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Orlando Health under investigation by national labor board

wftv.com 9, 2/5/14

Nurses who have been telling Channel 9 for months that Orlando Health officials have been pulling them away from their patients in an attempt to stop their efforts to form a union said they have also been threatened by their bosses.

WFTV was there when the nurses started their union efforts last summer after the hospital announced it would be changing their pay so they would make less money when working odd shifts.

Channel 9's Karla Ray found out Orlando Health will now have to face a judge after allegedly breaking national labor laws.

Eyewitness News first reported when the hospital system was facing complaints filed with the National Labor Relations Board several months ago.  Now, the board is demanding a response to 10 different instances by next week.

Documents obtained only by Channel 9 showed the NLRB has charged Orlando Health administrators with potentially violating federal law 10 times.

Employees complained they were treated unfairly because of an effort to form a union.

“These are federal laws. Nobody's above the law,” said one employee.

Employees told national investigators they were discriminatorily kicked out of Dr. Phillips Hospital and South Seminole Hospital in Longwood for handing out union information while off work.

And at Winnie Palmer Hospital, the documents showed that employees were put under surveillance and threatened.  That is also where the former CEO allegedly tracked down a union leader to confront one on one.

Nurse Sarah Collins said Sherrie Sitarik cornered her after a pay meeting in August, and that Sitarik told Collins she could see her as a leader within the hospital system.

Less than a month later, Sitarik resigned.

“For it to be our first encounter actually speaking face to face and for her to say these things to me, it was definitely out of the ordinary,” said Collins.

Administrators insist they have done nothing wrong and the threat of federal sanctions is par for the course.

“It's a common tactic unions use straight out of their playbook to try to keep employers off guard,” said hospital spokeswoman Kena Lewis.

A hearing date is still to be determined.

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