Update and Stay Tuned

Article excerpt

The Supreme Court issued a major labor decision last year when it ruled, in NLRB v. Health Care and Retirement Corp. of America,(11) that nurses who direct less skilled employees are supervisors not protected by Federal labor law. The decision could affect a variety of employees outside the nursing profession or the health care industry who oversee the work of others.

The National Labor Relations Board has yet to hand down its decisions on two additional cases dealing with the supervisory status of nurses.(12) These cases, argued before the Board last October, involve the status of charge nurses at a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska, and licensed practical nurses at a nursing home in Lake Katrine, New York. The cases present the Board with its first opportunity to consider the impact of the earlier Supreme Court ruling in Health Care and Retirement Corp., which rejected the "patient care" test for determining whether nurses are supervisors. Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees meet one criterion for being designated supervisors when they exercise authority "in the interest of the employer." In the Health Care and Retirement Corp. case, the Board argued that a nurse's supervisory activities were not performed in the employer's interest if they were incidental to treating patients. Disagreeing, the High Court said that treating patients is in the interest of a nursing home employer. The very purpose of a nursing home's business is attending to the needs of its customers, the resident patients.

The employment law question at issue in the nurse supervision cases--what the criterion is for being a supervisor--is emerging as an important question in labor relations and labor law. …