Requiring practices to post union rights delayed

Judicial rulings mean the NLRB will not enforce the mandate.

By — Posted May 8, 2012

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Medical practices will not have to post an employee notice about rights to bargain as a group or join a union, according to a statement issued April 17 by the National Labor Relations Board.

The requirement, which had a revised deadline of April 30, applied to most private-sector employers, including medical practices with annual income or expenses of at least $250,000. Failure to post the notice would have been considered an unfair labor practice.

Efforts to get businesses to comply were put on hold after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an injunction blocking the regulation. Previously, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had declared March 2 that the agency could issue the rule but questioned the legality of enforcement mechanisms. Both rulings were in response to a lawsuit filed by the National Assn. of Manufacturers and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

The federal District Court of the District of South Carolina ruled April 13 that the agency lacked authority to promulgate the rule after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit challenging the situation.

The agency intends to appeal these rulings. The regulation will not take effect until the legal issues are sorted out.

“We continue to believe that requiring employers to post this notice is well with the board’s authority and that it provides a genuine service to employees who may not otherwise know their rights under our law,” said NLRB Chair Mark Gaston Pearce.

The original rule required employers to post a notice in a conspicuous spot in the workplace or on a company website informing staffers that they have the right to work together to make wages and working conditions better. Employees may become members of a union and bargain collectively but also have the right not to take part. The poster includes examples of illegal conduct and information about contacting the NLRB to report a problem.

The original deadline was Nov. 14, 2011, but was moved back several times because of legal challenges.

Fewer health care workers have become union members in recent years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 957,000 health care practitioners and technicians, a category that includes physicians, nurses and dentists, were union members in 2010, but only 938,000 were signed on in 2011. A total of 268,000 support workers in medical settings were union members in 2010. The number was unchanged for 2011.

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