NLRB orders Nursing Home to reinstate SEIU-UHW members to their jobs, pay them $1.25 million, and bargain with the Union.

The Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers – West (“UHW”) won a stunning victory against Nasaky, Inc., known as Yuba Skilled Nursing Center and Thekkek Health Services when the National Labor Relations Board adopted an Order from an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), putting fifty employees back to work, granting back pay estimated to be at $1.25 million, and requiring the employer to bargain with the Union.

The case arose when Thekkek Health Services (owned by Preema Thekkek and her husband) purchased a nursing home, Yuba Skilled Nursing Center, in May 2011. Thekkek and her husband own eleven skilled nursing facilities, some of which are Union facilities. Yuba Skilled was also a Union nursing home, but when Thekkek purchased it, she informed her employees that they would have to reapply for their own jobs. When they did so, Thekkek only “hired” forty of the ninety existing employees, and brought in fifty from outside the facility. Thinking that she did not have to bargain with the Union, Thekkek not only threw Union employees out, but cut the wages of those who remained, bringing many of the employees down to minimum wage.

The Union filed an unfair labor practice charge, alleging that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to rehire employees for discriminatory and anti-Union reasons and by refusing to recognize and bargain with the Union.

The case came before Administrative Law Judge Gerald Etchingham in May 2012. The ALJ found that much of Ms. Thekkek’s testimony was “either extremely incredible or demonstrably false.” The ALJ found that the employer failed to hire the majority of the employees so that it could avoid the Burns rule, which requires that a successor employer (like Thekkek) must bargain with the Union of its employees when it hires a majority of the Union employees and the bargaining unit remains unchanged. An employer may not refuse to hire Union employees purposefully to avoid this obligation.

Here, the ALJ found there was anti-Union animus because 1) the Union employees’ qualifications who were not hired were greater than those of the outside applicants who were hired; 2) Thekkek used different procedures to hire the two groups; and 3) Thekkek and one of her managers gave false testimony with respect to the hiring process.

The ALJ ordered the employer to do all of the following:

  1. Reinstate all of the Union employees whom it refused to hire
  2. Compensate these workers for any loss of wages and benefits incurred as a result of not being hired;
  3. Bargain with and recognize the Union;
  4. Restore the working conditions (including wages) held previously by the Union employees and reimburse those employees for loss of wages and benefits as a result;
  5. Post a notice detailing the employer’s violations; and
  6. Have Preema Thekkek read a copy of the notice aloud to all of the employees of the facility at the beginning of each shift during paid work time in the presence of an NLRB representative.

Congratulations to the members of SEIU-UHW for this hard-fought win!

By Yuri Gottesman

Legal Developments