A Pasco County hospital engaged in anti-union activity against its workers, according to a federal agency.
Officials at HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital interrogated employees about their union activity, threatened them with termination or other reprisals and created the impression that workers discussing unionization were under surveillance, according to an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board. The independent federal agency safeguards employees’ rights to organize and protects private sector workers from unfair labor practices.
Workers at the Hudson hospital were also prohibited from communicating with other employees about unions, salaries and other benefits, board officials said.
The hospital agreed to resolve the allegations through a settlement with the federal agency. It requires the hospital to post notices on bulletin boards for at least 60 days stating workers have the right to unionize and that hospital management will not threaten or carry out surveillance on employees. Under federal law, the agency cannot fine companies.
HCA Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest hospital operators, runs about 50 hospitals in Florida and more than 180 nationwide. It reported revenue of $60 billion in 2022.
“HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital respects the rights of our caregivers and, while we reject any allegation of wrongdoing, we agreed to post the flyer informing our colleagues of their rights,” the hospital said in a statement.
The federal agency launched the investigation after a worker filed a charge against the hospital in May. The employee complained about being pressured by hospital officials over three months after giving a presentation to physicians showing their benefits were lower than at surrounding hospitals. The presentation recommended unionization as a possible solution.
“Over the next three months I received multiple calls and was called in for two meetings to discuss my presentation,” the worker reported. “I was told physician unionization was illegal ... questioned about union activity, and received indirect threats for discussing unionization.”
The whistleblower’s identity is redacted in documents released by the agency. The settlement agreement also requires HCA to provide the employee a neutral reference letter that lists only job title and dates of employment.
The National Labor Relations Act gives any worker the right to unionize for the purposes of collective bargaining. However, many physicians work as independent contractors through their own companies and may run afoul of anti-trust laws if they band together to bargain.
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In the past two decades, the National Labor Relations Board has recognized the right of physicians to join independent practice associations affiliated with unions such as the Federation of Physicians and Dentists.
Only about 7% of physicians were represented by a union in 2019, according to data from the American Medical Association.