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Decided: May 6, 2016

The Fourth Circuit granted an application for enforcement of an order of the National Labor Relations Board.

This case involved a labor dispute between Bluefield Regional Medical Center and Greenbrier Valley Medical Center. The hospitals and the National Nurses Organizing Committee entered into consent election agreements to elect union representatives for the hospitals. The National Nurses Organizing Committee held the elections and the Union was successful. The hospitals objected to the election results and refused to bargain with the Union on behalf of the registered nurses. The National Labor Relations Board concluded that the regional director had validly exercised authority over the representation proceedings and ordered the hospitals to bargain with the Union. The Board now brings an application for enforcement pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 160(e).

The hospitals raised several arguments in opposition to the application for enforcement. First, the hospitals argued that the regional director lacked authority to act during the period when the Board did not have a quorum thereby rendering his decisions on the elections invalid. The hospitals also contend that the regional director’s appointment is also void for the same reason. The hospitals also argue that the acting general counsel had also lost authority to act at the time of his appointment. Finally, the hospitals lastly argue that the regional director erred in requiring them to present evidence in support of their election objections because another contract precluded this requirement.

First, the Fourth Circuit gave deference to the Board’s interpretation and concluded that the regional director’s authority to act was not abrogated. The Fourth Circuit also determined that the Board, not the general counsel, retained final authority over the appointment of a regional director thus the hospital’s argument fails. The Fourth Circuit found that the hospital’s third argument was a factual dispute and thus was required to rely on the Board’s decision unless unsupported by substantial evidence, therefore the hospital’s third argument failed. Finally, the Fourth Circuit found the hospitals’ sole challenge to the merits of the Board’s final decision to be baseless due to the broad authority Congress has granted the Board.

Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit granted the application for enforcement of an order of the National Labor Relations Board.

Full Opinion

Michael W. Rabb