Veterans Administration, Washington, D.C. A/SMLR No. 1131



[ v01 p151 ]
01:0151(17)CA
The decision of the Authority follows:


 1 FLRA No. 17
                                             APRIL 9, 1979
 
 MR. JOHN P. HELM
 STAFF ATTORNEY
 NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
 FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
 1016 16TH STREET, N.W.
 WASHINGTON, D.C.  20036
 
                             RE:  VETERANS ADMINISTRATION, 
                                  WASHINGTON, D.C., A/SLMR
                                  No. 1131, FLRC No. 78A-153
 
 DEAR MR. HELM:
 
    THE AUTHORITY HAS CAREFULLY CONSIDERED YOUR PETITION FOR REVIEW OF
 THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY'S DECISION IN THE ABOVE-ENTITLED CASE.
 
    IN THIS CASE, AS FOUND BY THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY, NATIONAL
 FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES LOCAL 1631 (THE UNION) EXCLUSIVELY
 REPRESENTS A UNIT OF NURSES AT THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION HOSPITAL IN
 AMARILLO, TEXAS.  THE NURSES BECAME CONCERNED ABOUT ALLEGED
 IRREGULARITIES IN PATIENT CARE AT THE HOSPITAL.  THE UNION'S PRESIDENT
 MET WITH THE HOSPITAL DIRECTOR TO DISCUSS THE PROBLEM AND WAS ADVISED
 THAT AN INVESTIGATION WOULD BE CONDUCTED.  THEREAFTER, THE UNION'S
 PRESIDENT SENT A LETTER TO THE NATIONAL OFFICE OF THE UNION EXPRESSING
 THE SAME CONCERN WITH RESPECT TO PATIENT CARE AND ENCLOSING A LIST OF
 PATIENTS' NAMES AND DIAGNOSES.  ON NOVEMBER 1, THE HOSPITAL'S PERSONNEL
 OFFICER CALLED THE UNION PRESIDENT TO A MEETING TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER SHE
 HAD DISCLOSED PATIENT INFORMATION TO THE UNION'S NATIONAL OFFICE, AND,
 IF SO, TO ADVISE HER THAT SUCH DISCLOSURE WAS IMPROPER.  HE THEN MADE A
 COMMENT TO THE EFFECT THAT PATIENT CARE WAS NOT A CONCERN OF THE UNION
 AND THAT BECAUSE THE UNION HAD ENGAGED IN UNPROTECTED ACTIVITY, HE WOULD
 EXPLORE THE POSSIBILITY OF FILING AN UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE COMPLAINT.
 HE FURTHER ADDED THAT THERE HAD POSSIBLY BEEN A VIOLATION OF THE PRIVACY
 ACT BASED UPON THE DISCLOSURE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION.
 SUBSEQUENTLY, ON NOVEMBER 4, AN INVESTIGATOR FROM THE ACTIVITY'S CENTRAL
 OFFICE SPOKE WITH THE UNION'S PRESIDENT DURING THE COURSE OF HIS
 INVESTIGATION INTO THE IRREGULARITIES OF PATIENT CARE.  THE INVESTIGATOR
 QUESTIONED, AMONG OTHER THINGS, WHY THE NURSES HAD NOT GONE THROUGH
 PROPER AGENCY CHANNELS IN REPORTING SUCH IRREGULARITIES.
 
    THE UNION THEREAFTER FILED AN UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE COMPLAINT
 ALLEGING THAT THE ACTIVITY VIOLATED SECTION 19(A)(1) OF THE ORDER BY THE
 STATEMENTS MADE TO THE UNION'S PRESIDENT AT MEETINGS DURING WHICH
 PATIENT CARE WAS DISCUSSED.  /1/
 
    THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOUND, IN PERTINENT PART:
 
    (T)HE INFORMATION TRANSMITTED BY THE (UNION) TO ITS NATIONAL OFFICE
 WAS CONFIDENTIAL IN
 
    NATURE, AND ITS DISCLOSURE WAS, THEREFORE, NOT A PROTECTED ACTIVITY.
 THUS, IN MY VIEW, THE
 
    INFORMATION COMMUNICATED HEREIN BY THE (UNION'S) PRESIDENT WENT
 BEYOND THE BOUNDS OF THE
 
    LEGITIMATE CONCERN OF (THE UNION) IN DIVULGING THE