The National Labor Relations Board will outsource some document processing tasks as it reviews public feedback on a controversial rule to limit liability for businesses using contract workers. But the board’s chairman says substantive review of stakeholder’s comments will be handled in-house.
Outsourcing that component will allow agency employees to focus on the substantive work of reviewing and responding to comments, which the board must do before finalizing the new rule, the chairman said.
Limiting contractors’ role in that manner will likely quell some of the concerns that have been raised by congressional Democrats and some board employees—federal administrative laws bar private parties from participating in some aspects of a governmental rulemaking, but this sort of initial review is likely permissible in certain circumstances.
The details of the plan are unlikely to appease the agency career staff, though, whose representatives have said it’s “particularly galling” that agency leadership would use the NLRB’s “limited funds” to hire contractors despite having in-house expertise.
Ring noted in his letter to Congress that the board hasn’t received any negative reaction from agency staff, and he repeated the statement when asked for comment by Bloomberg Law.
Adamn Naill, an attorney and staff representative at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., told Bloomberg Law March 22 that employees “were and are very upset about it,” but haven’t relayed their opinions to agency leadership “for a variety of reasons.”
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They criticized the decision, saying the agency “risks further fueling public concerns that it is tainting the rulemaking with conflicts of interest,” especially if comment review work goes to a business with an interest in the eventual final rule.
A significant proportion of the public comments that agencies often receive on proposed rules are duplicative, and others aren’t germane to the proposal. Ring said the agency’s “own labor-law professionals will perform the first substantive review of the comments” after sorting and coding by contractors.
Staff in Scott and Wilson’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.