An Unfair Labor Practice charge was filed last summer on behalf of Laurie Heppel, a strong union leader and bargaining chair at PeaceHealth. Laurie was pulled into a meeting with Management and Human Resources because they said they wanted to talk with her about an investigation. Management would not allow her to bring a Steward because they said there was not going to be discipline, just some coaching. At the end of this meeting the Human Resources representative declared the investigation closed and gave Laurie some materials to read. Then Human Resources told Heppel not to speak to anyone about this meeting and told her that if she did she would be disciplined, including up to termination. This was effectively management putting a gag order on the worker in violation of her rights.
That is when OFNHP filed a Unfair Labor Practice Charge (ULP) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This Region of the NLRB reviewed the complaint we filed along with affidavits and documented evidence to support the OFNHP complaint. Our claim was that when an investigation is closed, union members have the right to discuss this. You cannot corrupt an investigation once it's closed, so there is no practical or defensible reason to put a gag order on a worker. Part of our union rights are being able to share the process with our coworkers, strengthening the unit through shared knowledge, experience, and information. Union members simply do not live with gag orders from Management or HR.
The Regional Director of the NLRB reviewed the case put forward by the local NLRB Agent and ended up sending it to the Advice Council of the NLRB in Washington D.C. for further review, meaning the case was escalated to the highest federal level.
A council of Lawyers in Washington D.C. reviewed the evidence presented by both sides, along with position statements. Following this PeaceHealth was charged with a violation of the rights of Laurie Heppel for the attempted gag order.
The remedy for this violation is that PeaceHealth is required to post the violations for 60 days in conspicuous places so that their employees have the ability to find out. The Employer must email the poster that lists the violations to all OFNHP members working at Riverbend. PeaceHealth must also provide the Compliance Officer for the NLRB the emails that were sent.
This ruling only came after the hard fight of the union and its members, who spoke out to stop this injustice from being allowed to stand. This victory sends a message to PeaceHealth, and employers around the country, that they can not violate the free speech rights of their employees. Our speech is a critical piece of our union rights, and so impending on our rights to share our experiences with others is a violation of our rights to organize.