NLRB Takes on Nationwide Hospital Chain

November 2, 2015 by Jason C. Taylor, Partner

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is proceeding against the parent company of a nation-wide chain of hospitals to oppose what it claims are unfair labor practices including alleged overbroad rules and unwillingness to negotiate with employees’ representatives. The complaint includes 29 charges filed against seven different hospitals extending from West Virginia to California, as well as the parent corporation for those hospitals, Community Health Systems, Inc. (CHS).

CHS is described as the second largest hospital chain in the country. It appears the NLRB is operating under the recent, broader test for joint employment enunciated in its decision just two months ago in BFI Newby Island Recyclery to join not just the individual hospitals, but CHS as well. In some instances, it appears the charges focus on actions taken after hospital staff complained that the parent company’s operations caused a decrease in patient care. However, the charges also include claims that the hospitals and CHS, as an alleged joint employer, failed to properly address issues regarding work conditions by represented employees.

This effort appears to be a continuation of the NLRB’s agenda to extend the reach of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to as many employers as possible and impose often unpredictable standards. As we have previously noted, the NLRB issued purported guidance regarding employer rules of conduct, but will likely continue to extend the concept of protected, concerted activity to an extremely broad range of employee actions. Additionally, the publicity associated with such efforts may result in an increase in awareness of such claims and increase the frequency of same under the Act.

If you have not done so, it is important to examine your company handbook to make sure your business remains clear of actual or reasonably perceived chilling language to prevent those issues from impacting your workforce. If you have any questions or concerns, we are here to help with that effort.

  Jason C. Taylor, Partner
  (850) 222-8121