Articles and thoughts by Peter Holslin

Judge rules that union grievance against Children’s Hospital’s flu vaccination policy is legit

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January 15, 2010 – 5:44 pm — Peter Holslin

A court battle over a mandatory flu vaccination policy at Rady Children’s Hospital has come to an end.

Well, almost.

Today, U.S. District Judge Michael Anello ruled in favor of the United Nurses of Children’s Hospital (UNOCH), the hospital’s nurses and technicians union, granting its motion to compel arbitration of a grievance the union filed in November against a policy mandating that hospital employees receive H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccinations or wear surgical masks and green name badges.

(Download the court’s ruling here.)

As CityBeat reported this week—following-up on a November blog post—UNOCH says the hospital violated the union’s collective bargaining agreement by unilaterally instituting a policy that, the union says, violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, the federal law protecting the medical privacy of U.S. citizens. The hospital says that the collective bargaining agreement contains no provisions for a vaccination policy, hence it had no obligation to arbitrate the union’s grievance. The judge, however, concluded that the “proper exercise of the Hospital’s management rights is open to interpretation and best determined by an arbitrator.”

The masks and badges will stay on for now, but UNOCH Executive Director Nicole Kennelly said that the union will appeal a mid-December ruling against the union’s request for a stay on the policy.

“We’re very excited about this,” Kennelly told CityBeat. “They think that ‘management rights’ means ‘I can do anything I want to do,’ and they just failed to recognize that there’s a collective bargaining agreement. Fortunately, there are people that do recognize there’s a collective bargaining agreement.”

Ben Metcalf, a hospital spokesman, declined to comment on the ruling. Robert Stone, the hospital’s lawyer, did not respond to a call seeking comment.

The current case deals solely with how the policy was implemented, but questions remain about the legality of the policy itself, which experts say is questionable at best.

This article was posted a few hours ago on CityBeat‘s blog,


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