The National Labor Relations Board is launching a pilot program to enhance the use of its alternative dispute resolution program, the agency announced last week. The pilot program is expected to increase participation opportunities for parties in the ADR program and help to facilitate mutually satisfactory settlements.

Under the pilot program, the NLRB’s Office of the Executive Secretary will proactively engage parties with cases pending before the board to determine whether their cases are appropriate for inclusion in the ADR program. Parties may also contact the Office of the Executive Secretary and request that their case be placed in the ADR program. There are no fees or expenses for companies that use the program.

The NLRB’s alternative dispute resolution program, established in 2005, is a mediation program for companies under investigation for unfair labor practice investigations, intended to give them greater control over the outcome of their cases. Ordinarily, a case investigated by the NLRB would go before an NLRB Administrative Law Judge. Both parties to the dispute would prepare arguments and present evidence, witnesses, and experts. The judge issues a decision, which is subject to review by the board and may be appealed.

Through the voluntary ADR program, the NLRB provides a mediator to work with the parties; either side may withdraw participation at any time.