The National Labor Relations Board’s announcement of its approval of settlement agreements between two UPMC hospitals and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) reminds hospital and other health industry employers to exercise care when dealing with union organizing and other activities protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and other federal labor laws.
The settlements relate to unfair labor practices charges the SEIU filed with the NLRB in response to actions taken by the hospital during the early stages of an organizing campaign before the union even had filed a petition for an election. Among other things, the SEIU complained that the hospitals violated the NLRB by terminating or otherwise punishing workers for supporting the union. The union also charged that the hospitals overly broad solcial medial, solicitation and code of conduct rules improperly interfered with the organizing rights of workers protected by the NLRA.
In the settlement agreements, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside agreed to offer reinstatement and backpay to two employees who were discharged after supporting the union, and to reimburse two other employees who lost wages due to a suspension and other actions. The employer also agreed to rescind overly-broad policies related to social media, solicitation rules and a code of conduct at all UPMC facilities, to post Notices to Employees in multiple break rooms in four Pittsburgh hospitals, and to train supervisors to avoid future unlawful behavior.One remaining charge related to the use of company e-mail by employees to communicate about the union was not resolved and will proceed to trial before an Administrative Law Judge. The trial date is tentatively set for February 20.
Under the Obama Administration, the NLRB in recent years has shown aggressive support for unions and their organizing and collective bargaining activities. As part of these activities and in response to the emergence of social media and other electronic communications, the NLRA increasingly has challenged the use of broad policies restricting the use of Facebook or other social media, e-mail or other similar communications by workers when it is perceived these policies punish or chill worker’s ability to communicate or organized concerning terms and conditions of employment. As these and other commonly challenged practices are widely used within the health care industry, health industry employers are urged to take proper steps to review their policies and their administration to minimize exposure to these and other unfair labor practice challenges.
For More Information Or Assistance
If you need assistance managing your workforce, reviewing or tightening your policies and procedures, conducting training or audits, responding to or defending an investigation or other enforcement action or with other health care related risk management, compliance, training, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas and Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer has more than 25 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.
A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her presentations and programs include How to Ensure That Your Organization Is In Compliance With Regulations Governing Discrimination, as well as a wide range of other workshops, programs and publications on discrimination and cultural diversity, as well as a broad range of compliance, operational and risk management, and other health industry matters.
Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications. You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.
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