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<!–:en–>NLRB FINDS CALIFORNIA HOSPITAL UNLAWFULLY BARS NURSES FROM WEARING UNION RIBBONS IN PATIENT AREAS<!–:–>

January 19, 2012

Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., unlawfully prohibited registered nurses from wearing union ribbons in immediate patient care areas during an organizing drive by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, a divided National Labor Relations Board ruled on December 30, 2011.

In a 2-1 ruling, Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce and Member Craig Becker found that the hospital banned the ribbon saying, “Saint John’s RNs for Safe Patient Care,” while allowing nurses to wear a hospital-endorsed ribbon, stating “Saint John’s mission is patient safe care.”

While the board has created a presumption that an employer ban on the wearing of insignia in immediate patient care areas is valid, this presumption “does not protect a selective ban on only certain union insignia,” the majority said.

In November 2008, during a union organizing drive, CNA/NNOC gave nurses ribbons to wear calling for safe patient care. The hospital’s vice president of human resources notified nursing directors to inform employees they could not wear the ribbons in immediate patient care areas because he was concerned that the ribbons were “detrimental
and disruptive to patient care.” Several days later, four nurses were told they would be written up for insubordination if they did not remove the ribbons.

In January 2009, the hospital revised its solicitation and distribution policy to ban off-duty employees’ access to working areas of the hospital, except for the cafeteria and to attend health-center-sponsored events such as baby showers and retirement parties.

The policy was posted on the company’s intranet sometime in May 2009 and e-mailed to employees May 21, 2009. On May 14, the new access policy was enforced against off-duty employees who were campaigning for the union.

An NLRB administrative law judge found that the ribbon ban, which was limited to immediate patient care areas, was presumptively valid, but found the hospital violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act because the ban was enforced discriminatorily. He found that employees were allowed to wear other union buttons and insignia in all areas of the hospital including immediate patient care areas, as well as wearing the hospital-endorsed ribbon that was nearly identical to the union ribbon on safe staffing. 01.19.2012