Employee’s Actions in Mounting Defense to His Workplace Misconduct is Protected Concerted Activity

Michael Dela Paz, an employee of St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, argued with co-worker Habiba Araru, and threatened to “take care of her.” Dela Paz was placed on unpaid leave pending an investigation into the incident and was instructed not to contact any employees during his absence. Dela Paz ignored the contact ban by obtaining employee statements from co-workers in support of his position and submitting a petition against Araru signed by 28 co-workers. He was terminated for violating the hospital’s instructions and mounting a retaliatory campaign to get Araru fired.

The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint on behalf of Dela Paz alleging that the hospital unlawfully terminated Dela Paz for engaging in conduct protected by the National Labor Relations Act. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) disagreed with the Board and held that, “instructions directed solely at one employee that ‘were never repeated to any other employee as a general requirement’ are not work rules.”

On appeal, the Board, as expected, overturned the ALJ’s decision. According to the NLRB, “many employees had a real or perceived problem with Araru’s attitude in the workplace affecting their working conditions” and Dela Paz’s conduct “was unquestionably concerted.” Dela Paz was awarded reinstatement and back pay among other remedies.

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