NLRB 29 Unfair Labor Practice Charges Against Community Health Systems, Inc. Shows Industry Labor Risks

October 19, 2015

A 29-count unfair labor practices complaint brought by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against national hospital giant, Community Health Systems, Inc. and seven of its hospitals (CHS), reminds other hospital and health care systems about the need to take steps to maintain and strengthen the defensibility of their own union organizing and other labor-management relations processes as well as to prepare for the added complication the necessity of dealing with a union could present to their ability to manage already complex compliance, employment and employee benefit and other responsibilities.

The consolidated complaint announced by the NLRB today (October 19, 2015) alleges that CHS and seven wholly owned subsidiary hospitals make up a single integrated employer that has violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by engaging in a series of unfair labor practices. Specifically, the complaint claims CHS violated employee rights by, among other things: maintaining rules that infringe on employees’ rights to discuss wages, hours, and working conditions with one another and to advocate for better treatment; making statements and taking actions against employees for participating in union activities; and failing to engage in good-faith collective bargaining with the unions the NLRB says employees have selected as their exclusive collective-bargaining representatives.

The complaint involves 29 charges filed against CHS hospitals by the following NLRB Regional Offices:

The consolidated complaint requests specific remedial relief, including: reimbursement for negotiation expenses; a make-whole remedy, including reinstatement, for employees who were the subject of discretionary discharges prior to any bargaining with the employees’ exclusive collective bargaining representatives; the reading and electronic transmission of a Notice to Employees; and a broad, corporate-wide cease and desist order given prior findings of serious unfair labor practices involving many of the facilities in the current matter. To avoid unnecessary delay and to conserve public and private resources, the General Counsel transferred all of these cases to Region 8, Cleveland, which issued the consolidated complaint. Absent settlement, the NLRB is scheduled to begin litigation in Cleveland on December 15, 2015.

The NLRB complaint against CHS is one of a growing number of actions where the NLRB, packed with Obama Administration appointees have gone after hospital or other health care employers as part of their broader pro-Labor agenda. See e.g., Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation of Mobile, Board Case No. 15-CA-68248 (reported at 357 NLRB No. 174) (6th Cir. decided August 15, 2013 under the name Kindred Nursing Centers East, LLC f/k/a Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation of Mobile v. NLRB).

These decisions should remind health care and other employers of the highly union-friendly bent of the NLRB under the current administration, as well as the hazards of mishandling efforts to defend against union organizing and other protected activities under the NLRA.  Beyond the obligation to recognize and bargain with properly certified collective bargaining unions, the NLRB and other federal labor laws also grant employees a host of other protections.  Among these are recently affirmed rights-even for a worker not represented by a union – to insist another employee be present when participating in disciplinary and certain other meetings with management, rules limit the ability of employers to prohibit or restrict employees requiring employees to keep confidential and not discuss among each other salary, wages or other terms of compensation or employment terms and conditions, and others.  The Obama Administration has made known its desire to expand these rights further and has carried out an aggressive legislative, regulatory and enforcement campaign in pursuit of this goal since taking office.  For this reason, health care or other organizations should seek the advice and assistance of qualified legal counsel experienced with labor management relations matters to review policies for compliance, to prepare and administer anti-organizing activities, and to evaluate and respond to union organizing or bargaining activities.

Amid these obligations and the pro-Labor enforcement attitude of the current administration, health industry organizations and their leaders must be prepared both to deal appropriately with labor-management relations organizing, bargaining and other obligations and to manage these responsibilities along with other critical compliance and operations management responsibilities. Beyond dealing with organizing and certification details, the recognition of a union also generally brings obligations for the employer to bargain on a wide range of matters. While most employers understand that this might include wages and benefits, it also includes bargaining about other terms and conditions of employment such as policies on compliance, investigations, discipline and a broad range of other concerns. For this reason, organization also can complicate compliance, risk management, financial and other critical management operations. Furthermore, union organizers and representatives often look for whistleblower or other opportunities to use compliance obligations as tools to strengthen bargaining or undermine employer credibility. For this reason, health industry and other employers targeted for organization or facing other labor-management risks should act early to tighten their compliance and manage risks in anticipation of the need to defend their actions in the event of a union organization or other action.

For More Information Or Assistance

The author of this article, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, is a Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization concurrently recognized a “Top” Health Care, Labor & Employment and ERISA/Employee Benefits Lawyer for her more than 28 years’ experience advising and defending public and private, rural and metro area hospital; health care system; nursing home; home health; rehabilitation; physical therapy; medical clinic; medical staff, physician practice group, independent practice association, and management services organization; staffing; HMOs, PPOs, ACOs, Medicare and Medicaid Advantage and other managed care organization; pharmacy; life sciences; durable medical equipment; allied health; health care technology; and other health industry clients.

As a Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law whose practice focuses on health industry clients, Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her career has included continuous involvement advising and representing health care organizations about employment, labor-management, peer review and staffing and other workforce management and compensation concerns.  Ms. Stamer also continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance management and discipline; quality; governance; privacy, data security and breach; health care and other fraud prevention, risk management and defense; Medicare, Medicaid, managed care and insurance and other billing and reimbursement; safety and contagious disease; FDA; DEA; STARK, Fraud & Abuse, False Claims Act and other fraud prevention, investigation, remediation, and defense; managed care contracting and compliance; health care, insurance and other licensure and accreditation; managed care, government and other contracting and contract enforcement; antitrust; nonprofit and other general corporate and business matters and transactions; disaster preparedness and response; government audits and other enforcement; investigation and discipline; board and corporate governance; and other compliance, reengineering and change management, risk management, regulatory and government affairs, public policy and operations concerns.

Scribe for the ABA JCEB annual Technical Sessions meeting with OCR for the past five years, Ms. Stamer also is recognized for her extensive publications and programs including numerous highly regarding publications and programs on HIPAA and other privacy and data security concerns.

Ms. Stamer’s experience includes extensive involvement helping these and other health industry clients to establish, administer, and defend their practices and to conduct other dealings with the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Board of Medicine, Department of Insurance, NLRB, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Wage and Hour and other Labor Department, Department of Defense,  Justice Department and state attorneys’ general, Department of Health and other health care industry regulators.

Recognized in the International Who’s Who of Professionals; Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association; founder and Executive Director of the Coalition for Responsible Health Policy and Project COPE: The Coalition on Patient Empowerment; Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, Past Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas Board, Past Board President of the Richardson Development Center Early Child Intervention Agency (not Warren Center for Children) and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefits Council, the American Bar Association (ABA) and State Bar of Texas,  Cindy serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Insurance Thought Leadership, Employee Benefit News, HR.com, on the leadership of the ABA JCEB Council and several ABA Sections, and in many other professional and civic organizations and educational faculties, Ms. Stamer also is a prolific and popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry, labor and employment and other related concerns. She publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns as well as conducts workshops and programs and publications on these and many other compliance, operational and risk management, and other health industry matters. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.

For more information about Ms. Stamer and her health industry or other experience, see here or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, register here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

©2015 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.  If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information about this communication, see here.  THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.  


Unfair Labor Practice Settlements Reminds Hospitals To Handle Union Activities Carefully

February 7, 2013

The National Labor Relations Board’s announcement of its approval of settlement agreements between two UPMC hospitals and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)  reminds hospital and other health industry employers to exercise care when dealing with union organizing and other activities protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and other federal labor laws.

The settlements relate to unfair labor practices charges the  SEIU filed with the NLRB in response to actions taken by the hospital during the early stages of an organizing campaign before the union even had filed a petition for an election.  Among other things, the SEIU complained that the hospitals violated the NLRB by terminating or otherwise punishing workers for supporting the union.  The union also charged that the hospitals overly broad solcial medial, solicitation and code of conduct rules improperly interfered with the organizing rights of workers protected by the NLRA.

In the settlement agreements, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside agreed to offer reinstatement and backpay to two employees who were discharged after supporting the union, and to reimburse two other employees who lost wages due to a suspension and other actions.  The employer also agreed to rescind overly-broad policies related to social media, solicitation rules and a code of conduct at all UPMC facilities, to post Notices to Employees in multiple break rooms in four Pittsburgh hospitals, and to train supervisors to avoid future unlawful behavior.One remaining charge related to the use of company e-mail by employees to communicate about the union was not resolved and will proceed to trial before an Administrative Law Judge. The trial date is tentatively set for February 20.

Under the Obama Administration, the NLRB in recent years has shown aggressive support for unions and their organizing and collective bargaining activities.  As part of these activities and in response to the emergence of social media and other electronic communications, the NLRA increasingly has challenged the use of broad policies restricting the use of Facebook or other social media, e-mail or other similar communications by workers when it is perceived these policies punish or chill worker’s ability to communicate or organized concerning terms and conditions of employment.  As these and other commonly challenged practices are widely used within the health care industry, health industry employers are urged to take proper steps to review their policies and their administration to minimize exposure to these and other unfair labor practice challenges.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance managing your workforce, reviewing or tightening your policies and procedures, conducting training or audits, responding to or defending an investigation or other enforcement action or with other health care related risk management, compliance, training, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas and Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer has more than 25 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her presentations and programs include How to Ensure That Your Organization Is In Compliance With Regulations Governing Discrimination, as well as a wide range of other workshops, programs and publications on discrimination and cultural diversity, as well as a broad range of compliance, operational and risk management, and other health industry matters.

Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

If you found this article of interest, you also may be interested in other recent Solutions Law Press, Inc. articles by Ms. Stamer including:

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides business and management information, tools and solutions, training and education, services and support to help organizations and their leaders promote effective management of legal and operational performance, regulatory compliance and risk management, data and information protection and risk management and other key management objectives.  Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ also conducts and help businesses and associations to design, present and conduct customized programs and training targeted to their specific audiences and needs.  For additional information about upcoming programs, to explore becoming a presenting sponsor for an upcoming event, e-mail your request to info@Solutionslawpress.com   These programs, publications and other resources are provided only for general informational and educational purposes. Neither the distribution or presentation of these programs and materials to any party nor any statement or information provided in or in connection with this communication, the program or associated materials are intended to or shall be construed as establishing an attorney-client relationship, to constitute legal advice or provide any assurance or expectation from Solutions Law Press, Inc., the presenter or any related parties. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future Alerts or other information about developments, publications or programs or other updates, send your request to info@solutionslawpress.com.  CIRCULAR 230 NOTICE: The following disclaimer is included to comply with and in response to U.S. Treasury Department Circular 230 Regulations.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.   ©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.  All other rights reserved.


Health Care Employer’s NLRB Settlement Shows Care Necessary When Using Social Networking & Other Policies Restricting Employee Communications

February 7, 2011

Health care and other employers should exercise caution when drafting and applying policies regulating employee Facebook or other social networking site, e-mail, or other communications to avoid violating Federal labor laws protecting worker organization rights, as illustrated by a February 7, 2011 settlement agreement reached between a Connecticut ambulance service operator and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

According to the NLRB, Connecticut ambulance service provider American Medical Response (AMR) and the NLRB have agreed to settle a complaint filed on October 27, 2010 that charged AMI with violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by firing an employee for making derogatory comments about her supervisor on Facebook.

In its complaint against AMR, the NLRB charged that AMR’s termination of an employee for making derogatory statements about her supervisor on Facebook violated the NLRA because the employee was engaged in protected activity under the NLRA when she posted the comments about her supervisor, and responded to further comments from her co-workers. The NLRB complaint also charged AMR maintained overly-broad rules in its employee handbook regarding blogging, Internet posting, and communications between employees, and that it had illegally denied union representation to the employee during an investigatory interview shortly before the employee posted the negative comments on her Facebook page.

Under the terms of AMI’s settlement with the NLRB[i] approved February 7, 2011, AMI agreed:

  • To revise its employee handbook rules to avoid improperly restricting employees from discussing their wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers and others while not at work in violation of the NLRA;
  • Not to discipline or discharge employees for engaging in such discussions; and
  • Not to deny employee requests for union representation or threaten employees for requesting union representation in the future.

Federal labor law requires that employers tread carefully when dealing with communications by employees concerning terms and conditions of employment and other union or other organizational activity.  Existing federal law limits the actions that employers can take to deter or influence employee choices about whether to support or oppose a union certification campaign, to influence the certification of one union representative over another and to deter or penalize employees for communicating about terms and conditions of employment.

Under the NLRA, for instance, employees generally may discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with coworkers. The protections afforded by the NLRB to employee communications about terms and conditions of employment can apply to both unionized and non-unionized employees and workforces.  Subject to certain reasonable restrictions on communications within the workplace allowed by the NLRA, the NLRA generally restricts the ability of an employer to prohibit employees from communicating about terms and conditions of employment.

Worker awareness of these protections has grown in many workplaces as a result of a new policy requiring employers that are government contractors to post notification of NLRA rights in the workplace implemented by the Obama Administration in May, 2010, aggressive union organization efforts in the health care and certain other industries and other developments.  As a consequence, health industry and other employers need to exercise care to avoid violating the NLRA and other federal labor laws when designing, communicating and applying social networking, e-mail, internet, and other policies that regulate on or off-duty communications by employees.

To minimize liability risks under the NLRA, health industry and other employers should consult with qualified labor and employment counsel before discussing or taking other action in response to these activities to minimize risks of unintentionally running afoul of these requirements.  Employers should exercise care even if the communication restraint adopted to comply with legally mandated restrictions on communications such as those required by the privacy and security mandates of laws such as the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA).  While the NLRA generally permits restrictions on communications required to comply with law, health industry and other employers should be prepared to demonstrate the legitimacy of the legal need and their tailoring of restrictions on employee communications to meet that need.

For Advice or Other Information

If your organization needs advice or assistance in responding to labor and employment issues in your health care organization or other health care matters, consider contacting the author of this article, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer is nationally known for her more work, training and presentations, and publications on health industry and other staffing and employment, compensation, regulatory, and other operations, risk management and compliance matters. 

Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.  A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry and human resources matters, Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, and other operations and risk management concerns.  Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on health care, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile at here or e-mailing this information here.


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