LPNs Excluded from NLRA Protection

Article excerpt

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT held that the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) test for determining whether nurses are "supervisors" is inconsistent with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). It concludes, in a 5 to 4 decision, that nurses who direct less-skilled employees as part of their duties are supervisors and, accordingly, aren't protected by the NLRA.

The NLRA affords employees the rights to organize and to engage in collective bargaining free from employer interference. The Act does not grant those rights to supervisory employees. Under the Act, a supervisor is defined as an individual who has authority "in the interest of the employer, to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees...if in connection with the foregoing the exercise of such authority... requires the use of independent judgment."

Health Care & Retirement Corp. of America employs a nursing department staffed by a director and assistant director of nursing, 13 to 15 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and 50 to 55 aides who report to the nurses. When three of the LPNs were disciplined, the nurses filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. The LPNs had responsibility to ensure adequate staffing, to make daily work assignments, to monitor the aides' work to ensure proper performance, counsel and discipline aides, resolve aides' problems and grievances, and to evaluate their performance and report to management.

The Board determined that the nurses were not supervisors and thus were protected by the NLRA. It ordered them reinstated. The Board relied on its 1974 decision, which held that nurses who direct other employees are not supervisors because their direction of less-skilled employees is incidental to the treatment of patients because the authority isn't exercised in the interests of the employer. …