• This page, The Department of Labor Relations Did Not Have Time Standards for Processing All Cases., is offered by
  • Office of the State Auditor

The Department of Labor Relations Did Not Have Time Standards for Processing All Cases.

DLR did not have any established time standards for case processing and completion for a number of labor case types, including contract mediation, outside grievance mediation, and representation.

Table of Contents

Overview

The Department of Labor Relations (DLR) has not established time standards for completing each phase of a case or an entire case life cycle for six of its nine case types: Contract Mediation, Joint Labor Management Committee (JLMC), Representation, Written Majority Authorization, Outside Grievance Mediation, and Other. These six case types accounted for 487 (28.58%) of the 1,704 cases that were administered during the audit period, as shown below.

Analysis of Case Types without Established Time Standards

Case Type

Number of Cases

Percentage of Total Cases

Contract Mediation

194

11.38%

JLMC

179

10.50%

Representation

66

3.87%

Written Majority Authorization

29

1.70%

Outside Grievance Mediation

18

1.06%

Other

1

0.07%*

Total

487

28.58%

*    Discrepancy in total is due to rounding.

 

Without time standards, DLR cannot ensure that these case types are resolved promptly.

Authoritative Guidance

The Massachusetts Superior Court’s “Standing Order 1-88: Time Standards” states,

In an effort to “secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action,” . . . the Justices of the Superior Court . . . hereby adopt these time standards as a standing order of the Superior Court (“Standing Order”). The Court recognizes that the litigation process is memory dependent. To the extent that memory dims or becomes unreliable over prolonged periods of time, a just determination may be jeopardized. The concept of early and continuous judicial supervision and control is intended to enhance the quality of litigation and ensure that justice is fairly rendered.

Although DLR is not required to adhere to this guidance, we believe it represents a best practice established by a Massachusetts court system that uses a case management system to process cases.

In addition, Section 9O of Chapter 23 of the Massachusetts General Laws states,

It is hereby declared to be the public policy of the commonwealth that the best interests of the people of the state are served by the prevention or prompt settlement of labor disputes; and it shall be the responsibility and objective of [DLR] to take such steps as will most effectively and expeditiously encourage the parties to a labor dispute to agree on the terms of a settlement or to agree on the method and procedure which shall be used to resolve a dispute.

To effect prompt resolution of labor disputes, DLR should have adequate controls in place, including time standards, to establish accountability and facilitate the processing of disputes.

Reason for Lack of Established Standards

DLR officials stated that they have no control over how long it takes the external parties involved in these six case types to complete their tasks and therefore it is difficult for DLR to establish time standards. However, DLR also stated that time standards could be established for some of the six case types and that check-in points (i.e., milestones) could be established for other case types that do not lend themselves to time standards in order to ensure that the cases are not delayed.

Recommendations

  1. DLR should reexamine its case workflows and, where practicable, establish time standards for the processing of case phases and overall case life cycles. For cases where it is not feasible to establish time standards, DLR should establish check-in points to facilitate processing.
  2. DLR should establish monitoring procedures to ensure that cases adequately progress to closure or settlement.

Auditee’s Response

The Department of Labor Relations (DLR) has established time standards for the types of cases where timely processing is within the DLR’s control and does not conflict with other statutory goals. For those types of cases where the resolution is dependent on the actions of the parties involved, such as reaching a mutually agreeable resolution of the dispute, time standards have not historically been imposed. For example, time standards are imposed in Unfair Labor Practice and Grievance Arbitration cases because DLR employees are the final decision-makers in these cases. By contrast, successful disposition of Contract Mediation and Grievance Mediation cases depends upon the mutual agreement of the parties to the dispute. In such cases, imposition of time standards would tend to interfere with the mediation process and hamper the DLR’s ability to successfully resolve these cases.

DLR will review the workflow processes of all case types and determine the appropriateness of establishing time standards. Where appropriate, DLR will establish time standards for case processing phases and overall case life cycles. Where time standards are not appropriate, DLR will establish case-processing procedures whereby DLR agents monitor case processing, periodically check in with parties, and document delays in case processing, in order to ensure progress toward case closure.

Auditor’s Reply

Based on its response, DLR is taking measures to address our concerns in this area.

Date published: May 15, 2019
Feedback