New York University - Decision Summary

New York University (2-RC-22082; 332 NLRB No. 111) New York, NY Oct. 31, 2000. The Board held that New York University's graduate assistants are employees under the National Labor Relations Act and entitled to organize and bargain with their employer even though they are enrolled as students.

Rejecting the university's contention that graduate students cannot be statutory employees because they are "predominately students," the Board concluded:

The uncontradicted and salient facts establish that graduate assistants perform services under the control and direction of the Employer, and they are compensated for these services by the Employer. Graduate assistants work as teachers or researchers. They perform their duties for, and under the control of, the Employer's departments or programs. Graduate assistants are paid for their work and are carried on the Employer's payroll system.

Relying on the Board's decision in Boston Medical Center, 330 NLRB No. 30 (1999) (reversing precedent and finding medical interns and residents to be statutory employees), the NLRB Regional Director in New York City issued a Decision and Direction of Election on April 3, 2000, in which he found NYU's teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and research assistants (but not graduate assistants in the Sackler Institute and research assistants funded by external grants in various science departments), were statutory employees. In agreeing with the Regional Director's finding, the Board stated:

Stripped to its essence, the argument of the Employer and others is that graduate assistants who work for a college or university are not entitled to the protections of the Act because they are students. The Board's broad and historic interpretation of the Act rejects such a narrow reading of the statute. Accordingly, we will not deprive workers who are compensated by, and under the control of, a statutory employer of their fundamental statutory rights to organize and bargain with their employer, simply because they also are students.

The decision is by Chairman Truesdale and Member Liebman. Member Hurtgen issued a separate concurring opinion in which he distinguishes between residents and interns (house staff) at hospitals, who he believes are not statutory employees (his dissenting position in Boston Medical Center), and graduate students, who he does regard as employees who should have the right to bargain collectively. He noted that house staff have "an educational relationship" with the hospitals where they train and perform their services as a necessary part of their medical education, whereas working as a graduate assistant is not a requirement for completing graduate education.