Supreme Court rules on nurses’ supervisory status
The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 that federal law prohibits anyone who oversees other employees from joining unions. The case involves Kentucky River Community Care, a psychiatric-care provider in Pippa Passes, Ky., that the National Labor Relations Board ordered to negotiate with a union formed by nurses.
In 1999, Kentucky River appealed the NLRB order to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the nurses were ineligible to unionize because they had supervisory duties. The 6th Circuit agreed with Kentucky River that the nurses’ duties did, in fact, make them supervisors.
The NLRB subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the 6th Circuit’s ruling. NLRB officials could not be reached for comment before deadline, and the American Nurses Association did not immediately return calls.
The NLRB had argued that nurses aren’t supervisors simply because they use ordinary professional or technical judgment to direct less-skilled workers. All nine justices agreed that employers must demonstrate that employees are supervisors, but they split on the issue of whether the NLRB had misinterpreted labor law. [5/29/01]