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Myrna Harrison worked as a housekeeper for HealthBridge for 22 years. One day, she found out the company had taken away her seniority.
She was not alone. HealthBridge did the same to 48 housekeepers by transferring them to a subcontractor and then bringing them back as "new hires."
That's called "laundering," said the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in HealthBridge Management v. National Labor Relations Board. And no, you can't do that to housekeepers.
A Bad Day
May 17, 2010, was a bad day for the housekeepers. After sending them on a 15-month assignment, the company said they were all fired and would have to reapply at their respective centers as new hires without any seniority they had accrued.
At one center, the housekeepers protested. A HealthBridge administrator threatened to call the police if they didn't fill out a rehire application or leave.
All but one worker applied for rehire. Two were not rehired, including Harrison. Everybody else continued to do the same work they had done before the temporary assignment.
The National Relations Labor Board said the company violated the workers' collective bargaining agreement and the National Labor Relations Act.
"Subvert the Terms"
The Second Circuit agreed, following decisions in the Third, Ninth and Tenth circuits.
"We agree with these decisions of other circuits insofar as they supplement our own case law supporting the Board's legal conclusion that an employer may not use a 'short-duration operational change, including a temporary shutdown,' to subvert the terms of a collective bargaining agreement," the unanimous panel said.