Harris Medical Center and Harris Memorial Hospital: Unfair Labor Practices or Management's Rights?

By Schnake, Mel; Copeland, Roy | Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies, January 2015 | Go to article overview

Harris Medical Center and Harris Memorial Hospital: Unfair Labor Practices or Management's Rights?


Schnake, Mel, Copeland, Roy, Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies


CASE DESCRIPTION

This case examines the fine line between unfair labor practices and management's rights. More specifically, this case involves the application of labor law to disputes that might arise between management and unions regarding non-solicitation and non-distribution policies. The recurring question is where does management's right to impose limits on solicitation and distribution of union related material end and the rights of employees to engage in protected activity begin. The case examines whether the hospital engaged in unfair labor practices specified by NLRA Section 8(a) when it invoked a non-solicitation and non-distribution policy. The facts present challenges that may be encountered by employers that are lax in the enforcement of non-solicitation/non-distribution policies and who might disparately enforce such policies. The scenario is also illustrative of challenges presented to the employer relative to surveillance and retaliation against employees.

The case has a difficulty level of three, appropriate for junior/senior level students. The case is designed to be taught in one class hour, and is expected to require one or two hours of outside preparation by students.

CASE SYNOPSIS

Management and employee labor unions often have an adversarial relationship, especially when a non-union environment can potentially become unionized. There is a constant struggle between management, which seeks to dissuade employees from joining a union and employees who believe that forming a union might be beneficial. Charges of unfair labor practices and bad faith bargaining may arise in these situations. The Harris case presents students with an opportunity to review and examine ways in which management policies and union activity conflict. For example, the case presents circumstances wherein unfair labor practices might occur, how disparate enforcement of management policies is treated by the NLRB, and circumstances wherein retaliation and unlawful surveillance may be found. This case is an effective teaching tool for students in a labor relations course, a human resources course, and may also be used in the introductory management principles course.

* To illustrate actions considered by the NLRB to be violations of Section 8(a) (1) and Section 7 of the Wagner Act, as amended.

* To illustrate the effects of not enforcing policies prescribed by a business or nonprofit.

* To expose students to actions which constitute unfair labor practices by management under Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended.

Background

Harris Medical Center and Memorial Hospital is a nonprofit corporation with offices and health care facilities in Rosemont and Rancho Cordova, California. Harris operates inpatient and outpatient clinics as well as two hospitals. Harris Medical Center is located in Rosemont, California and Harris Memorial Hospital is located in Rancho Cordova, California. A total of 450 registered nurses (RNs) at the two facilities are combined into a single bargaining unit. Since October 1, 2009, the California Nurses Association (CNA) has been the exclusive bargaining agent for Harris' full-time, regular part-time, and per diem registered nurses who provide direct patient care at Harris Medical Center and Harris Memorial Hospital. Harris and the CNA have been engaged in collective bargaining for an initial contract since November 2009.

The Friday Meeting

The room was silent as Robin Pass, HR Director for Harris Medical Center and Harris Memorial Hospital walked in to the room. At the conference table were Peggy Smith, Director of Nursing for Harris Medical Center; Beth Witte, Director of Nursing for Harris Memorial Hospital; Lindsay Barton, Director of Women's and Children's Services, and Brad Johnson, Labor Relations Manager. Before Robin could sit down, Peggy remarked, "They really filed a formal unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)? …

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