ITHACA, N.Y. — Last week, a federal judge sided with Cayuga Medical Center nurses who said the hospital broke labor laws while workers were attempting to form a union.
The major complaints in the lawsuit revolved around the hospital making attempts to dissuade nurses from joining the union and unlawfully targeting for disciplinary action nurses who supported the union.
The judgement was issued by Judge David I. Goldman on Oct. 28, who almost entirely agreed with arguments made by the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a union, on behalf of the nurses.
The union filed five lawsuits against Cayuga Medical Center between July 21, 2015 and Jan. 7, 2016. alleging that Cayuga Medical Center engaged in unfair labor practices.
The cases were consolidated in late February and went to trial on May 2–6 and May 24, 2016 in Ithaca.
Some of the complaints from the 83-page lawsuit are summarized and cited below (Pages reference the Scribd document pages in the embedded court decision at the bottom of this story.):
- CMC released multiple emails dissuading nurses to join a union and report people soliciting union participation to management (Page 14)
- Employees were told by upper-management they could not solicit unionization in the cafeteria during non-working hours (Page 18);
- Employees were told by management that they should not discuss salaries among themselves (Page 19);
- A video shown to staff during a meeting including the song "This is the New Shit” by Marilyn Manson, which offended several people and prompted a sexual harassment accusation against Norman Joel Brown, the interim director of the hospital’s ICU department for three months in 2015 (Page 21). The harassment accusation lead to stressed working conditions between him and Nurse Anne Marshall, who he later confronted as the "ringleader" of unionization efforts. He also confronted other nurses about unionization at one-on-one-meetings (Page 22).
- CMC management prohibited the posting and distribution of union literature while allowing the posting and distribution of other materials (Page 24). An illegal effort was also launched to remove union literature from the hospital (Page 26).
- Hospital House Supervisor Florence Ogundele posted threatening Facebook posts (Page 27) to people in support of the union stating, "To my fellow CMC who is tired of all the bullshit going on at work and the people supporting them...I want you to take a good look at them (union organizers), you will see that if you follow anyone of them it will lead you to unemployment, these people have nothing to lose. Now the only thing that make them relevant is bullying, intimidating and downright mean. They are not happy unless there's drama going on everywhere."
- Nurses stated that they were unable to take meal breaks more than 50 percent of the time due to inability to have patients monitored during the break (Page 32).
- Nurse Scott Marsland, a staff nurse in the hospital’s emergency department, was issued an unlawful disciplinary warning for publicly stating that he questioned a nurse's ability to adequately monitor his patients while he was on break, despite being told by management to stop talking. Page 34).
- Nurse Ann Marshall was unlawfully suspended without pay after she was unable to quickly fill open nursing shifts in the ICU, due to decreased staff available to work (Page 48). It was her first disciplinary issue as a nurse.The judge called the unjustified suspension "suspicious" and indicated that the suspension may have happened because of union activity.
- Marshall also received an unlawful verbal reprimand for allegedly refusing to leave a supervisor's doorway during a dispute. However, the court pointed out that the typed notes provided by the incident investigator did not include contradictory statements about the allegations against Marshall, as the hand written notes did. The judge wrote, "The weight of the evidence is that the results of this investigation were rigged (Page 58)."
- Marshall was unlawfully demoted. The judge said he agreed with general counsel that "...the demotion was based on the application of unlawfully overboard rules and continued retaliation for Marshall’s union activities (Page 67). "
- Marshall was unfairly evaluated in 2015, due to behavioral marks against her, stemming from her activity with the union. Her score dropped a full point, from 4.73 to 3.73, on a scale of 1 to 5.
In a decision released Friday, Judge David I. Goldman stated the following:
As discussed herein, for the most part, I agree with the government that the employer violated the Act, as alleged, although, as discussed below, I dismiss a few of the allegations...In particular, it is clear to me that the hospital, while permitting a significant amount of union activity—which the law requires it to do—took issue with the activism of certain of its nurses. In particular, the hospital’s conflicts with the protected and concerted and union activities of Nurse Anne Marshall led to a very real and generalized decline in the relationship between Marshall and the Hospital. Not all of the managerial conflict with Marshall was motivated by antiunion animus. However, the net result of her union activity and her protected and concerted efforts to challenge the hospital on staffing issues was an employer that engaged in unlawfully motivated and discriminatory targeting of her, which led directly to the adverse actions taken against her by the hospital. Finally, 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, and find that the Board’s traditional remedies will just as effectively redress the breaches of law found herein.
Among the remedies listed by Goldman are retracting disciplinary actions against Marshall and Marsland, rehiring Marshall to her former position with the same pay, issuing back pay, alter the employee rule book and publicly and electronically informing people of the court's decision. A complete list of detailed remedies can be found on page 77 of the Scribd document below.