Company asks Supreme Court to block NLRB order after lower court rules Obama lacked recess-appointment authority

Now that the D.C. Circuit Court has ruled the Obama administration lacked authority to make so-called recess appointments of new National Labor Relations Board members, a Connecticut nursing home provider is hoping the Supreme Court will block that board’s order returning striking workers to their jobs.

HealthBridge Management Health Care Centers alleged last summer that a collapse in union negotiations led to three of its five affected nursing homes being “sabotaged” by disgruntled workers.

The allegations — supported by local police reports — include claims that union employees intentionally mixed up or removed patient name plates, photos, medical bracelets and dietary advisories as they began their strike, risking harm to patients. Vandalism and larceny were also reported.

Since then, the NLRB has issued an order requiring HealthBridge to reinstate the unionized workforce.

But the D.C. Circuit Court found in Jan. 25 that Obama’s three recess appointments to the board were outside his authority. HealthBridge is the first company to formally ask a Supreme Court justice to block the NLRB order while the full Court reviews the board’s legitimacy.

Lawyers for HealthBridge filed their application Monday morning with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“This is an extraordinary request prompted by extraordinary circumstances,” they wrote. “[T]he Board’s ability to take final action has been called into question by the D.C. Circuit’s recent decision invalidating the President’s recess appointments and recognizing that the Board therefore lacks a quorum to take action.”

Writing for SCOTUSblog on Monday, Lyle Dennison explained that the Court will likely seek input from both the NLRB and the health-care workers union.

“Before Justice Ginsburg or the full Court acts on the application, the views of the NLRB and perhaps of the labor union involved — District 1199 of the New England Health Care Employees Union — are likely to be requested,” Dennison wrote.

“The D.C. Circuit’s ruling from last Friday held all the Board’s cases decided by the recess appointments are void,” wrote Prime Healthcare’s assistant general counsel, Mary Schottmiller, in an email to Reuters. “As such, it would violate the law if we followed the Board’s rulings … regarding union dues and witness statements.”

In a separate but related case, California-based Prime Healthcare said Friday that it would ignore at least two NLRB rulings handed down after the president made the recess appointments that the D.C. Circuit court invalidated.

The ruling, Prime Healthcare assistant general counsel Mary Schottmiller told Reuters in an email, “held all the Board’s cases decided by the recess appointments are void. As such, it would violate the law if we followed the Board’s rulings.”

The company’s position, Schottmiller added, is that the NLRB decisions no longer had any legal force. “Void is void,” she said.

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