Las Vegas hospital sick leave policy prompts protest

Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107 picketed outside Las Vegas-based University Medical Center of Southern Nevada on Jan. 30 to protest certain sick leave rules at the facility, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. 

A union news release shared with Becker's stated that the picket targeted a hospital policy that penalizes workers who do not call out sick at least eight hours before the beginning of their shift. Union members contend the policy is detrimental to workers and patients. 

"This is no way to treat employees, especially front-line workers who carried our community on their backs during the pandemic," SEIU Public Sector Executive Vice President Debbie Springer said in the union release. "Employees should be allowed to use their sick leave when they need it without fear of discipline. We have already heard from employees who have had to go to work sick because they couldn't meet the eight-hour limit. That's not best for them. It's not best for patients. It's not best for our community."

The union statement also said its representatives attended a Jan. 25 meeting of the hospital's board of governors in an effort to address the policy. 

According to a statement shared with Becker's from UMC CEO Mason Van Houweling, the call-off notice requirement was agreed upon by the hospital and union and is clearly defined in the existing contract.

Mr. Van Houweling said the contract specifies that employees must provide at least eight hours of notice whenever they need to be absent from work, which allows leadership to implement alternative staffing strategies to cover shifts. 

"We absolutely understand that life happens, and employees may need to call out sick without providing the full eight hours of notice from time to time," he said. "This is why we have an incredibly lenient progressive counseling process in place. In fact, an employee would have to fail to provide appropriate notice at least four times within a single 12-month period before warranting any serious corrective action."

While the union contends the hospital's policy also requires workers who become sick at work to find a co-worker to cover their shift, the hospital disputes that, saying that responsibility is left to clinical leaders. 

University Medical Center of Southern Nevada is a nonprofit government hospital. SEIU has more than 3,400 members at the hospital and its associated clinic, according to the union release. 

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