ER nurses allowed to combine rest breaks, US labor board rules

A Michigan hospital violated U.S. labor law by preventing emergency room nurses from combining their lunch and other rest breaks, a federal labor board ruled.

In his April 29 ruling, National Labor Relation Board Administrative Law Judge Arthur J. Amchan also found Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital failed to provide the Michigan Nurses Association with exit interviews of nurses who had resigned in the last year and ordered that it do so, according to the MNA. The union had requested the interviews for collective bargaining purposes.

The judge's order allows breaks for nurses to be covered, as was the practice before April 2018, by other bargaining unit nurses instead of clinical coordinators, according to the nurses union. The union said the ruling will also allow a nurse who experienced economic loss due to an illegal policy change to receive full back pay, with accrued interest.

“Our patients are the big winners,” Kathleen Lehman, a recovery nurse at Huron Valley and president of the Professional Nursing Association of Huron Valley Sinai Hospital — a union affiliate representing 350 Huron Valley registered nurses — said in a news release. “When nurses are well-rested, we can take better care of our patients. And once we know more about why nurses are leaving, we can create better strategies to keep good people here.”

The judge also ruled that the hospital "cease and desist" from denying unionized nurses breaks in retaliation for the actions of union representatives.

Huron Valley disagrees with the judge's recent decision and has begun the appeals process, hospital spokesperson Tonita Cheatham said in an emailed statement to Becker's.

"We believe a fair review of this ruling will validate that Huron Valley’s employment practices are fair and in accordance with the law. We always strive to foster a positive and supportive working environment for our employees so that they can provide the best possible care to the people we serve, ” the statement reads.

Huron Valley is a unit of Detroit Medical Center, owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare.

Read the full ruling here.


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