Longevity Pay Raises Survived Expiration of Contract.


A hospital unlawfully withheld longevity pay increases to its unionized nurses, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as the collective bargaining agreement did not sufficiently specify that such increases ended with the expiration of the CBA.

In Wilkes-Barre Hospital Co. v. NLRB, the CBA included both across-the-board raises that were tied to three specific dates and longevity increases that were based on a nurse’s length of service tied to the nurse’s anniversary date. After the expiration of the CBA, the hospital did not pay any further longevity wage increases. But the court found that, under the unilateral change doctrine, wage increases “established in a collective bargaining agreement continue in effect even after an employer is released from any contractual obligations” (internal quotation omitted) unless a clear waiver of that right to continued wage increases exists. Such waiver may be established through “a contract duration clause that expressly authorizes the employer to terminate its statutory obligations upon expiration” of the contract. This language, however, did not exist in the CBA in question with regard to the longevity pay increases and, consequently, the hospital was bound to pay those increases.