29 CFR 102.117 - Freedom of Information Act Regulations: Board materials and formal documents available for public inspection and copying; requests for...document search and duplication; files and records not subject to inspection.
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§ 102.117Freedom of Information Act Regulations: Board materials and formal documents available for public inspection and copying; requests for described records; time limit for response; appeal from denial of request; fees for document search and duplication; files and records not subject to inspection.
(1) This subpart contains the rules that the National Labor Relations Board follows in processing requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552. Information routinely provided to the public as part of a regular Agency activity (for example, press releases issued by the Division of Information) may be provided to the public without following this subpart. Such records may also be made available in the Agency's reading room in paper form, as well as electronically to facilitate public access. As a matter of policy, the Agency will consider making discretionary disclosures of records or information exempt under the FOIA whenever disclosure would not foreseeably harm an interest protected by a FOIA exemption, but this policy does not create any right enforceable in court.
(2) The following materials are available to the public for inspection and copying during normal business hours:
(i) All final opinions and orders made in the adjudication of cases;
(ii) Statements of policy and interpretations that are not published in the Federal Register;
(iii) Administrative staff manuals and instructions that affect any member of the public (excepting those establishing internal operating rules, guidelines, and procedures for investigation, trial, and settlement of cases);
(iv) A current index of final opinions and orders in the adjudication of cases;
(v) A record of the final votes of each Member of the Board in every Agency proceeding;
(vi) Records which have been released and which the Agency determines, because of their subject matter, have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records; and
(vii) A general index of records referred to in paragraph (a)(2)(vi) of this section. Items in paragraphs (a)(2)(i) through (vii) of this section are available for inspection and copying during normal business hours at the Board's offices in Washington, DC. Items in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this section are also available for inspection and copying during normal business hours at each Regional, Subregional, and Resident Office of the Board. Final opinions and orders made by Regional Directors in the adjudication of representation cases pursuant to the delegation of authority from the Board under section 3(b) of the Act are available to the public for inspection and copying in the original office where issued. Records encompassed within paragraphs (a)(2)(i) through (a)(2)(vii) of this section created on or after November 1, 1996, will be made available by November 1, 1997, to the public by computer telecommunications or, if computer telecommunications means have not been established by the Agency, by other electronic means. The Agency shall maintain and make available for public inspection and copying a current subject matter index of all reading room materials which shall be updated regularly, at least quarterly, with respect to newly included records. Copies of the index are available upon request for a fee of the direct cost of duplication. The index of FOIA-processed records referred to in paragraph (a)(2)(vii) of this section will be available by computer telecommunications by December 31, 1999.
(3) Copies of forms prescribed by the board for the filing of charges under section 10 alleging violations of the Act under section 8, or petitions under section 9, may be obtained without charge from any Regional, Subregional, or Resident Office of the Board. These forms are available electronically through the Agency's World Wide Web site (which can be found at http://www.nlrb.gov).
(4) The Agency shall, on or before February 1, 1998, and annually thereafter, submit a FOIA report covering the preceding fiscal year to the Attorney General of the United States. The report shall include those matters required by 5 U.S.C. 552(e), and shall be made available electronically.
(1) The formal documents constituting the record in a case or proceeding are matters of official record and, until officially destroyed pursuant to applicable statutory authority, are available to the public for inspection and copying during normal business hours at the appropriate Regional Office of the Board or at the Board's office in Washington, DC, as the case may be. If the case or proceeding has been closed for more than 2 years, the appropriate Regional Office of the Board or the Board's office in Washington, DC, upon request, will contact the Federal Records Center to obtain the records.
(2) The Executive Secretary shall certify copies of all formal documents upon request made a reasonable time in advance of need and payment of lawfully prescribed costs.
(1) Requests for the inspection and copying of records other than those specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section must be in writing and must reasonably describe the record in a manner to permit its identification and location. The envelope and the letter, or the cover sheet of any fax transmittal, should be clearly marked to indicate that it contains a request for records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The request must contain a specific statement assuming financial liability in accordance with paragraph (d)(2) of this section for the direct costs of responding to the request. If the request is made for records in a Regional or Subregional Office of the Agency, it should be made to that Regional or Subregional Office. If the request is for records located in Washington, DC (in the Office of the General Counsel, the Offices of the Board, or the Office of the Inspector General), it should be made to the NLRB FOIA Officer, Washington, DC. Requests made to other than the appropriate office will be forwarded to that office by the receiving office, but in that event the applicable time limit for response set forth in (c)(2)(i) of this section shall be calculated from the date of receipt by the appropriate office. FOIA requests made to an office other than to the office where the records were generated may be referred to the generating office for response. In the case of records generated by the Inspector General in the possession of another office, or in the possession of the Inspector General but generated by another office of the Agency, the request will be referred to the appropriate FOIA officer for the generating office for decision. If the Agency determines that a request does not reasonably describe records, it may contact the requester to inform the requester either what additional information is needed or why the request is insufficient. Requesters may be given an opportunity to discuss their request so that requests may be modified to meet the requirements of this section.
(i) The Agency ordinarily shall respond to requests according to their order of receipt. Effective October 2, 1997, an initial response shall be made within 20 working days (i.e. exempting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after the receipt of a request for a record under this part by the Freedom of Information Officer or his designee. An appeal under paragraph (c)(2)(v) of this section shall be decided within 20 days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after the receipt of such an appeal by the Office of Appeals or the Chairman of the Board. Because the Agency has been able to process its requests without a backlog of cases, the Agency will not institute a multitrack processing system.
(ii) Requests and appeals will be taken out of order and given expedited treatment whenever it is determined that they involve: Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; an urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged federal government activity, if made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information; the loss of substantial due process rights; or a matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity which affect public confidence. A request for expedited processing may be made at the time of the initial request for records or at any later time. A requester who seeks expedited processing must submit a statement, certified to be true and correct to the best of that person's knowledge and belief, explaining in detail the basis for requesting expedited processing. The formality of certification may be waived as a matter of administrative discretion. Within ten calendar days of its receipt of a request for expedited processing, the Agency shall decide whether to grant it and shall notify the requester of the decision. Once the determination has been made to grant expedited processing, the request shall be given priority and shall be processed as soon as practicable. If a request for expedited processing is denied, the Agency shall act expeditiously on any appeal of that decision.
(iii) Within 20 working days after receipt of a request by the appropriate office of the Agency, a determination shall be made whether to comply with such request, and the person making the request shall be notified in writing of that determination. In the case of requests made for Inspector General records, that determination shall be made by the Inspector General. In the case of all other requests, that determination shall be made by the NLRB FOIA Officer, or the Regional or Subregional Office, as the case may be. If the determination is to comply with the request, the records shall be made promptly available to the person making the request and, at the same time, a statement of any charges due in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (d)(2) of this section will be provided. If the determination is to deny the request in any respect, the requester shall be notified in writing of that determination. Adverse determinations, or denials of requests, consist of: A determination to withhold any requested record in whole or in part; a determination that a requested record does not exist or cannot be located; a determination that what has been requested is not a record subject to the FOIA; a determination on any disputed fee matter, including a denial of a request for a fee waiver or reduction or placement in a particular fee category; and a denial of a request for expedited treatment. For a determination to deny a request in any respect, the notification shall set forth the reasons therefor and the name and title or position of each person responsible for the denial, shall provide an estimate of the volume of records or information withheld, in number of pages or in some other reasonable form of estimation (this estimate does not need to be provided if the volume is otherwise indicated through deletions on records disclosed in part, or if providing an estimate would harm an interest protected by an applicable exemption), and shall notify the person making the request of the right to appeal the adverse determination under provisions of paragraph (c)(2)(v) of this section.
(iv) Business information obtained by the Agency from a submitter will be disclosed under the FOIA only consistent with the procedures established in this section.
(A) For purposes of this section:
(1) Business information means commercial or financial information obtained by the Agency from a submitter that may be protected from disclosure under Exemption 4 of the FOIA.
(2) Submitter means any person or entity from whom the Agency obtains business information, directly or indirectly. The term includes corporations; state, local, and tribal governments; and foreign governments.
(B) A submitter of business information will use good faith efforts to designate, by appropriate markings, either at the time of submission or at a reasonable time thereafter, any portions of its submission that it considers to be protected from disclosure under Exemption 4. These designations will expire ten years after the date of the submission unless the submitter requests, and provides justification for, a longer designation period. The Agency shall provide a submitter with prompt written notice of a FOIA request or administrative appeal that seeks its business information wherever required under paragraph (c)(2)(iv)(C) of this section, except as provided in paragraph (c)(2)(iv)(F) of this section, in order to give the submitter an opportunity to object to disclosure of any specified portion of that information under paragraph (c)(2)(iv)(D) of this section. The notice shall either describe the business information requested or include copies of the requested records or record portions containing the information. When notification of a voluminous number of submitters is required, notification may be made by posting or publishing the notice in a place reasonably likely to accomplish notification.
(C) Notice shall be given to a submitter wherever: the information has been designated in good faith by the submitter as information considered protected from disclosure under Exemption 4; or the Agency has reason to believe that the information may be protected from disclosure under Exemption 4.
(D) The Agency will allow a submitter a reasonable time to respond to the notice described in paragraph (c)(2)(iv)(B) of this section. If a submitter has any objection to disclosure, it is required to submit a detailed written statement. The statement must specify all grounds for withholding any portion of the information under any exemption of the FOIA and, in the case of Exemption 4, it must show why the information is a trade secret or commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential. In the event that a submitter fails to respond to the notice within the time specified in it, the submitter will be considered to have no objection to disclosure of the information. Information provided by a submitter under this paragraph may itself be subject to disclosure under the FOIA.
(E) The Agency shall consider a submitter's objections and specific grounds for nondisclosure in deciding whether to disclose business information. Whenever the Agency decides to disclose business information over the objection of a submitter, the Agency shall give the submitter written notice, which shall include: A statement of the reason(s) why each of the submitter's disclosure objections was not sustained; a description of the business information to be disclosed; and a specified disclosure date, which shall be a reasonable time subsequent to the notice.
(F) The notice requirements of paragraphs (c)(2)(iv)(B) and (E) of this section shall not apply if: The Agency determines that the information should not be disclosed; the information lawfully has been published or has been officially made available to the public; disclosure of the information is required by statute (other than the FOIA) or by a regulation issued in accordance with the requirements of Executive Order 12600 (3 CFR, 1988 Comp., p. 235); or the designation made by the submitter under paragraph (c)(2)(iv)(B) of this section appears obviously frivolous-except that, in such a case, the Agency shall, within a reasonable time prior to a specified disclosure date, give the submitter written notice of any final decision to disclose the information.
(G) Whenever a requester files a lawsuit seeking to compel the disclosure of business information, the Agency shall promptly notify the submitter.
(H) Whenever the Agency provides a submitter with notice and an opportunity to object to disclosure under paragraph (c)(2)(iv)(B) of this section, the Agency shall also notify the requester(s). Whenever the Agency notifies a submitter of its intent to disclose requested information under paragraph (c)(2)(iv)(E) of this section, the Agency shall also notify the requester(s). Whenever a submitter files a lawsuit seeking to prevent the disclosure of business information, the Agency shall notify the requester(s).
(v) An appeal from an adverse determination made pursuant to paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section must be filed within 28 calendar days of the service of the adverse determination, in whole or in part. If the adverse determination was made by the NLRB FOIA Officer concerning records located in the Office of the General Counsel, Washington, DC, or by a Regional Office or a Subregional Office concerning records located there, the appeal shall be filed with the General Counsel in Washington, DC. If the adverse determination was made by the NLRB FOIA Officer concerning records in the Offices of the Board, or by the Inspector General concerning records generated by that office, the appeal shall be filed with the Chairman of the Board in Washington, DC. As provided in paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section, an adverse determination will notify the requester of the right to appeal the adverse determination and will specify where such appeal shall be filed. Within 20 working days after receipt of an appeal, the General Counsel or the Chairman of the Board, as the case may be, shall make a determination with respect to such appeal and shall notify the person making the request in writing. If the determination is to comply with the request, the record shall be made promptly available to the person making the request upon receipt of payment of any charges due in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (d)(2) of this section. If on appeal the denial of the request for records is upheld in whole or in part, the person making the request shall be notified of the reasons for the determination, the name and title or position of each person responsible for the denial, and the provisions for judicial review of that determination under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552(4)(B). Even if no appeal is filed from a denial in whole or in part of a request for records by the person making the request, the General Counsel or the Chairman of the Board may, without regard to the time limit for filing of an appeal, sua sponte initiate consideration of an adverse determination under this appeal procedure by written notification to the person making the request. In such event, the time limit for making the determination shall commence with the issuance of such notification. An adverse determination by the General Counsel or the Chairman of the Board, as the case may be, will be the final action of the Agency. If the requester wishes to seek review by a court of any adverse determination, the requester must first appeal it under this section.
(vi) In unusual circumstances as specified in this paragraph, the time limits prescribed in either paragraph (c)(2)(i) or (iv) of this section may be extended by written notice to the person requesting the record setting forth the reasons for such extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched. No such notice or notices shall specify a date or dates that would result in an extension or extensions totaling more than 10 working days with respect to a particular request, except as set forth below in this paragraph. As used in this paragraph, unusual circumstances means, but only to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular request:
(A) The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;
(B) The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request;
(C) The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request or with two or more components of the Agency having a substantial subject matter interest in the request. Where the extension is for more than ten working days, the Agency shall provide the requester with an opportunity either to modify the request so that it may be processed within the time limits or to arrange an alternative time period for processing the request or a modified request.
(vii) The Agency shall preserve all correspondence pertaining to the requests that it receives under this subpart, as well as copies of all requested records, until disposition or destruction is authorized by title 44 of the United States Code or the National Archives and Records Administration's General Records Schedule 14. Records will not be disposed of while they are the subject of a pending request, appeal, or lawsuit under the FOIA.
(1) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
(i) Direct costs means those expenditures which are actually incurred in searching for and duplicating and, in the case of commercial use requests, reviewing documents to respond to a FOIA request.
(ii) Search refers to the process of looking for and retrieving records or information responsive to a request. It includes page-by-page or line-by-line identification of material within documents and also includes reasonable efforts to locate and retrieve information from records maintained in electronic form or format. The Agency shall ensure that searches are done in the most efficient and least expensive manner reasonably possible.
(iii) Duplication refers to the process of making a copy of a record, or the information contained in it, necessary to respond to a FOIA request. Such copies can take the form of paper, microfilm, videotape, audiotape, or electronic records (e.g., magnetic tape or disk), among others. The Agency shall honor a requester's specified preference of form or format of disclosure if the record is readily reproducible with reasonable efforts in the requested form or format by the office responding to the request.
(iv) Review refers to the process of examining documents located in response to a request that is for commercial use to determine whether any portion of it is exempt from disclosure. It includes processing any documents for disclosure, e.g., doing all that is necessary to redact and prepare them for disclosure. Review time includes time spent considering any formal objection to disclosure made by a business submitter under paragraph (c)(2)(iv) of this section, but does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions.
(v) Commercial use request refers to a request from or on behalf of a person who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is made, which can include furthering those interests through litigation.
(vi) Educational institution refers to a preschool, a public or private elementary or secondary school, an institution of undergraduate higher education, an institution of graduate higher education, an institution of professional education, or an institution of vocational education, that operates a program of scholarly research. To be in this category, a requester must show that the request is authorized by and is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scholarly research.
(vii) Representative of the news media refers to any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. The term news means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news media entities include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals (but only in instances where they can qualify as disseminators of “news”) who make their products available for purchase or subscription by the general public. For “freelance” journalists to be regarded as working for a news organization, they must demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that organization. A publication contract would be the clearest proof, but the Agency shall also look to the past publication record of a requester in making this determination. To be in this category, a requester must not be seeking the requested records for commercial use. However, a request for records supporting the news dissemination function of the requester shall not be considered to be for a commercial use.
(viii) Working days, as used in this paragraph, means calendar days excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.
(2) Persons requesting records from this Agency shall be subject to a charge of fees for the full allowable direct costs of document search, review, and duplicating, as appropriate, in accordance with the following schedules, procedures, and conditions:
(i) Schedule of charges:
(A) For each one-quarter hour or portion thereof of clerical time * * * $3.10.
(B) For each one-quarter hour or portion thereof of professional time * * * $9.25.
(C) For each sheet of duplication (not to exceed 81/2 by 14 inches) of requested records * * * $0.12.
(D) All other direct costs of preparing a response to a request shall be charged to the requester in the same amount as incurred by the Agency. Such costs shall include, but not be limited to: Certifying that records are true copies; sending records to requesters or receiving records from the Federal records storage centers by special methods such as express mail; and, where applicable, the cost of conducting computer searches for information and for providing information in electronic format.
(ii) Fees incurred in responding to information requests are to be charged in accordance with the following categories of requesters:
(A) Commercial use requesters will be assessed charges to recover the full direct costs for searching for, reviewing for release, and duplicating the records sought. Requesters must reasonably describe the records sought.
(B) Educational institution requesters will be assessed charges for the cost of reproduction alone, excluding charges for the first 100 pages. To be eligible for inclusion in this category, requesters must show that the request is being made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for commercial use, but are sought in furtherance of scholarly research. Requesters must reasonably describe the records sought.
(C) Requesters who are representatives of the news media will be assessed charges for the cost of reproduction alone, excluding charges for the first 100 pages. To be eligible for inclusion in this category, a requester must meet the criteria in paragraph (d)(1)(vii) of this section, and the request must not be made for commercial use. In reference to this class of requester, a request for records supporting the news dissemination function of the requester shall not be considered to be a request that is for commercial use. Requesters must reasonably describe the records sought.
(D) All other requesters, not elsewhere described, will be assessed charges to recover the full reasonable direct cost of searching for and reproducing records that are responsive to the request, except that the first 100 pages of reproduction and the first 2 hours of search time shall be furnished without charge. Requesters must reasonably describe the records sought.
(E) Absent a reasonably based factual showing that a requester should be placed in a particular user category, fees will be imposed as provided for in the commercial use requester category.
(A) In no event shall fees be imposed on any requester when the total charges are less than $5, which is the Agency's cost of collecting and processing the fee itself.
(B) If the Agency reasonably believes that a requester or a group of requesters acting together is attempting to divide a request into a series of requests for the purpose of avoiding fees, the Agency may aggregate those requests and charge accordingly. The Agency may presume that multiple requests of this type made within a 30-day period have been made in order to avoid fees. Where requests are separated by a longer period, the Agency will aggregate them only where there exists a solid basis for determining that aggregation is warranted under all the circumstances involved. Multiple requests involving unrelated matters will not be aggregated.
(iv) Documents are to be furnished without charge or at reduced levels if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the Government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. Disclosure to data brokers or others who merely compile and market government information for direct economic return shall not be presumed to primarily serve the public interest. A fee waiver or reduction is justified where the public interest standard is satisfied and that public interest is greater in magnitude than that of any identified commercial interest in disclosure. Where only some of the requested records satisfy the requirements for a waiver of fees, a waiver shall be granted for those records.
(v) If a requester fails to pay chargeable fees that were incurred as a result of the Agency's processing of the information request, beginning on the 31st day following the date on which the notification of charges was sent, the Agency may assess interest charges against the requester in the manner prescribed in 31 U.S.C. 3717. Where appropriate, other steps permitted by federal debt collection statutes, including disclosure to consumer reporting agencies, use of collection agencies, and offset, will be used by the Agency to encourage payment of amounts overdue.
(vi) Each request for records shall contain a specific statement assuming financial liability, in full or to a specified maximum amount, for charges, in accordance with paragraphs (d)(2)(i) and (ii) of this section, which may be incurred by the Agency in responding to the request. If the anticipated charges exceed the maximum limit stated by the person making the request or if the request contains no assumption of financial liability or charges, the person shall be notified and afforded an opportunity to assume financial liability. In either case, the request for records shall not be deemed received for purposes of the applicable time limit for response until a written assumption of financial liability is received. The Agency may require a requester to make an advance payment of anticipated fees under the following circumstances:
(A) If the anticipated charges are likely to exceed $250, the Agency shall notify the requester of the likely cost and obtain satisfactory assurance of full payment when the requester has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees, or require an advance payment of an amount up to the full estimated charges in the case of requesters with no history of payment.
(B) If a requester has previously failed to pay fees that have been charged in processing a request within 30 days of the date of the notification of fees was sent, the requester will be required to pay the entire amount of fees that are owed, plus interest as provided for in paragraph (d)(2)(v) of this section, before the Agency will process a further information request. In addition, the Agency may require advance payment of fees that the Agency estimates will be incurred in processing the further request before the Agency commences processing that request. When the Agency acts under paragraph (d)(2)(vi)(A) or (B) of this section, the administrative time limits for responding to a request or an appeal from initial denials will begin to run only after the Agency has received the fee payments required above.
(vii) Charges may be imposed even though the search discloses no records responsive to the request, or if records located are determined to be exempt from disclosure.
(e) Subject to the provisions of §§ 102.31(c) and 102.66(c), all fines, documents, reports, memoranda, and records of the Agency falling within the exemptions specified in 5 U.S.C. 552(b) shall not be made available for inspection or copying, unless specifically permitted by the Board, its Chairman, or its General Counsel.