29 CFR § 1401.24 - Timing of responses to requests.

§ 1401.24 Timing of responses to requests.

(a) In general. The FMCS ordinarily will respond to requests according to their order of receipt. A request may be made directly to the FMCS by referring to procedures described on www.fmcs.gov or by email to foia@fmcs.gov.

(b) Timing of response. The obligation to respond to a request for records arises on the first business day when the request is received by the Office of General Counsel.

(c) Multi-track processing. FMCS designates a specific track for requests that are granted expedited processing, in accordance with the standards set forth in paragraph (e) of this section. FMCS may also designate additional processing tracks that distinguish between simple and more complex requests based on the estimated amount of work or time needed to process the request. Among the factors an agency may consider are the number of records requested, the number of pages involved in processing the request, and the need for consultations or referrals. FMCS must advise requesters of the track into which their request falls and, when appropriate, should offer the requesters an opportunity to narrow or modify their request so that it can be placed in a different processing track.

(d) Unusual circumstances. Whenever the FMCS cannot meet the statutory time limit for processing a request because of “unusual circumstances,” as defined in the FOIA, and the FMCS extends the time limit on that basis, the FMCS must, before expiration of the 20-day response period, notify the requester in writing of the unusual circumstances involved and of the date by which the Agency estimates it will complete processing of the request. Where the extension exceeds 10 working days, the FMCS will provide the requester with an opportunity to modify the request or arrange an alternative time period for processing the original or modified request. The FMCS will make available its designated FOIA contact or its FOIA Public Liaison for this purpose. The name and contact information for the FMCS's FOIA Public Liaison is available at www.fmcs.gov by selecting FOIA at the bottom of the screen. FMCS will also alert requesters to the availability of the Office of Government Information Services to provide dispute resolution services. Whenever the FMCS extends the time limits by more than ten additional working days, the FMCS must notify the requester of the right to seek dispute resolution services from the Office of the Government Information Services (OGIS).

(e) Aggregating requests. To satisfy unusual circumstances under the FOIA, agencies may aggregate requests in cases where it reasonably appears that multiple requests, submitted either by a requester or by a group of requesters acting in concert, constitute a single request that would otherwise involve unusual circumstances. Agencies cannot aggregate multiple requests that involve unrelated matters.

(f) Expedited processing.

(1) The Agency will process requests and appeals on an expedited basis whenever it is determined that they involve:

(i) Circumstances in which the lack of expedited processing could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; or

(ii) An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal Government activity, if made by a person who is primarily engaged in disseminating information.

(2) A request for expedited processing may be made at any time. When making a request for expedited processing of an administrative appeal, the request should be submitted to the FMCS's Office of the Director via foia@fmcs.gov or through the online portal located at www.fmcs.gov/foia.

(3) A requester who seeks expedited processing must submit a statement, certified to be true and correct, explaining in detail the basis for making the request for expedited processing. For example, under paragraph (c) of this section, a requester who is not a full-time member of the news media must establish that the requester is a person whose primary professional activity or occupation is information dissemination, though it need not be the requester's sole occupation. Such a requester also must establish a particular urgency to inform the public about the government activity involved in the request—one that extends beyond the public's right to know about government activity generally. The existence of numerous articles published on a given subject can be helpful in establishing the requirement that there be an “urgency to inform” the public on the topic. As a matter of administrative discretion, the FMCS may waive the formal certification requirement in this paragraph (f)(3).

(4) The FMCS must notify the requester within 10 calendar days of the receipt of a request for expedited processing of its decision whether to grant or deny expedited processing. If expedited processing is granted, the request must be given priority, placed in the processing track for expedited requests, and must be processed as soon as practicable. If a request for expedited processing is denied, the FMCS must act on any appeal of that decision expeditiously.