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Civil Service Employees Ass'n, Inc., Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Ichabod Crane Central School Dist. CSEA Unit v. New York State Public Employment, (N.Y.A.D. 3 Dept.)

January 31, 2003: Labor and Employment - Fragmenting nurses from bargaining unit of school district's noninstructional personnel was proper. The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) did not act arbitrarily in fragmenting all registered nurses from the bargaining unit comprising a school district's noninstructional personnel. The nurses were licensed health care professionals, and who had direct and regular personal contacts with students and their health issues. The district's other noninstructional personnel, such as bus drivers, mechanics, teachers' aides, custodians, and cooks, had no comparable student contacts.

"[W]e conclude that nurses are not properly placed in units of nonprofessional or noninstructional employees ... nurses are required to have a college education, meet certification and licensing requirements, participate in continuing professional education and are subject to changing professional requirements... They have daily, direct contact with students, teachers, administrators, parents and other health care professionals. Nurses clearly share an occupational identity and professional interests."

In PERB's view, "the duties of nurses establish 'an arguable unique community of interest and/or conflict of interest with other, [nonprofessional], employees ... who may not have any similar duties.' " PERB cautioned that "nothing in this case is intended to hold or suggest that we are abandoning our fragmentation standard generally." Nevertheless, PERB also noted that it was "mindful... that any fragmentation ordered in this case cannot be confined logically to [nurses] and will lead inexorably to similar requests by any other employees who can reasonably claim some unique community of interest."

As a result, it will be easier for school nurses, to form their own separate bargaining unit by alleging that they comprise a cohesive group with a community of interest substantially different from that of all other employees.

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