HR Management & Compliance

Unions: NLRB Broadens Definition of “Supervisor”

In a ruling that will have huge repercussions regarding union organizing, the National Labor Relations Board has set broader guidelines for determining whether an individual is a “supervisor” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Supervisors aren’t entitled to NLRA protection, and they may not vote in a union election. Under the NLRA, “supervisors” are individuals who possess authority over subordinates in one or more of twelve categories, including those relating to assignment, responsible direction, and the use of independent judgment.


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The Board voted 3-2 that permanent charge nurses employed by the Oakwood Heritage Hospital in Michigan exercised supervisory authority because they, as a regular part of their duties, assigned nursing personnel to the specific patients for whom they would care during their shift. The Board decided that such assignments, which consisted of giving “significant overall duties” to an employee, met the statutory definition of “assign” under the NLRA.

According to the Board, “assignment” is the act of “designating an employee to a place (such as a location, department, or wing), appointing an individual to a time (such as a shift or overtime period), or giving significant overall duties, i.e. tasks, to an employee.” The term also refers to the “designation of significant overall duties to an employee, not to the . . . instruction that the employee perform a discrete task.” The Board also provided definitions for “responsibly to direct” and “independent judgment.”

We’ll have full details on this development in an upcoming issue of the California Employer Advisor.


Additional Resources:

Oakwood Healthcare, Inc., 348 NLRB No. 37, 2006

National Labor Relations Board Press Release