Virginia Mason Medical Center has compelled nurses who did not get their flu shots to wear masks. The Washington State Nurses Association union has filed a complaint with regard to this matter with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
This complaint has been the latest in a series of disputes between the hospital, its nurses and the union. The NLRB has termed the latest requirement as an unfair labor practice.
A hearing in this matter has been set for June 8 before an NLRB administrative-law judge.
In late 2004 nurses were compelled to be vaccinated against flu or face job loss. Those unable to take the shots either for medical or religious reasons, had to take medication in order to help prevent the flu or wear masks.
However in January 2005, a federal judge upheld an arbitrator's ruling that the hospital didn't have the authority to require the union nurses to get shots. The hospital has appealed that ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
According to the NLRB, the mask requirement had to be bargained with the union considering the fact that it was a condition of employment.
Charleen Tachibana, Virginia Mason's chief nursing officer and senior vice president said that only a few staff members had been asked to wear masks because 98 percent have had flu shots.