New Due Process Rights for Medical Interns and Residents Subject to Wrongful Termination
Monday, Oct. 11, 2021
By Langenkamp, Curtis, Price, Lindstrom & Chevedden, LLP
California requires medical school graduates to complete one year of a physician residency program to obtain a medical license. In 1986, the California Supreme Court held that physician interns and residents employed in residency programs at state university hospitals are employees within the meaning of the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) and therefore entitled to collective bargaining rights. (Regents of University of California v. Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) (1986) 41 Cal. 3d 601.) The Court recognized that house staff collective bargaining rights are important because the quality of patient care is obviously affected by the working conditions of interns and residents.
Last week, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 615, which provides due process rights for medical and dental interns, residents, persons in physician specialty programs, and other postgraduate physician trainees. The law requires universities to provide house staff a hearing to challenge wrongful termination or suspension and allows labor unions to grieve and arbitrate disciplinary actions unrelated to “academic or clinical matters.” The new law is expected to protect interns and residents from wrongful termination for speaking out about things like lack of PPE, staffing ratios, and other patient safety and quality of care concerns.
The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU) advocated for the law. House staff at UC Davis Health voted to organize with CIR/SEIU in 2019.