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Fleischman v. Albany Medical Center

July 21, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge


Plaintiffs commenced the instant action against Defendants claiming that they conspired amongst themselves to depress the wages of registered nurses in the Albany area in violation of antitrust laws. Presently before the Court is Defendant Ellis Hospital's ("Ellis") Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment.


Plaintiffs are registered nurses ("RNs") who allege Defendant Hospitals entered into at least two restraints of trade in violation of the Sherman Act during the class period of June 20, 2002 through June 20, 2006. Count I alleges that Defendants engaged in a continuing conspiracy in restraint of trade to depress the compensation of RNs employed at hospitals in the Albany area. Count II alleges that Defendants have engaged in a continuing agreement to regularly exchange detailed and non-public information about compensation being paid or to be paid to their RN employees, which not only facilitated the enforcement of the wage suppression conspiracy but unreasonably restrained competition on RN compensation in its own right.Plaintiffs maintain that the alleged conspiracy had the effect of depressing compensation for hospital RNs in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan area despite a nursing shortage.

In a Decision and Order dated July 28, 2008, the Court certified a class of registered nurses with respect to two issues: "whether there has been a violation of antitrust law and whether there has been injury to the class that the Sherman Act was designed to prevent." Fleischman v. Albany Medical Center, 2008 WL 2945993, at *7 (N.D.N.Y. July 28, 2008). Following merits discovery, Plaintiffs moved the Court to amend the prior certification order to additionally certify the issues of impact and damages as to a narrower class of registered nurses. The Court denied Plaintiff's motion.

The following facts are undisputed. Ellis is a not-for-profit hospital located in Schenectady, New York. Ellis is the only defendant in this case whose nurses are represented by a labor union. Specifically, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) has represented the Registered Nurses and Assistant Instructors employed by Ellis for the past forty years. Ellis and NYSNA have negotiated and entered into three collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) which cover the entire class period at issue.*fn1 These CBAs result from negotiations between Ellis and the NYSNA, during which Ellis and NYSNA exchanged a series of proposals and counter proposals regarding RN wages. The class period CBAs include Ellis's and NYSNA's agreements on all aspects of RN compensation for registered nurses at Ellis who are part of the bargaining unit represented by NYSNA.

It is similarly undisputed that Ellis participated in information exchanges with the other Defendants during the class period and collected RN wage data from the other Defendants. The parties dispute the extent and purpose of these exchanges and the role the collected data played in Ellis negotiations.

The parties also dispute the confidentiality of Ellis's CBAs. The parties agree that:

(1) the Class Period CBAs were printed by NYSNA and distributed to hundreds of Ellis RN bargaining unit members; (2) no restrictions were placed on the RN's use or further dissemination of these agreements; and (3) RNs were not asked to return the agreements if they left employment with Ellis. Plaintiffs maintain that the NYSNA considered the CBAs to be confidential. They contend that the NYSNA "[g]enerally, . . . has not and does not, provide copies of its CBAs [to] Ellis management or nurses at other hospitals" and "[w]hile NYSNA provides the Department of Labor a copy of its contracts at the agency's request, it asks that the DOL keep the CBAs confidential." Furthermore, Plaintiffs argue that because no other hospital produced a copy of the CBAs during the course of litigation, the other Defendants did not possess the CBAs. Ellis, on the other hand, contends that the CBAs "between itself and NYSNA constitute non-confidential, publicly available information." They point to the fact that "[i]n some instances, local news outlets publicly reported the agreed-upon wage increases in the CBAs just days after ratification." Interestingly, however, Ellis attorneys designated the 2002, 2004, and 2006 CBAs as "highly confidential" under the Court's protective order.*fn2

Presently before the Court is Ellis's "renewed motion for summary judgment based on its unique status as the lone defendant in this action whose [RNs] are unionized" and the non-statutory labor exemption. See Mem. of Law in Support of Def. Ellis Hospital's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment. "On December 11, 2006, this Court denied a motion for summary judgment by Ellis Hospital that was based on the same non-statutory labor exemption to the antitrust laws that Ellis raises in its 'renewed' motion." See Plaintiffs' Mem. in Opp. to Def. Ellis Hospital's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment.

In Ellis's renewed motion for summary judgment, it argues that: (1) "the undisputed evidence shows that the wage rates for Ellis RNs during the class period were established exclusively through federally-mandated collective bargaining between Ellis and the [NYSNA] and that these agreed upon wage rates are therefore shielded from plaintiff's antitrust attack by the non-statutory labor exemption;" and (2) "because the wage rates contained in the collective bargaining agreements between itself and NYSNA constitute non-confidential, publicly available information, it did not violate the Sherman Act by occasionally sharing such information with other hospitals." See Mem. of Law in Support of Def. Ellis Hospital's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment. Ellis argues that "[f]or these reasons, . . . it is entitled to summary judgment as against plaintiffs' claims that it violated the Sherman Act by '(i) allegedly participating in a conspiracy to depress the compensation of registered nurses in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy Metropolitan Statistical Area; and (ii) allegedly participating in a continuing agreement to exchange detailed and non- public RN compensation information that reduced compensation and depressed RN compensation.'"

Plaintiffs oppose this motion, arguing that: (1) the non-statutory labor exception does not protect Ellis from "anti-competitive activity . . . engaged in outside of and separate from the collective bargaining process with the nurses' union;" and (2) "aside from the challenged exchanges with other hospitals' human resource personnel, the CBAs and the included wage information were not shared with other hospitals' managements, competing unions, or nurses at other hospitals."


Summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), is warranted if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing, through the production of admissible evidence, that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. v. Salvino, 542 F.3d 290, 309 (2d Cir. 2008). Only after the moving party has met this burden is the non-moving party required to produce evidence demonstrating that genuine issues of material fact exist. Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 272-73 (2d Cir. 2006). The nonmoving party must do more than "rest upon the mere allegations ... of the [plaintiff's] pleading" or "simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) ("When a motion for summary judgment is made [by a defendant] and supported as provided in this rule, the [plaintiff] may not rest upon the mere allegations ... of the [plaintiff's] pleading ...."). Rather, "[a] dispute regarding a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Ross v. McGinnis, 00-CV-0275, 2004 WL 1125177, at *8 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2004) [internal quotations omitted] [emphasis added]. It must be apparent that no rational finder of fact could find in favor of the non-moving party for a court to grant a motion for summary judgment. ...

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