442 U.S. 773 (1979), 78-223, National Labor Relations Board v. Baptist Hospital, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 78-223
Citation:442 U.S. 773, 99 S.Ct. 2598, 61 L.Ed.2d 251
Party Name:National Labor Relations Board v. Baptist Hospital, Inc.
Case Date:June 20, 1979
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 773

442 U.S. 773 (1979)

99 S.Ct. 2598, 61 L.Ed.2d 251

National Labor Relations Board

v.

Baptist Hospital, Inc.

No. 78-223

United States Supreme Court

June 20, 1979

Argued April 23, 1979

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR TE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Intervenor labor union filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board with respect to respondent hospital's rule prohibiting solicitation by its employees at all times "in any area of the Hospital which is accessible to or utilized by the public," including the lobbies, gift shop, cafeteria, and entrances on the first floor, as well as corridors, sitting rooms, and public restrooms on the other floors. In justification of the rule, respondent offered extensive evidence, through the testimony of doctors and hospital officials, as to the need for the rule to prevent interference with patients' treatment and convalescence, especially as applicable in the corridors and sitting rooms adjoining or accessible to the patients' rooms on the upper floors of the hospital. After applying its presumption that the no-solicitation rule was invalid except in "immediate patient care areas," the NLRB concluded that respondent had failed to meet the burden placed upon it by such presumption, found that there was no demonstrated likelihood that solicitation outside of "immediate patient care areas" would disrupt patient care or disturb patients, and, accordingly, issued an order prohibiting respondent from applying the no-solicitation rule in any area of the hospital other than "immediate patient care areas." The Court of Appeals denied enforcement of the order, holding that respondent had presented sufficient evidence of the ill effects of solicitation on patient care to justify the broad prohibition of solicitation.

Held:

1. Given the definition of "immediate patient care areas" as areas "such as patients' rooms, operating rooms, and places where patients receive treatment," the NLRB's order prevents respondent from applying its no-solicitation rule not only to its lobbies, cafeteria, and gift shop but also to the corridors and sitting rooms that adjoin or are accessible to patients' rooms and operating and treatment rooms. Pp. 778-781.

2. The Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the NLRB lacked substantial evidence in the record to support its order forbidding any prohibition of solicitation in the corridors and sitting rooms on floors of

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the hospital having either patients' rooms or operating and therapy rooms. Nothing in the evidence provided any basis, with respect to those areas, for doubting the accuracy of the doctors' testimony for respondent that union solicitation in the presence or within the hearing of patients may have adverse effects on their recovery. Pp. 784-786.

3. There was, however, substantial evidence in the record to support t.he NLRB's conclusion that respondent had not justified the prohibition of union solicitation in the cafeteria, gift shop, and lobbies on the first floor of the hospital. While there was no evidence directly contradicting the expert testimony offered by respondent as to the importance of a tranquil hospital atmosphere to successful patient care, nevertheless, when viewed as a whole, the evidence presented by respondent may be regarded fairly as insufficient to rebut the NLRB's presumption that the needs of essential patient care do not require the banning of all solicitation in such areas. Pp. 786-787.

4. This Court does not agree with the apparent view of the Court of Appeals that the NLRB's presumption is irrational in all respects, since experience in such cases as Beth Israel Hospital v. NLRB, 437 U.S. 483, and the present one makes clear that solicitation in at least some of the public areas of hospitals often will not adversely affect patient care or disturb patients. But the evidence in this case and other similar cases does cast serious doubt on a presumption as to hospitals so sweeping that it embraces solicitation in the corridors and sitting rooms on floors occupied by patients. Pp. 787-790.

576 F.2d 107, affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 791. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 791. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which WHITE and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 793.

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POWELL, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question of the validity of an order of the National Labor Relations Board (Board) prohibiting respondent, Baptist Hospital (Hospital), from enforcing any rule against solicitation by employees "on behalf of any labor organization during their nonworking time in any area of its hospital other than immediate patient care areas."

I

The Hospital is a nonprofit general hospital with 600 beds and 1,800 employees. For several years prior to 1974, the Hospital enforced a rule against solicitation anywhere on its premises.1 The intervenor, Local 150-T, Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO (Union), in August, 1974, began a campaign to organize the Hospital's employees. The Hospital, at least partly in response to this organizational activity, promulgated a new rule prohibiting solicitation by employees at all times "in any area of the Hospital which is accessible to or utilized by the public." These areas include the lobbies, gift shop, cafeteria, and entrances on the first

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floor of the hospital as well as the corridors, sitting rooms, and public restrooms on the other floors. In parts of the Hospital not open to patients and their visitors, employee solicitation is allowed in work areas on nonwork time, and distributions are allowed in nonwork areas on nonwork time.2

The Union filed charges with the Board, which thereupon issued a complaint against the Hospital. The complaint focused primarily on the Hospital's no-solicitation rule, charging that the broad proscriptions contained in the rule violated § 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (Act), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1).3 After [99 S.Ct. 2601] hearing testimonial

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evidence introduced by both the Hospital and the General Counsel for the Board, the Administrative Law Judge concluded that the Hospital's no-solicitation rule was invalid. Baptist Hospital, Inc., 223 N.L.R.B. 344, 347 (1976). The Board agreed, and issued an order that the Hospital cease and desist from

[p]romulgating, maintaining in effect, enforcing, or applying any rule or regulation prohibiting its employees from soliciting on behalf of any labor organization during their nonworking time in any area of its hospital other than immediate patient care areas.

Id. at 346.4

The Board sought enforcement of its order by the Court of Appeals. After reviewing the evidence of record before the Board, the court concluded that the Hospital had presented evidence of the ill effects of solicitation on patient care that justified the broad prohibition of solicitation.5 The court accordingly denied enforcement of the Board's order. 576 F.2d 107 (CA6 1978). We granted the Board's petition for certiorari, 439 U.S. 1065 (1979), and now affirm in part and vacate and remand in part.

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II

The Board, in implementing the 1974 extension of the Act to nonprofit health care institutions,6 has modified its general rule regarding the validity of employer regulations of solicitation. Because its usual presumption that rules against solicitation on nonwork time are invalid7 gives too little weight to the need to avoid disruption of patient care and disturbance of patients in the hospital setting, the Board has indicated that it will not regard as presumptively invalid proscriptions on solicitation in immediate patient care areas.8 In Beth Israel Hospital v. NLRB, 437 U.S. 483 (1978), [99 S.Ct. 2602] the Court considered the general acceptability of the use of this presumption by the Board.

At issue in Beth Israel Hospital was that hospital's rule against solicitation in its cafeteria and coffee shop. The Court, in the course of affirming a decision of the Board that struck down the no-solicitation rule, described the Board's general approach to such rules.

The Board concluded that prohibiting solicitation in

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[immediate patient care areas] was justified and required striking the balance against employees' interests in organizational activity. The Board determined, however, that the balance should be struck against the prohibition in areas other than immediate patient care areas such as lounges and cafeterias absent a showing that disruption to patient care would necessarily result if solicitation and distribution were permitted in those areas.

Id. at 495. The Court found no merit in Beth Israel's argument that the Board's use of such a presumption was inconsistent with the legislative intent underlying extension of the Act to nonprofit health care institutions. The Congress has committed to the Board the task of striking the appropriate balance among the interests of hospital employees, patients, and employers, a role familiar to the Board in other contexts. Beth Israel Hospital v. NLRB, supra at 496-497, 500-501; Hudgens v. NLRB, 424 U.S. 507, 521-523 (1976). And the balance struck by the Board -- solicitation on nonwork time may be prohibited only where necessary to avoid disruption of patient care or disturbance of patients -- is not inconsistent with the Act. Beth Israel Hospital v. NLRB, supra at 497-500. Accordingly, the Court held

that the Board's general...

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