A supervisor at a dental association was fired after she refused to divulge the names of employees who had anonymously signed a petition protesting top management. The Board found the discharge was unlawful because she had rightfully refused to violate federal labor law by punishing concerted activity. In a settlement, the supervisor and another former employee waived reinstatement in exchange for $900,000 in lost wages and benefits.
Eleven employees of the Texas Dental Association, which represents more than 7,000 dentists in the state, signed a petition that complained about unfair treatment by top management at the Austin headquarters. The employees signed the petition using aliases and delivered it to association delegates at an annual meeting.
The delegates declined to investigate, and, after the meeting, the executive director of the association set about trying to learn who had written the petition. A forensic examination of office equipment found a fragment of the petition on the computer of employee Nathan C., who was immediately fired. The association’s general manager, Barbara L., was also fired after she refused to divulge the names of others involved.
Barbara and Nathan filed charges with the Ft. Worth regional office of the NLRB, which investigated and issued a complaint alleging that both firings were unlawful because they were predicated on protected concerted activity.
The case was heard by an NLRB Administrative Law Judge, who ruled that both terminations were illegal. The ruling was upheld by the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, and was then appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
While the case was pending, however, the parties reached a settlement under which both employees waived reinstatement, but were awarded $900,000 in payment for lost wages and benefits.