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New York University Medical Center and Association of Staff Psychiatrists, Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital

    Citation

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. An association that represented employees of a hospital, as a union would, charged that the hospital violated the National Labor Relations Act when it threatened and discharged employees because they engaged in protected activities.


    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Where there is evidence of dislike by an employer toward an association that represents employees as a union, as well as members of that association, and the employer discharges members of the association, the burden shifts to the employer to show that in the absence of the employees' protected concerted activities under the National Labor Relations Act, they would have been discharged.


    Facts. New York University Medical Center and Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital (Defendant) provide mental health services.  Six of the psychiatrists on staff were also members of the executive committee of the Association of Staff Psychiatrists (Plaintiff), which is a labor organization under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), even though it is not a union.  The Plaintiff dealt with the Defendant on issues involving salaries, working hours, working conditions, and grievances.  When Defendant changed its policy of allowing some psychiatrists to work six-hour workdays due to budget restrictions, the six members of the Association (Plaintiff) protested.  The hospital (Defendant) administrator then indicated that such protests and refusal to cooperate with the new policy would make the protestors likely candidates for layoffs.  When Defendant eventually implemented layoffs, the six Association (Plaintiff) committee members were included in those laid off.


    Issue. Where there is evidence of dislike by an employer toward an association that represents employees as a union, as well as members of that association, and the employer discharges members of the association, does the burden shifts to the employer to show that in the absence of the employees' protected concerted activities under the National Labor Relations Act, they would have been discharged?


    Held. [Board member not stated in casebook excerpt.]  Where there is evidence of dislike by an employer toward an association that represents employees as a union, as well as members of that association, and the employer discharges members of the association, the burden shifts to the employer to show that in the absence of the employees' protected activities under the National Labor Relations Act, they would have been discharged.  A factor that likely motivated the discharge of the six committee members was their protected activities, because there was "abundant" evidence of animus by the Hospital (Defendant) administration toward the Association (Plaintiff) and its executive board members, in addition to their open opposition to schedule changes.  Finally, the discharges occurred shortly after their protected activities, indicating that the discharges were motivated by animus toward the Plaintiff.  Therefore, the Defendant had to show that even in the absence of their protected activities, the discharges would have occurred.  However, the Hospital's (Defendant) claim that the layoffs were motivated by the city's mandated reduction in budget is unpersuasive.


    Discussion. When the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) draws conclusions, they are usually fact-specific and do not normally result in changes to the law.  Generally, either party retains the right to appeal to a court after the Board gives a final ruling.  The usefulness of this case is mainly limited to its statement of the rule that the burden of showing that discharges, or any adverse action against an employee who charges the employer with an unfair labor practice, shifts to the employer after the employee shows animus.  The other interesting aspect of this case is that non-union associations of employees may bring actions before the Board.  The National Labor Relations Board's jurisdiction is not limited to actions involving unions.



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