Labor and Management Relations

picture of child labor in olden times

Employment in the federal government is subject to numerous statutory and regulatory requirements. One of these regulated areas is the interaction that the Agency management has with Unions and their members.

Below are some of the general concepts related to labor management relations.


The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is an independent administrative federal agency created by Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which is commonly known as the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMR). The FSLMR recognizes the right of most non-postal federal employees to bargain collectively and to participate, through labor organizations of their choice, in decisions affecting their conditions of employment.

The FLRA adjudicates unfair labor practice (ULP) disputes, issues raised by representation petitions, exceptions to grievance arbitration awards, and resolves negotiability disputes raised by the parties during collective bargaining.

Failing to bargain where necessary or engaging in other actions defined by the FSLMR as a ULP can result in a charge of a ULP. The FLRA, among other things, is charged with investigating and deciding the merits of ULP charges filed by any person against federal agencies or labor organizations. Where the decision of the FLRA is that the evidence supports a finding that the FSLMR has been violated, the parties will be advised and settlement recommended. Absent settlement, a formal complaint will issue and the matter will be set for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge of the FLRA.


The Statue defines a grievance as any complaint:

(A) by any employee concerning any matter relating to the employment of the employee;

(B) by any labor organization concerning any matter relating to the employment of any employee; or

(C) by any employee, labor organization, or agency concerning—

(i) the effect or interpretation, or a claim of breach, of a CBA; or

(ii) any claimed violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of any law, rule, or regulation affecting conditions of employment.

All federal-sector collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs) must provide a negotiated grievance procedure (NGP) for resolution of grievances. The required procedures must provide for binding arbitration of any grievance not satisfactorily settled. The NGP must be fair and simple and provide for expeditious processing of grievances.

Interpreting and understanding your CBA is critical when directing your workforce. Failing to adhere to the dictates of your CBA and other legal requirements could result in a grievance being filed by an employee or their authorized representative.


Generally, arbitration is the process of hearing and determining a dispute between parties by a person or persons chosen or agreed upon by the parties. Arbitration in the federal government is heavily governed by statutory and regulatory provisions. Generally, only an Agency or Union representative may invoke arbitration.

In the federal context, parties may appeal the determination of an arbitrator by filing exceptions with the FLRA. Upon review of the exceptions, the FLRA will consider whether the arbitrator properly considered and applied the applicable law or regulation, and it will set aside or modify an award where the excepting party has demonstrated that the arbitrator failed to do so. 

Please bear in mind that the information provided in this website is not an official interpretation of the laws surrounding labor management relations. These are general concepts and should not be considered as legal advice or as a substitute for representation, adequate preparation, and research. The case law in this area is constantly evolving and often is determined on a case by case basis. It is crucial that you seek the professional assistance of the ELLU and your Human Resources Office to properly address any questions or issues specific to your circumstances.

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