National Labor Relations Board v. Baptist Hospital, Inc.

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Baptist Hospital, Inc.
LOCATION: Harrah High School

DOCKET NO.: 78-223
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 442 US 773 (1979)
ARGUED: Apr 23, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1979

Fred W. Elarbee, Jr. - for respondent
Laurence Stephen Gold - for intervenor-petitioner Local 150-T, Service Emp
Norton J. Come -

Facts of the case


Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Baptist Hospital, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 23, 1979 in National Labor Relations Board v. Baptist Hospital, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

The case is submitted.

We'll hear arguments next in National Labor Relations Board against Baptist Hospital.

Mr. Come, I think you may proceed when you're ready.

Norton J. Come:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on certiorari to the Sixth Circuit that involves the application of the principles for determining the validity under the National Labor Relations Act of rules barring employee union solicitation and literature distribution in hospitals which were enunciated by this Court's decision in Beth Israel Hospital last term.

The facts are briefly these.

This Baptist Hospital is a nonprofit hospital located in Nashville.

It has 600 patient beds and more than 1,800 employees.

For a number of years prior to October 1974, the hospital maintained the rule which prohibited anyone to solicit patients or visitors while on hospital premises without written approval of the administration.

In August of 1974, Congress enacted the Health Care Amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, bringing nonprofit hospitals under the Act's coverage.

In response to these amendments and to the fact that the union had began a campaign to organize the hospitals employees, the hospital after consulting with its lawyers but not with any doctors issued in October 1974 a revised rule.

The rule provided in pertinent part that no solicitations of any kind including solicitations for union membership will be permitted by employees at anytime including work time and non-work time in any area of the hospital which is accessible to or utilized by the public.

Solicitation was barred in other areas by employees who were supposed to be working or when conducted in such a way as to interfere with employees who are working.

The effect of this rule is to bar employee solicitation and literature distribution in such public areas as the hospital's cafeteria, gift shop, lobbies, public restrooms, entrances and even the parking lot across the street from the hospital and to confine such activity to nonpublic areas which were not -- or where not all the employees were accessible.

The Board upon charges filed by the union concluded that the revised rule violated Section 8 (a) (1) of the Act to the extent that it prohibited employees on soliciting the union during their non-work time in areas of the hospital other than the immediate patient care areas, the Board in short followed its decision in Saint John's Hospital that held while a hospital could lawfully bar employee solicitation or literature distribution in immediate patient care areas such as the patient's rooms, operating rooms, and therapy rooms are barred on that activity in other areas was presumptively invalid absent a showing by the hospital that was necessary to avoid disruption of patient care.

And the Board adopting the findings of the administrative law judge concluded that the hospital had not made that showing of special need here.

The Sixth Circuit in the decision rendered before this Court's decision in Beth Israel denied enforcement of the Board's order.

The Sixth Circuit found that the testimony by the hospital and two doctors as to the necessity for creating and maintaining a tranquil atmosphere throughout the hospital for patients and visitors was sufficient to establish special circumstances that warranted the hospital's restriction of employee solicitation and distribution in these public areas.

We submit that the Court of Appeals erred in not applying the principles that this Court enunciated in the Beth Israel case.

In Beth Israel, the Court held that the Board's general approach of requiring a health care facilities to permit employee solicitation and distribution during nonworking time in nonworking areas where the hospital had not justified the prohibitions as necessary to avoid disruption of healthcare operations was consistent with the Act.

And the Court went on to find that the Board had reasonably applied that principle in concluding that the hospital had overstepped the line in prohibiting employee solicitation in its cafeteria which was used primarily by employees but also by patients and visitors.

Now, this case differs from Beth Israel in that it involves not only the hospital cafeteria but other public areas accessible to patients and their families.

In addition, as I indicated, there was a testimony by the hospital administrator and the two of its doctors in an effort to justify the rule.

Now, let's look at the facts here.

A hospital cafeteria here is essentially similar to that in Beth Israel.

The hospital study of cafeteria usage is not as detailed as it was in Beth Israel.

However, it shows that the employee usage was nonetheless substantial, 68% on weekdays and at least 47% on weekends, at least of those that went through the line.

The percentage of patients in the remaining 32% or 53% of the cafeteria's patrons is not shown by the hospital study but there is testimony in the record to indicate that only a small percentage of the patients used the cafeteria, most of them obtained their meals in their rooms and they can only go down to the cafeteria if they receive special permission to go down there.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Now, Mr. Come, what significance is your reference to special permission?

Of course that's routine in the hospital.