Labor board files complaint against UPMC after nurse's termination

On March 3, the Region 6 office of the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Pittsburgh-based UPMC and one of its subsidiaries, UPMC Altoona (Pa.), over allegations related to the termination of an agency nurse.

The complaint, which was shared with Becker's, is in response to allegations by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. 

The union alleges that UPMC violated federal labor law when it retaliated against and canceled the employment contract of Dina Norris, an agency nurse working at UPMC Altoona last year. 

When these types of allegations occur, the NLRB investigates the issue and files a complaint if the investigation finds sufficient evidence to support the charge and if no settlement is reached in a meritorious case, according to the labor board website. A complaint then leads to a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge unless a settlement is reached. 

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania's allegations stem from events that took place in May, while Ms. Norris was serving as the charge nurse on UPMC Altoona's ortho-neuro-trauma unit.

On May 15, the hospital informed Ms. Norris and four other nurses, who already had seven patients each, that they would have to take an additional patient, the union alleges. The union contends the nurses collectively expressed their staffing concerns to management and that a supervisor then threatened to report the nurses to the state nursing board for patient neglect "until one nurse relented and took an eighth patient."

The union says Ms. Norris and another nurse then spoke to a local TV station more than a week later about the incident and ongoing staffing concerns. UPMC Altoona terminated Ms. Norris' agency employment contract May 31 for violating UPMC's media policy and a "do not rehire" note was placed on her file, according to the union. 

"As a nurse with a professional license, I have a right and a duty to speak up for my patients, my colleagues and my profession," Ms. Norris said in a news release shared with Becker's. "That UPMC would retaliate against me and drag this out for close to a year rather than acknowledging and fixing their staffing issues shows the deep disrespect they hold for nurses. UPMC may be Pennsylvania's largest health system, but they are not above the law and they can't be allowed to ignore the needs and concerns of patients and nurses." 

A UPMC spokesperson told Becker's: "This individual was not a UPMC Altoona employee nor employed by any other UPMC entity at the time of these incidents, but an agency contractor on temporary assignment. We acted appropriately and followed the parameters of the agency agreement."

An administrative law judge with the NLRB is scheduled to hear arguments related to the allegations during a July 10 hearing.

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