Legal

Legal Briefing: The Housekeeper, The Cashier and Concerted Activity

By

Sep. 1, 2014

Michael Dela Paz, while working as a housekeeper for hospital employer Dignity Health in Nevada, was suspended after Habiba Araru, a cafeteria cashier, complained that Dela Paz had threatened to “take care of” her.

Dela Paz was instructed not to contact employees during his suspension, and after he was reinstated was warned not to retaliate against Araru. Despite management’s instructions, Dela Paz asked co-workers to sign documents attesting to his good character and Araru’s sullenness or disrespect for employees. When Dela Paz’s petition stimulated support from employees because other workers were unhappy with Araru, Dela Paz took the petition signed by employees to a supervisor. Dela Paz was terminated for violating the instruction not to retaliate against Araru.

The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint alleging that Dignity Health fired Dela Paz for engaging in protected concerted activity in violation of federal law, and after a hearing the NLRB agreed that Dela Paz was fired illegally because he had engaged in concerted activities. Other employees had problems with Araru, and therefore Dela Paz’s conduct was “unquestionably concerted.” Dignity Health, 360 N.L.R.B. No. 126 (June 12, 2014).

IMPACT: Employee complaints about another co-worker, when brought on behalf of other employees, can be considered protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

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