Union Buttons in Patient Care Areas, Allowed

Companies frequently stop workers from wearing union buttons to show support for a union. This is permissible under the right circumstances. However, most companies, including this one, do not know when those circumstances are.

The Union representing workers at a Health Bridge care center posted fliers and wore stickers on their clothes that said “Busted” after an unfair labor practice complaint was issued against the company. Health Bridge removed the fliers and prohibited employees from wearing “Busted” stickers and buttons at two of the four facilities.

Prohibition of union insignia in non-care areas is presumptively invalid. However, prohibition of the same union insignia in patient care areas is presumed lawful so long as the prohibition is not selective in nature. Here, Health Bridge selectively banned only certain union insignia, i.e. “Busted” stickers, in patient care areas. For this selective ban to be lawful, the company needed to prove that the rule was necessary to avoid disruption of care or disturbance of patients; Health Bridge failed to meet this burden.

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