Even When Company and Union Agree, NLRB Rules in Favor of Employee

A hospital desperately sought to hire some to fill the hard-to-fill position of part-time boiler operator. Despite candidate Legley being difficult to work with during the interview process, he was willing to be a part-time boiler operator, so the hospital hired him. I’m sure many of you have similarly undesirable jobs where you hire the first person willing to accept it, even if your better judgment tells you not to.

During orientation, Legley attended a meeting with the SEIU union that represented employees of the hospital. He became belligerent during this meeting and protested about having to become a union member in order to be employed in the position. One of the SEIU attendants at that meeting felt intimidated by Legley.

The hospital decided to terminate Legley shortly after orientation for “inappropriate disrespectful behavior.” The union agreed. Legley filed an unfair labor practice charge against both the hospital and union alleging he was fired for protesting mandatory union membership.

After trial, an administrative law judge ruled that both the hospital and union violated the National Labor Relations Act. On appeal, the NLRB rubber stamped that decision. On further appeal, the Circuit Court reversed the NLRB and criticized its decisionmaking – a common theme these days.

The appeals court faulted the Board or failing to properly interpret the hearing evidence. It noted that the Board “may not distort the fair import of the record by ignoring whole segments of uncontroverted evidence. Moreover, when the board purports to be engaged in simple fact-finding…it is not free to prescribe what inferences from the evidence it will accept and reject, but must draw all those inferences that the evidence fairly demands.” Per the court, “Because we believe that the Board had all of the evidence and arguments it needed to articulate a contrary position and, if it actually intended to take such a position, neglected to do so because of its failure to consider the record as a whole, we decline the dissent’s invitation to remand to the NLRB for reconsideration.”

Ouch.  Circuit Courts appear to have no more tolerance for the NLRB’s results-oriented decisions any more. For another example, click here.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 285-5342 or emailing him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

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