Hospital Residents are Employees and can Unionize

Resident physicians at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, N.Y. sought to unionize and relied on an NLRB decision holding that resident physicians are employees within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act. The Hospital, relying on a separate Board decision, argued that the residents were more akin to graduate students, not employees, and thus could not unionize. However, the residents in question had already received their medical degrees, did not pay tuition or register as students, and spent most of their time providing patient care without direct supervision. The Board sided with the residents and scheduled a secret ballot election. Since the Board is actively trying to extend bargaining rights to graduate students, the holding in this case comes as no surprise.