labor-management representative. The representative will forward a copy to the appropriate servicing WFMO Advisor for review and comment.
  2. (2) The LO/SO Labor-Management Representative shall notify the exclusive representative(s) of the proposed change and coordinate any subsequent bargaining on such change.
  3. Upon receipt of a new or revised regulation dealing with personnel policies or practices or matters affecting working conditions, the servicing WFMO Advisor or NOAA LRO, as appropriate, shall provide a copy to the affected LO/SO labor-management representative(s). Consistent with the Statute, applicable collective bargaining agreement(s), or existing past practice, each representative shall provide his/her union notice and the opportunity to bargain, as appropriate, over the implementation of the regulation.

(c) Grievances. Except in the case of matters set forth in 5 U.S.C. 7121(d) and (e), the negotiated grievance procedure (NGP) is the sole procedure available to the union and to bargaining unit employees for grievances within its coverage.

The management official who will decide a grievance at any step of the NGP shall:

  1. Immediately notify and coordinate the processing of the grievance with the servicing WFMO Advisor. If the servicing WFMO Advisor determines that the issue involved in the grievance is significant (e.g., involves a matter that affects nationwide contract interpretation), the servicing WFMO Advisor shall inform the LO/SO labor-management representative and the NOAA LRO that such a grievance has been filed.
  2. Maintain a written record of the grievance processing. The record shall include:
    • Name of the grievant and representative (if any).
    • Date and time of any meeting.
    • Issue or violation charged and facts as perceived by the employee.
    • Remedy sought.
    • Results of any investigation conducted by management.
    • Copy of any decision and reasoning therefore.
    • Follow-up, if any, required.
    • Forward the written record to the servicing WFMO Advisor who shall be responsible for maintaining a file on the processing of the grievance.
  3. Any arbitration of grievances shall be processed in accordance with the procedures detailed below at Section 5.05 of this Handbook.

(d) Interpretation of Regulations. Questions as to the interpretation of published policies or regulations initially shall be referred to the servicing WFMO Advisor or the NOAA LRO, if appropriate. When such a question:

  1. Involves an interpretation of a Department of Commerce, NOAA, or regulation of an appropriate outside authority, the servicing WFMO Advisor shall refer it to the NOAA LRO to obtain an authoritative interpretation.
  2. Involves in a negotiability dispute, it shall be resolved in accordance with the procedures detailed below at Section 5.07 of this Handbook.

(e) Payroll Withholding of Union Dues. The servicing WFMO Advisor is responsible for coordinating arrangements between union and NOAA LO/SOs for the voluntary payroll withholding of dues of members in the bargaining unit. Such arrangements shall conform to the DAO and/or any controlling negotiated agreement.

(f) General Provisions. Questions concerning the following matters shall be addressed to the servicing WFMO Advisor or, in the case of matters involving employees in nationwide bargaining units, or in a bargaining unit existing in two or more WFMO servicing offices, to the NOAA LRO:

  1. Solicitation of membership and support.
  2. Use of facilities, equipment, and services.
  3. Use of official time for representational matters.
  4. Furnishing of information.
  5. Threatened or actual strike, work stoppage, slowdown or prohibited picketing.

The servicing WFMO Advisor or NOAA LRO, as appropriate, shall obtain a definitive answer to any question concerning such matters and ensure that the management level raising the question receives the answers promptly. Management officials seeking specific advice from the OGC on NOAA policy concerning labor and employee relations matters should coordinate such requests through his/her servicing WFMO.

Back to Top


.01 Communications.

Communication is basic to the conduct of the NOAA Labor-Management Relations program. The structure for coordinating LMR information and activities are detailed at Section 2.04 of this Handbook.

.02 Third Party Actions.

Third party actions are defined as:

.03 Role of the Office of General Counsel, Department of Commerce.

a. Representation before third parties is the role of the OGC, assisted by the appropriate servicing WFMO Advisor, NOAA LRO, and/or the LO/SO labor-management representative.

b. The OGC will advise management of the documentation necessary to represent its interests, including, but not limited to:

  1. A statement of the type of action.
  2. The issue in dispute.
  3. Any responses that have been made to the issues. Copies of pertinent documents and notes relating to the issue.
  4. A review of previous settlements, awards, case law and/or bargaining history pertinent to the issues involved.
  5. Any proposed settlement of the issue.

c. On all but national level issues, the servicing WFMO Advisor will provide the required evaluation of the dispute. On national level issues, the evaluation will be provided by the NOAA LRO. The OGC will be responsible for informing all appropriate levels of management as to the delegation of representative. OGC will immediately send a copy of a third party decision to the NOAA LRO. The OGC will ensure that the appropriate WFMO and LO/SO management official also receive copies expeditiously.

.04 Unit, Representation, and Election Issues.

a. Any NOAA management official receiving a petition for exclusive recognition or consolidation of units filed by a union shall forward the petition promptly to the WFMO Advisor servicing the area in which the petition for unit(s) exists. Any petition for a nationwide bargaining unit or for consolidation of units crossing WFMO servicing boundaries shall be forwarded to the NOAA LRO.

b. The servicing WFMO Advisor or NOAA LRO, as appropriate, shall be responsible for:

  1. 1. Forwarding a copy of the petition to the NOAA LRO (if not the recipient of the petition) and the LO/SO labor-management representative.
  2. 2. Coordinating with LO/SO labor-management representative, the unions, and agents of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) on any matters involving appropriate unit, bars, posting of election notices, conduct of the election, etc. Copies of any official notices, determinations or the like made by management, the unions, or the FLRA on such matters shall be furnished to the LO/SO labor-management representative, servicing WFMO Advisor, NOAA LRO, and the OGC.
  3. 3. Publicizing the fact of a scheduled representation election and encouraging employees to vote, so long as any statement made is not coercive in nature and context, does not tell employees how to vote, or indicate a management preference among the choices on the ballot.
  4. 4. In the event management decides to file a petition with the FLRA over a question concerning representation (e.g., appropriateness of unit, validity of bars, objections to the election, etc.), the servicing WFMO Advisor or NOAA LRO, as appropriate, shall coordinate the action with the OGC and provide the OGC with all information pertaining thereto. The OGC shall decide who will perform the representational function.
.05 Arbitration of Grievances.

a. The initial contact for coordinating the arbitration of grievances is the WFMO Advisor responsible for servicing the location where the grievance is filed. In cases involving the arbitration of grievances filed against LO/SO heads, the NOAA LRO shall be responsible for the coordinating functions. The OGC is management’s representative before all third party entities (e.g., Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), etc.) Accordingly, the OGC will be provided all information related to the grievance and receive preparation assistance from the servicing WFMO Advisor, NOAA LRO, and/or LO/SO labor-management representative. The servicing WFMO Advisor will normally serve as the technical representative on the case.

b. An arbitration award shall be binding on management unless:

  1. Implementation of the award would violate law or applicable regulation; or
  2. The award presents other grounds for review similar to those applied by Federal courts in private sector cases.

c. The OGC makes the determination of whether an arbitration award warrants the filing of an exception for one of the reasons cited above. The determination process includes conference with the Line Office head(s), the appropriate servicing WFMO Advisor, and NOAA LRO, as necessary. Upon concurrence with the appropriate Line Office head, the OGC will prepare and file exceptions in accordance with Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) regulations.

d. Upon learning that a union has filed with the FLRA exceptions to an arbitration award, the OGC shall inform the servicing WFMO Advisor and NOAA LRO that such exceptions have been filed. Any NOAA action in response to such filing shall be coordinated by the OGC with the LO/SO labor-management representative, the appropriate servicing WFMO Advisor, and NOAA LRO.

.06 Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Charges/Complaints.

a. The initial contact for the coordination of ULP charges is the WFMO Advisor responsible for servicing the location where the alleged ULP was committed. In cases involving ULP charges against LO/SO heads, the NOAA LRO or designated LO/SO labor-management representative shall be responsible for the coordinating function. Any management official receiving a formal ULP charge shall contact his or her servicing WFMO Advisor immediately upon receipt of the charge and forward a copy of the document.

b. As the management representative before the FLRA, the OGC will compile and analyze the relevant background documents and information with the assistance of the servicing WFMO Advisor, NOAA LRO, and/or LO/SO labor-management representative.

c. Any proposal by management to file a ULP charge against a union must be referred to the servicing WFMO Advisor. The servicing WFMO Advisor shall confer with the OGC and NOAA LRO to evaluate the merits of the proposal. The OGC, in conjunction with senior-level management, will determine if the charge will be filed.

d. Where a ULP case decision involves a principle or issue of nationwide importance, copies of the charge, responses thereto, the decision, and any exceptions thereto shall be sent to each LO/SO labor-management representative and servicing WFMO Advisor.

e. Management representatives are expected to cooperate with the agents of the FLRA in the investigation of ULP charges. The following procedures have been established:

  1. 1. A management official receiving a ULP charge shall forward it promptly to the servicing WFMO Advisor.
  2. 2. If contacted directly by an agent of the FLRA concerning a ULP charge, the management official shall refer the agent to the OGC. At this point, the management official shall not enter into a discussion about the charge with the agent or furnish any documents or written statements without the express oral or written consent of the OGC.
  3. 3. The OGC shall advise any management official whom the FLRA wishes to interview. The OGC may be present at any interviews and will assist the management official in the preparation of any written statement or affidavit to be furnished to the FLRA.

.07 Negotiation Disputes and Impasses. The OGC shall be responsible for coordinating the processing of negotiability disputes and impasses. Requests for waivers of DOC and/or NOAA regulations or to negotiate permissive subjects of bargaining (5 U.S.C. 7106(b)) shall be forwarded to the OGC for necessary clearances.

a. Negotiation Disputes. Questions concerning the negotiability of proposals may arise under various circumstances and shall be processed as follows:

  1. At the point that management's chief spokesperson concludes that a union proposal on the table must be formally declared nonnegotiable, he or she will consult with his/her servicing WFMO Advisor and the OGC prior to communicating the declaration to the union.
  2. Where the NOAA LRO conducts a review of proposals and determines a proposal is nonnegotiable, the NOAA LRO shall inform the management chief spokesperson, servicing WFMO Advisor, and the OGC of such determination. If the union insists on the negotiability of the proposal, consultation with the OGC is required before any subsequent action is initiated.

b. Negotiation Impasses. In the event a negotiation impasse arises and efforts of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service prove unavailing, the impasse may be referred to the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) for resolution. The following procedures shall be followed when a matter is referred to the FSIP:

  1. The management chief spokesperson shall inform the servicing WFMO Advisor (if not involved in the negotiations), the LO/SO labor-management representative, and the OGC when an impasse has been reached. The OGC will coordinate any subsequent submission and/or presentation to the FSIP.
  2. Where the issue at impasse has nationwide implications, copies of the management/union positions and the decision of the FSIP shall be furnished to the management levels and to each LO/SO labor-management representative.

.08 Other Third Party Actions. Most types of final decisions issued by the FLRA may be appealed to an appropriate United States Court of Appeals. In order to ensure consistency of interpretation and full consideration of policy and program implication of such appeals, any proposal for judicial review of a decision of the Authority shall be forwarded to the OGC and NOAA LRO for review. The NOAA LRO shall coordinate any decision to pursue an appeal with OGC.

.09 Settlements. There will be times when third party cases can be settled prior to a decision. Any decision to settle is that of the LO/SO head and should have the benefit of the considered opinion of all interested levels of management.

a. Any proposed settlement shall be discussed with the impacted management official(s), the servicing WFMO Advisor, the OGC, and NOAA LRO, if appropriate. The OGC shall have the authority to commit management to any settlement deemed appropriate but only after the consultation process. Copies of any settlement agreements shall be furnished to all appropriate management officials.

b. Settlement actions that do not have nationwide implications will normally be handled by the LO/SO labor-management representative and the servicing WFMO Advisor including consultation with the OGC as necessary.

.10 Information. Any questions concerning the interpretation or application of the material contained in this Attachment should be addressed to the NOAA LRO.

Back to Top


This document provides internal management guidance on NOAA Labor-Management Relations policies and procedures and does not establish an independent basis for any person or activity to assert a right, benefit, or privilege. The Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere has the final authority to make decisions on NOAA Labor-Management Relations issues. This authority is delegated as provided in Section 2.01.c. and Section 2.04 of this Handbook. However, on specific issues, the Under Secretary may retain this authority and direct a final course of action.