August 1999 Bulletin

Who can join bargaining unit

Only employees who are not supervisors or managers ("non-supervisory employees") may form a collective bargaining unit to negotiate with their employees under the labor laws.

Who is not eligible Under antitrust law, physicians who are not in an employment relationship (e.g. self-employed physicians) are viewed as competitors and therefore may not agree on the prices they charge for services.

Supervisory vs. nonsupervisory On the question of whether a physician is in a supervisory or nonsupervisory position, there is no clear guidance from the courts or the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); it depends on the facts in each case. Some courts have found that all physicians in a proposed bargaining unit were supervisory because their decisions direct other members of the health care team, such as nurses, technicians and residents. In the past two years, the NLRB has recognized three physician bargaining units; department heads were not included as members of the unit.

Group practices Physicians in group practices who have an ownership interest in that practice are not considered employees of the practice. Physicians who do not have an ownership interest are considered employees of the group practice.

Residents The current view of the NLRB is that resident physicians are students, not employees.

Source: American Medical Association

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