NLRB acts on former CPH nurse's case

Ray Southwell gestures during an interview in October 2010.

The National Labor Relations Board is investigating and has requested a hearing based on the allegations of unfair labor practices filed by a former Central Peninsula Hospital nurse who was fired from his point in October of 2010.

Anne Pomerantz, acting regional director of the NLRB for Region 19, said the independent federal regulatory agency has found some merit in Ray Southwell’s claims against CPH.

The NLRB filed on Feb. 24 an administrative complaint regarding Southwell’s firing and the reason for it and has proceeded to prosecute the complaint by setting a hearing for May 15 in Soldotna to be heard by an administrative law judge.

“We are alleging the action that was taken against him in disciplining him and ultimately discharging him was done on an illegal basis,” Pomerantz said. “We are saying the reason underpinning it was unlawful.”

CPH Chief Executive Officer Rick Davis declined to comment on the case.

The NLRB’s cases stem from charges originally brought forward by Southwell detailing the reasons he said he was given for his termination in 2010. Specifically, one of the two charges relates to Southwell’s criticism of CPH’s management style after the November 2008 hospital shooting by Joseph Marchetti, who had been fired from his job at the hospital.

Southwell, who at the time served as the nurses’ union vice president and grievance officer said he used words to the effect that the hospital’s “environment is ripe for another shooting.”

“I felt that based on what had happened that I needed to splash this out there to the hospital board, so that they would do an investigation that they would find out what is going on because I knew there were many other employees that were frustrated, angry and frightened based on the management style,” he said.

Southwell said his criticism centered around hospital management “bullying,” which he felt was a root cause in the 2008 shooting and for other employees’ workplace frustrations. He said he personally witnessed and experienced similar management bullying.

According to information from the NLRB, Southwell posted comments on the Peninsula Clarion website and wrote Letters to the Editor criticizing CPH and its working conditions for which he was later reprimanded.

Southwell was suspended from his post on July 28, 2010. Then on Oct. 12, 2010, he posted comments on the Clarion’s website and his personal Facebook page regarding a presentation to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly regarding working conditions and management style at CPH. He was then fired on Oct. 18, 2010 according to records.

Previously, Southwell said he had offered his resignation to former CPH CEO Ryan Smith, who he alleged would not accept it, during a personal meeting. Southwell said Smith asked him to retract statements he made about the hospital, but Southwell refused.

Southwell said he felt his actions would ultimately lead to changes in management style, but the things he saw as a problem persisted. Southwell also alleged Smith later labeled him a “threat” to the hospital because of his comments.

Pomerantz said a second NLRB charge centers around CPH rules relating to the behavior of employees, their conduct and outside activity that might interfere or conflict with hospital operations.

“Both of those rules are alleged as overly broad and interfering with employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity,” Pomerantz said.

After the May 15 hearing, the judge will issue a decision and file a recommended order that will then go to the NLRB board in Washington, D.C. Any appeals from the decision would go the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“(The judge) could agree with all that we have alleged in the complaint, he could agree with none of it, he could split it down the middle ... who knows how it’ll come out,” Pomerantz said.

The NLRB will be seeking to remedy the situation through a “make whole solution,” Pomerantz said.

“We would be looking for rescission of the unlawful rules and we would be looking for obviously rescission of the discipline we claim is unlawful … and reinstatement,” she said. 

Southwell said his reason for filing the charges with the NLRB and for wanting his job back relate to his desire for a “behavior change” at the hospital.

“If we don’t change the behavior, it is going to harm the employees,” he said. “What I want to accomplish is a behavior change because you can change the management, but it doesn’t change the behavior and I think it has trickled down through all of the departments.”

Southwell said he doesn’t expect any money or back pay from the case and would consider taking his job back if offered, but personal issues might factor into that decision.

“One, I’ll admit, it is a selfish reason, but I want to walk in that building as an employee again and to show that I did nothing wrong,” he said. “I want to show other employees that they too can have the courage to stand up for what’s right.”

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