National Labor Relations Board v. Health Care Corporation of America

PETITIONER:National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT:Health Care Corporation of America
LOCATION:Kiryas Joel Village School District

DOCKET NO.: 92-1964
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 511 US 571 (1994)
ARGUED: Feb 22, 1994
DECIDED: May 23, 1994

Michael R. Dreeben – on behalf of the Petitioner
Maureen E. Mahoney – on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Health Care Corporation of America

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 23, 1994 in National Labor Relations Board v. Health Care Corporation of America

Harry A. Blackmun:

Justice Kennedy has an opinion to announce.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

I have the opinion to announce for the Court in National Relations Board versus the Healthcare and Retirement Corporation of America, No. 92-1964.

The National Labor Relations Act affords employees the right to organize and the right to engage in collective bargaining free from any employer and insurance.

The Act does not grant those rights to supervisory employees however, and that means that the statutory definition of supervisor becomes essential in determining which employees are covered by the Act.

This case presents the narrow question whether the Board’s rulings were consistent with the statutory definition when it adapted a test for determining if a nurse is a supervisor.

The Act states that any individual who uses independent judgment in performing one of twelve supervisory functions in the interest of the employer is a supervisor.

This case turns on the statutory phrase, in the interest of the employer.

In cases involving nurses, the Board has stated that a nurse’s direction of less skilled employees incidental to the treatment of the patients is not authority exercised in the interest of the employer.

This case involves four nurses employed at the Heartland Nursing Home in Urbana, Ohio.

Heartland, which is the respondent here, had contended that the nurses were supervisors and so were not covered by the Act.

The Board disagreed stating that the focus of the nurse’s activity was on the well-being of the nursing home residents.

The Court of Appeals held that Board’s test inconsistent with the statutory phrase, in the interest of the employer, and ruled in favor of respondents.

We granted certiorari and we now affirm.

The Board has created a full septotomy between acts taken in connection with patient care and acts taken in the interest of the employer.

Patient care is the business of the nursing home.

It follows that attending to the needs of the nursing home patients, who are the employer’s customers, is in the interest of the employer.

That conclusion is supported by our 1980 decision in NLRB versus Yeshiva University and in our 1947 decision in Packard Motor Car Company versus NLRB.

Because the Board’s test is inconsistent with both the statutory language and this Court’s precedents the Board put forth a series of non-statutory arguments but none is persuasive.

The Board argues, for example, that granting organizational rights to nurses, whose supervisory authority concerns patient care, does not threaten the conflicting loyalties that the supervisory exception were designed to avoid.

The Act must be enforced according to its own terms, however, and by creating legal categories inconsistent with its meaning, as the Board has done here, is impermissible.

We hold that the Board’s test for determining if a nurse is a supervisor is inconsistent with the National Labor Relations Act.

Justice Ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion and she has joined therein by Justice Blackmun, Justice Stevens, and Justice Souter.