Philadelphia hospital illegally altered attendance, discipline policies, labor board rules

A National Labor Relations Board judge has found that Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia engaged in certain unlawful practices, including unilaterally changing its discipline and attendance policies, according to the judge's Oct. 18 order.

The decision, which was shared with Becker's, is in response to allegations filed by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals from June 27, 2019, through April 21, 2022. Administrative Law Judge Arthur Amchan also responded to allegations filed by the Health Professionals and Allied Employees.

PASNAP includes local unions that have contracts with Temple University Hospital. HPAE represents employees at Temple University Hospital-Episcopal Campus and is not part of PASNAP.

In his order, the judge found that Temple University Hospital failed to bargain before making changes to its discipline and attendance policies, which included a statement that the hospital could terminate probationary employees for excessive absences with no warning. The changes also included that employees are deemed late after seven minutes from their designated start time, rather than the previous 15 minutes, according to the order. The involved parties disagreed about whether the changes were considered "material changes" that would require bargaining.

Mr. Amchan wrote that "these changes were not exempt from respondent's duty to bargain, either as the result of contract coverage or past practice, with two exceptions. Probationary employees never had the benefit of respondent's progressive discipline policy. In light of this, the explicit statement that they can be fired without warning is not material. As to the seven-minute lateness policy, that had been in effect since 2018. It was thus not a change made in March 2019 as alleged."

The judge also found that Temple University Hospital failed, refused or delayed providing the unions with certain information they requested. Additionally, he found that that the hospital stopped placing all COVID-19 patients in wards solely designated for COVID-19 patients, then in January 2022, without bargaining, revoked the COVID-19 accommodation for nurses who were given accommodations that excused them from working in those wards.

The judge ruled that Temple must stop making unilateral changes to its policies, rescind the unlawful changes, bargain with the unions in good faith and provide unions the requested information.

Representatives for the hospital did not immediately respond to requests from Law360 for comment Oct. 19. Becker's has also reached out for comment.

HPAE President Debbie White, RN, said in a statement sent to Law360 on Oct. 20 that the National Labor Relations Board ruling "reinforces laws against unilateral changes in unionized workplaces."

Claiborne Newlin, who represents PASNAP, praised the ruling in a statement to Law360 on Oct. 19 and said that "the employer has spent the last five years fighting NLRB jurisdiction because the [National Labor Relations Act] protects a broader scope of bargaining than the Pennsylvania Public Employe Relations Act."

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