Three NLRB Cases Define 'Supervisor' Under Union Law

October 3, 2006 ( - The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that employees designated permanently as shift supervisors would not be covered by a federal law preserving the right to union representation because they are supervisory staff.

The NLRB said in a web statement that the holding came in a case involving health care “charge nurses,”  Oakwood Healthcare, Inc . However, the board also ruled that those who work supervisory shifts only on a rotating basis are not exempt from union coverage. The board issued decisions on three related cases.

In ruling that the permanent charge nurses weren’t covered by the right to unionize law, the board found that the charge nurses at Oakwood, an acute care facility in Michigan, assigned nursing personnel to the specific patients for whom they would care during their shift.   The board found that such assignments consisted of giving “significant overall duties” to an employee. Board members also found that the employer had shown that its charge nurses exercised independent judgment in making such assignments.

Board members also detailed their definition of the “responsibly to direct” standard used in classifying supervisors from regular workers covered by the labor law. The board said:   “If a person on the shop floor has men under him and if that person decides what job shall be undertaken next or who shall do it, that person is a supervisor, provided that the direction is both ‘responsible’ . . . and carried out with independent judgment.”  

The board held that the element of “responsible” direction involved a finding of accountability, so that it must be shown that the “employer delegated to the putative supervisor the authority to direct the work and the authority to take corrective action, if necessary” and that “there is a prospect of adverse consequences for the putative supervisor” arising from his/her direction of other employees.

The board also released a related decision in a case involving  Golden Crest Healthcare Center a Minnesota health care facility in which it asserted that charge nurses were not supervisors because they did not have the requisite legal authority over nursing assistants. The charge nurses lacked the authority to “assign” other employees, the NLRB said. The company did not demonstrate, the board said, the charge nurses possessed the authority to require other employees to stay past the end of their shifts, to come in from off-duty status, or to shift section assignments.  


Finally, the board issued a decision in a third related case dealing with the classification of supervisors,  Croft Metals, Inc.,   In that ruling, the board found that the lead persons at a manufacturing facility did not exercise supervisory authority under the union law.