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NLRB Provides Guidance on "Supervisors"


Email Alert

October 6, 2006

The NLRB issued long-awaited and anticipated decisions in three cases involving whether or not charge nurses, and their similarly-situated counterparts in other industries, will be considered supervisors under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Links to each decision are indicated below.

The United States Supreme Court had addressed the supervisory status of these types of employees in a 2001 decision in the case of Kentucky River Community Care, but, in that holding, deferred to the NLRB for further determination and clarification concerning three of the requirements of supervisory status under Section 2(11) of the NLRA. Namely, the extent to which an employee must "assign" work, "responsibly ... direct" other employees, or exercise "independent judgment" in doing so, in order to qualify for supervisory status if he/she does not meet one of the other statutory requirements in Section 2(11), such as hiring, firing, etc. The NLRB has finally spoken.

In Oakwood Healthcare, the Board determined that charge nurses with the authority to assign other nursing personnel to specific patients for treatment were supervisors because this assigning required the exercise of independent judgment, even though the charge nurses did not exercise much else by way of supervisory authority. The determination on this issue substantially departs from prior Board precedent and will impact application of the NLRA to an untold number of nurses. The Board did find, however, that Oakwood's rotating charge nurses could not be considered supervisors because they did not exercise such supervisory authority in the regular course of their duties. The Board went to great lengths in its decision to explain what it considered to be sufficient on the three aspects of supervisory status which the Supreme Court had deferred to its judgment.

In two companion cases, the Board applied the rationale of Oakwood Healthcare and further clarified the application of its newly-announced criteria for supervisory status for those who do not satisfy one of the other Section 2(11) criteria.

In Croft Metals, Inc., the Board held that, although "lead persons" at the employer's manufacturing plant had the authority to manage their assigned teams, to correct improper performance and to decide the order in which work was to be performed, they were not supervisors because their exercise of judgment was so controlled by the employer's directives and guidelines that it amounted to little more than routine or clerical direction.

Finally, in Golden Crest Healthcare, the Board, again applying the holding in Oakwood Healthcare, concluded that Golden Crest's charge nurses were not supervisors because they did not have the authority to assign tasks to other nurses, to shift the assignments of other nurses, or to call in nurses from off-duty status. In addition, the Board held that, even though charge nurses were annually rated on their ability to direct other nurses, there was little evidence that such a rating affected the charge nurses' employment status.

We would like to thank the firm of Cohen & Grigsby PC for allowing us to distribute this information to our members. We also thank Richard Korman (Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, Mishawaka, IN) for providing this email alert.

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