whistleblowerWhen James Navarro arrived at his job as amedical equipment technician one morning in February 2011,something wasn't right. Due to a broken water pipe in the Arizonahospital where he worked, employees didn't have steam and hot waterto follow their normal protocol for sterilizing surgical equipment.Navarro's supervisor instructed him to use a differentsterilization machine and get hot water from the break room coffeemaker. Concerned about patient safety, Navarro refused to followhis supervisor's instructions and complained about the problems tohis co-workers.

The supervisor reported Navarro to human resources. Finding thatNavarro had been insubordinate, the hospital issued him anondisciplinary coaching. Shortly thereafter, Navarro received asubpar performance review.

Navarro filed a charge of unfair labor practices with theNational Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that the coachingand poor performance review were retaliation for engaging in aprotected activity—complaining about job conditions. Anadministrative law judge (ALJ) determined that Banner HealthSystem, which owns the hospital where Navarro worked, did notviolate the labor laws. On appeal, the NLRB did something no oneexpected.

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