November 13, 2016

Judge Rules That Cayuga Medical Center Violated Labor Laws

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Federal Administrative Law Judge David I. Goldman ruled on Oct. 28 that Cayuga Medical Center management broke labor laws in deterring its nurses from attempting to form a union.

The 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represented the nurses, filed five lawsuits against CMC between July 21, 2015 and Jan. 7, 2016, which were consolidated this February, according to The Ithaca Voice. The cases went to trial in May.

“I agree with the government that the employer violated the [National Labor Relations] Act,” Goldman said.

Goldman described several situations in which CMC violated the law. In one case, he said upper management told employees they were not allowed to request union information in the cafeteria during hours when they were not working. Management also prevented employees from sharing union literature in the workplace but allowed the distribution of materials unrelated to unionization, he said.

Goldman also cited the unlawful suspension without pay of nurse Ann Marshall, whom CMC claimed was unable to quickly fill opening nursing shifts in the ICU. The reason for suspension may have instead been that management saw Marshall as the “ringleader” of union activity, he said.

However, Goldman added that he does not believe the violations merit an extreme solution.

“I note that although the unfair labor practices engaged in by the hospital were serious, I reject the government’s contention that extraordinary remedies are warranted,” he said.

Among the remedies Goldman outlined was forcing CMC management to cease and desist from “maintaining unlawfully overbroad employee rules” and interfering with any actions made by employees toward unionization.

Goldman also called on management to send a notice to all employees summarizing all federal labor laws granted to them regarding unionization.

Cayuga Medical Center management did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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