Beverly Enterprises executives last week celebrated a major-yet not total-legal victory after a federal appeals court refused to enforce an order levied against the nursing home chain by the National Labor Relations Board.
In its Feb. 28 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a nationwide cease-and-desist order instructing Beverly not to engage in further harassment of any employees engaged in union organizing.
Although the court found evidence that harassment of union organizers occurred at 33 of Beverly's nursing facilities, the incidents didn't warrant companywide punishment of all of Beverly's nursing homes. Beverly now operates 801 homes.
The appeals court found no evidence of a corporate policy of harassment.
"Beverly is, to be sure, opposed to the unionization of its employees, but it has the right to take that position," Judge Ralph Winter Jr. wrote in the court's decision. "The order in question thus must be justified, if at all, by the nature of Beverly's past conduct."
Last year, the NLRB upheld an administrative law judge's decision that found Beverly guilty of nearly 100 labor law violations involving 33 nursing facilities in 12 states from 1986 to 1988 (Feb. 15, 1993, p. 24).
The Service Employees International Union and several former employees filed more than 20 complaints against Beverly, accusing the company of engaging in illegal threats, interrogations and surveillance, as well as unfair discipline and dismissals of employees involved in union organization activities.
Despite the initial rulings, no fines or penalties were levied against the chain.
In a second part of its ruling, the court refused to give union executives access to non-public financial information about one of Beverly's nursing homes in Connecticut. However, the court did uphold 16 of 19 unfair labor practice findings that were appealed by Beverly immediately after the NLRB's ruling.
Beverly executives said they were very pleased by the court's ruling and have no plans to appeal."We feel vindicated by the court's decision," Beverly Chairman David Banks said.
Dave Snapp, an SEIU spokesman, said the union is disappointed with the ruling and is considering appealing portions of the decision.