Conflicting lower court rulings issued in staffing disputes at 2 HCA hospitals


Two federal courts in neighboring states have issued conflicting rulings in cases involving staffing disputes at HCA Healthcare's Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park, Kan., and Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo. 

The crux of the cases is whether collective bargaining agreements allow arbitration to be compelled to resolve the disputes. The National Nurses Organizing Committee, an affiliate of National Nurses United, argues that the agreements cover the disputes, and the parties should be compelled to arbitrate, according to court documents. The hospitals contend the disputes are not covered by the agreements and therefore arbitration is not required.

In April, U.S. District Judge Stephen Bough in the Western District of Missouri ruled that the dispute fell under the agreement's arbitration provision, according to court documents and NPR radio station KCUR. And on July 16, Julie Robinson, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, sided with Menorah Medical Center. 

Both cases involve staffing grids. The National Nurses Organizing Committee filed grievances against the hospitals alleging implementation of the grids in 2020 replaced unionized registered nurses with supervisory employees in the performance of bargaining unit work, according to court documents. The union contends the registered nurses should have performed the work, per contract terms.

The hospitals told the union it would not process the grievances or arbitrate the disputes, and the union filed lawsuits to compel arbitration, according to court documents and KCUR.

In a statement shared with Becker's, HCA Midwest Health spokesperson Christine Hamele said: "Menorah Medical Center and Research Medical Center promote the provision of high-quality patient care through staffing, training and technology and have been nationally recognized for their clinical quality. We are pleased the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas determined Menorah Medical Center followed processes outlined in the collective bargaining agreement, and we are appealing the Missouri ruling."

The union praised the Missouri court decision.

"With all due respect to Judge Robinson, the union believes that she erred in her decision, given the facts in these cases and strong presumption in favor of arbitrability under federal labor law, and that Judge Bough who ruled on the identical issue in the Western District of Missouri rendered the correct decision," the union told Becker's. 

The union said it is strongly considering appealing Judge Robinson's decision.

If the lower courts end up with conflicting rulings, the cases could make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to KCUR

Menorah Medical Center and Research Medical Center are part of HCA Midwest Health, a division of Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare. 


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