A plastic surgery center in Dallas has agreed to pay more than $300,000 to settle charges that it unlawfully fired two employees and then sued one of them in state court after she sought help from the NLRB's Fort Worth office.
The center, Advanced Facial Plastic Surgery Center, PA, also agreed to drop the state lawsuit, to rescind a rule prohibiting wage discussions by employees, and to cease paying its attorney to unlawfully and coercively represent its employees. The National Labor Relations Board issued an order on May 29, 2013 approving the terms of the formal settlement.
The case began in December 2010, when a medical technologist at the center was fired for discussing bonuses with other employees. Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees are guaranteed the right to discuss wages and other terms and conditions of employment with co-workers. The technologist filed a charge with the NLRB office in Fort Worth and, following an investigation, the Regional Director issued a complaint and scheduled a trial before an Administrative Law Judge.
The plastic surgery center then fired another employee, a surgical consultant, after she defended her co-workers in a meeting and engaged in other protected concerted activity. That employee filed a charge with the Fort Worth office, which issued a second complaint and consolidated the two cases.
Throughout the NLRB investigations, the center's attorney claimed to represent center employees, requiring all contact with the employees to go through his office. In her charge, the surgical consultant alleged she had been coerced into being represented by the company attorney.
After the surgical consultant filed NLRB charges, the company attorney filed a lawsuit in state court against her, alleging she had been negligent and breached certain fiduciary duties. The NLRB's investigation and analysis determined that the lawsuit was baseless in fact, unsupported in the law, and retaliatory.
The parties presented their cases to Associate Chief Administrative Law Judge Gerald M. Etchingham during a three-day trial in late October 2012. Before a decision issued, the Company, the discharged employees, and Counsel for the Acting General Counsel entered into a settlement agreement that was approved by Judge Etchingham and forwarded to the Board for final approval.
The $315,000 settlement covers lost wages and benefits for the employees, who waived their right to reinstatement to their former positions, as well as attorneys' fees incurred in defending the retaliatory lawsuit in state court. The agreement also called for the Company to withdraw the state court lawsuit, terminate the representation of employees by its attorney, and post, read, and mail a Notice informing current and former employees of their rights.