Nursing home owner must face NLRB case despite bankruptcy protections

A federal agency can proceed litigating allegations of unfair labor practices against the operator of several Connecticut nursing homes that declared bankruptcy in 2013.

The ruling from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals allows the National Labor Relations Board to move against 710 Long Ridge Road Operating Company II LLC, which has been in and out of bankruptcy and other courts for more than a decade. Court documents emphasize the “complex” nature of the case, but the ruling from a three-judge panel on the Circuit Court found the question “before [them] simple” before noting that the preliminary injunction filed against the NLRB was incorrect. That leaves the agency free to pursue its case against the owner, despite the bankruptcy proceedings. 

In June 2012, HealthBridge Management LLC, which managed several nursing homes owned by 710 Long Ridge Road,  announced that it had reached an impasse with unions representing workers at five nursing homes that operated under separate but similar collective bargaining agreements, according to court documents and local reporting. The unions represented approximately 700 employees at Long Ridge of Stamford, Newington Health Care Center, Westport Health Care Center, West River Health Care Center, and Danbury Health Care Center. The agreements were in effect from Dec. 31, 2004, to March 16, 2011. 

The management company then made its “Last, Best, and Final” offer on June 17, 2012, which was rejected by the union as being “unfair to the employees,” according to the Westchester & Fairfield County Business Journals. Employees went on strike on July 3, 2012, after which the company hired replacement workers, court documents noted. 

In February 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled against the company that wanted to delay a lower court ruling ordering it to reinstate the striking workers. The case took another twist about a year later when HealthBridge announced that the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark confirmed “with limited modifications” the bankruptcy reorganization plan. The company’s press release noted that the Bankruptcy Court “overruled the objection of The New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 (SEIU, District 1199) and the National Labor Relations Board.”

The 3rd Circuit’s ruling on Thursday noted that the NLRB filed a “timely appeal” of the Bankruptcy Court’s decision, and the agency moved ahead with its administrative proceedings while the bankruptcy also chugged along. The appeal was filed with the US District Court for the District of New Jersey and argued that the Bankruptcy Court lacked the jurisdiction to call for the preliminary injunction halting the agency’s own work “because ordinary bankruptcy jurisdiction does not “allow [ ] interference with ongoing unfair labor practice cases,” according to court documents. The agency also argued that it is attempting to “fix” a claim, with which the Appeals  Court agreed. 

“Fixing a claim is exactly what the NLRB is attempting to do in the administrative proceeding,” the judges wrote, adding that the District Court “legally erred” in deciding against the agency. 

Neither attorneys for 710 Long Ridge Road Operating Company II LLC, nor the NLRB returned requests for comment by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Friday

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