Collyer doctrine

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The Collyer doctrine is a doctrine in labor law which states that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will defer charges (ie. unfair labor practices) to a contractually agreed upon dispute resolution method so long as certain conditions are met. The Collyer doctrine takes its name from Collyer Insulated Wire, 192 N.L.R.B. 837 where it was first declared.

The Collyer doctrine is not an admission that the NLRB lacks authority to handle charges when an alternative dispute resolution clause exists, rather it is a conscious choice not to exercise that authority. Collyer itself justifies this restraint by arguing that it is not the labor board’s place to interfere with contractual terms like arbitration clauses that were bargained for and exchanged. 

Because the Collyer doctrine is premised on executive restraint rather than a lack of authority, the specifics of how it is applied tend to shift fairly frequently. For example, GC 12-01, first announced in 2012, declared that the Collyer doctrine would no longer apply to any charge which was unlikely to be resolved within 1 year should it go to arbitration. GC 18-02, however, rescinded this change of policy a mere 6 years later. 

It is up to the NLRB to determine if and when they wish to apply the Collyer doctrine. If the dispute was not contractual and the collective bargaining agreement did not call for final and binding arbitration, the NLRB is less likely to apply the Collyer doctrine. 

[Last updated in August of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]