With hospitals being run by corporations, their critical focus is on the bottom line. We see that more and more nurses, after remaining loyal and dedicated workers at the same institution for years, are finding themselves being terminated once they reach the top of the pay scale.
There are two recent cases in which nurses sued their respective employers and received a substantial verdict. It’s a shame that it had to come to this and that nurses had to resort to litigation. It is difficult to win this type of case. Most States are “employment at will” which means you can be terminated for any cause and, sometimes, even for no reason at all. These cases came under an exception to the “at will” clause.
Roberto Landon, an L.P.N. with 25 years of experience, believed that another L.P.N. who was caring for a patient did not provide proper care. Landon believed that the patient died of a hypoglycemic event, but Landon noted that the nurse who was caring for this patient failed to even monitor the patient’s blood sugar.
Shortly after Landon made his views of this nurse known, the employer then wrote him up for 2 technical infractions, followed by a third after which time he was terminated. Landon believed he was let go in retaliation for reporting the hospital’s alleged cover up of the patient’s death.
He took the matter to court and the jury subsequently agreed with an award to Landon more than $1.2-million!
In the other matter, L.P.N. Linda Boly, had worked at the same hospital for 34 years receiving excellent evaluations along the way. The hospital, which had not been replacing nurses who left the unit, required the remaining nurses to work even harder compensating for the short-staffing.
Ms. Boly was required to conduct 8 to 10 pre-operative evaluations every day, a situation for which there are no national standards governing such a practice. Her supervisor once remarked, “As we get older, we all slow down.” Linda thought of herself as an efficient, hardworking nurse and so was surprised to learn she had been terminated.
Linda found an attorney who assisted her in a claim for age discrimination. The jury sided with Ms. Boly and provided a jury award of more than $3-million.
While these situations ended favorably and these nurses received verdicts with financial awards, it was not so easy. These types of cases are extremely difficult to pursue and such an attempt required a very experienced employment law attorney.
The issue these people faced was “how do we protect our self?”
If you see the handwriting on the wall, leave! It is easier to find another job than to get another license.
Most of the nurses I represent have no idea what is in their employment file. They always seem to be shocked when they see what the file actually contains. It is wise to get copies of everything you can in the event you should you be written up. Keep copies of each and every one of your employment evaluations. This will not only help you in finding another job but also will assist you if you ever are called before the Board.
I applaud these two nurses for speaking up against poor care as well as in court. I’m sure it wasn’t easy in these cases but in order to reclaim our profession, we have to speak up and support each other.