Feds Aim To End Hospital Noncompete For Part-Time Docs

The Mount Sinai Health System in New York City is under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for allegedly violating the labor rights of part-time physicians. The NLRB’s complaint, filed on June 18, 2024, accuses Mount Sinai of interfering with employees’ rights through no-poaching and confidentiality clauses in employment contracts. These clauses prevent part-time physicians from recruiting or soliciting other employees of the health system for a year after termination. The NLRB argues that this practice violates the National Labor Relations Act.

The alleged unfair labor practices by Mount Sinai could affect commerce, as the National Labor Relations Act bans employers from burdening or obstructing commerce or the free flow of commerce. The health system has not responded to requests for comment.

This case comes after a landmark decision by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in April 2024, which aimed to ban noncompete agreements nationwide. The FTC’s decision was made to protect workers and promote freedom to pursue new job opportunities, start businesses, or bring new ideas to market. However, business groups and agencies have since challenged the FTC’s ban, including the US Chamber of Commerce, arguing that noncompete agreements are essential for companies to protect trade secrets, recruitment investments, and confidential information.

An anonymous physician first alerted the NLRB to the contract language in November 2023. The NLRB seeks an order requiring Mount Sinai to rescind the contract language, stop any actions against current or former employees to enforce the provisions, and make whole any employees who suffered financial losses related to the contract terms.

The allegation against Mount Sinai is one of many unfair labor practice cases filed with the NLRB. In the first 6 months of fiscal year 2024, unfair labor practice charges filed across the NLRB’s field offices increased 7%. The NLRB has been cracking down on anticompetitive labor practices and confidentiality provisions that prevent employees from speaking out.

NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo emphasized that the NLRB is committed to an interagency approach to restrictions on the exercise of employee rights, including limits to workers’ job mobility, information sharing, and referrals to other agencies. Mount Sinai Health System must respond to the NLRB’s complaint by July 16, and an administrative law judge is scheduled to hear the case on September 24. The case highlights ongoing debates about the balance between employer protection and employee rights in the workplace.

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