NLRB Requires Employers to Treat Similar Workers Similarly

There is a reason that lawyers and HR professionals always want management to treat similar people similarly.

If you overlook disciplining someone for one thing, you should overlook disciplining another person for doing the same thing.

Even if you don’t like that person.

A New York hospital violated the National Labor Relations Act by firing a nurse who left the operating room for 28 minutes during spinal surgery to participate in a union action.

Frankly, I didn’t know someone could leave the operating room during surgery. Seems like their attendance and participation is pretty important at that time.

But, the hospital did not discipline – or even investigate – another nurse who left a similarly complex surgery for a longer period of time.

The National Labor Relations Board easily found that the hospital discriminated against the nurse for engaging in union activity.

Be consistent.

If you allow employees to talk about sports or the weather or the news while working, allow them to talk about unions.

If you allow employees to solicit each other to buy Girl Scout Cookies, you must allow them to solicit each other to sign union authorization cards.

If you allow them to periodically leave work for whatever reasons, they can leave work for a union-related reason.

While there are limits to what employees can do, enforce your workplace rules consistently without regard to whether the activity relates to unions.

You’ll be safer that way.

#MattAustinLaborLaw #LaborRelations #LaborLaw


Matt Austin is a nationwide management labor lawyer. Labor laws govern virtually all private-sector employees regardless of union membership. Proactive management of labor relations is critical to maintaining flexibility and increasing profit.

Matt also runs Austin Legal’s HR Legal Compliance Program that, for a small monthly fee, ensures HR decisions are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Matt’s experience is deeply rooted in helping manage many aspects of his clients’ businesses. To effectively manage labor relations, he must also manage budgets, forecasts, new growth areas, and projected market corrections. High emotional intelligence is also critical to negotiating union contracts and to properly advise HR Legal Compliance members through the nuances of the law, its application to their companies, and how it will be received by employees.

You can reach Matt via email at