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Professionals, like other employees, may be exempted from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act's exclusion for "supervisors" who use independent judgment in overseeing other employees in the interest of the employer, or under the judicially implied exclusion for "managerial employees" who are involved in developing and enforcing employer policy. Both exemptions grow out of the same concern: That an employer is entitled to the undivided loyalty of its representatives.
A union filed a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board seeking certification as a bargaining agent for the full-time faculty members of certain schools of a private university. The university opposed the petition on the ground that all of its faculty members were managerial or supervisory personnel, and hence were not "employees" within the coverage of the National Labor Relations Act (29 USCS 151 et seq.). At hearings before a Board-appointed hearing officer, the evidence indicated that (i) a central administrative hierarchy served all of the university's schools, with ultimate authority vested in a Board of Trustees; (ii) university-wide policies were formulated by the central administration, with the Board of Trustees' approval; (iii) individual schools within the university were substantially autonomous; and (iv) the faculty at each school effectively determined the curriculum, grading system, admission and matriculation standards, academic calendars, and course schedules, and, furthermore, made recommendations, which were generally implemented, in every case of faculty hiring, tenure, sabbaticals, termination and promotion. Concluding that the faculty members were professional employees entitled to the protection of the National Labor Relations Act (29 USCS 152(12)), the Board granted the union's petition and ordered an election. After the union won the election and was certified by the Board, the university refused to bargain. In a subsequent unfair labor practice proceeding, the Board ordered the university to bargain with the union, and when the university still refused to bargain, the Board sought enforcement of its order in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Court of Appeals denied the Board's petition, finding that the faculty were endowed with "managerial status" sufficient to remove them from the coverage of the National Labor Relations Act.
Were the faculty endowed with managerial status sufficient to remove them from the coverage of the National Labor Relations Act?
The Court held that the university faculty members were "managerial" employees excluded from the coverage of the National Labor Relations Act, and were therefore not entitled to the benefits of collective bargaining under the Act. According to the Court, professionals were exempted from coverage under the judicially implied exclusion for managerial employees who were involved in developing and enforcing employer policy. In this case, the Court noted that the faculty members, as to academic matters at the university, exercised absolute authority, which in any other context would unquestionably be managerial, insofar as they (i) determined what courses would be offered, when they would be scheduled, and to whom they would be taught, (ii) debated and determined teaching methods, grading policies, and matriculation standards, (iii) effectively decided which students would be admitted, retained, and graduated, and (iv) decided, on occasion, the size of the student body, the tuition to be charged, and the location of the university's schools.