Update (8:28 a.m. Friday) — Statements added from Cayuga Medical Center and Anne Marshall.
ITHACA — A federal court has ordered that two nurses be reinstated to their jobs at Cayuga Medical Center after being terminated in the fall.
The order comes while the National Labor Relations Board is investigating claims that the hospital fired the two nurses for their union involvement. Cayuga Medical Center says the nurses were terminated for violating protocol when administering a blood transfusion.
U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy granted an injunction Wednesday ordering Cayuga Medical Center to reinstate the two nurses — Anne Marshall and Loran Lamb — pending a final administrative court decision on charges of unfair labor practices by the hospital.
The Tompkins County Workers’ Center has uploaded the full decision here.
Cayuga Medical Center plans to seek a stay of the decision and file an appeal.
Marshall and Lamb have not denied they did not follow the hospital’s blood transfusion policy, but argue that how they performed the transfusion was common practice in the Intensive Care Unit. The National Labor Relations Board is holding a hearing to determine whether they were singled out for termination because they have been vocal organizing for 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
The union has previously filed unfair labor charges against Cayuga Medical Center with the National Labor Relations Board and an administrative law judge found the hospital had engaged in unfair labor practices, including targeting Marshall for discipline and demotion because of her union activities.
Cayuga Medical Center has stated it does not agree with the judge’s findings and filed an appeal.
On Feb. 21, the regional director of the NLRB filed a petition seeking a temporary injunction to reinstate Marshall and Lamb to their positions. The regional director alleges that Cayuga Medical Center has violated the National Labor Relations Act by preventing the union from distributing literature in the workplace and firing Marshall and Lamb for their union activity.
Nurses have been working to form a union since early 2015, citing concerns with staffing shortages.
According to background information provided in the decision, Marshall and Lamb continued to advocate for the union after the previous NLRB decision. Marshall would maintain an information table in the cafeteria, canvassed employees, wore a union button, sent emails about the union and put signs on her car. Lamb also advocated for increased staffing and wore a union button.
The court decision states there was “reasonable cause” to believe Cayuga Medical Center terminated Marshall and Lamb because of their union activity. The decision further states, “The Regional Director has presented evidence that indicates that the action for which Respondent [Cayuga Medical Center] allegedly fired Lamb and Marshall–failing to both be present in the room when a transaction occurred and failing to document the transfusion truthfully–were actions that did not lead to the firing of other employees who engaged in the same behavior.”
Cayuga Medical Center, in a statement Friday, said the hospital strongly disagrees with the injunction. John Turner, vice president for public relations at Cayuga Medical Center, said they will be seeking a stay of the decision and filing an appeal with the Circuit Court of Appeals.
“In the meantime, the case before the National Labor Relations Board remains pending and CMC strongly believes its actions were appropriate based on patient safety and national nursing standards,” the statement said.
Turner said the hospital will honor the injunction “pending us seeking a stay and filing an appeal.”
The court order states that Marshall and Lamb must be reinstated to their former positions within five days of the order. Copies of the order must also be posted at Cayuga Medical Center where notices to employees are typically posted.
Within seven days of the order, Cayuga Medical Center must hold a mandatory meeting, scheduled at a time where the most people can attend, so that a NLRB agent can read the conclusion of the order.
The injunction does not affect the ongoing National Labor Relations Board hearing and does not mean there has been any ruling in that case. The hearing is open to the public and will resume April 3 at the Administration/CFR building at Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport.