Most States are “employment at will” which means that one can be terminated for any reason or even for no reason at all! However, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
In a recent case, a 60-year-old nurse of Chinese descent, worked at the Cleveland Clinic since 1976. Ms. Lee started over 40 years ago, when she was just 23 years old.
In 2009, she began working for a supervisor who gave her generally positive performance reviews. In 2013, with a new supervisor, Ms. Lee reported that some employees were making comments to her like, “You Chinese people eat anything that crawls and walks” and “You don’t have ‘chinky’ eyes even though you are Chinese.” She reported the incident to her then supervisor who told her that she was “overreacting” and being “sensitive.”
In 2014, she was called into the office to discuss an incident for a patient for whom a medication was prepared improperly by a student. Ms. Lee complained that she was being discriminated against by age and race. At one point, her supervisor asked when Ms. Lee would be retiring and added statements such as “Things have changed.”
She also claimed that she was given heavier loads and her unit manager would follow her around and ask her patients about her work performance, which the unit manager did not do for the younger employees.
Ms. Lee was given a performance improvement plan. Three months later, in July 2014, she was given a written warning for failing to promptly notify a physician of his patient’s elevated blood pressure despite the risk of that patient suffering an aortic aneurysm. She was placed on a 3-day suspension pending an investigation and told the patient that she was getting fired, which upset the patient.
Shortly thereafter, Ms. Lee tendered her resignation and filed a claim in Federal court alleging discrimination. After she resigned, the hospital hired several registered nurses, all below 30 years of age, including one who was a white male.
The court denied the medical facility’s summary judgment claim, a way to end litigation if a claim is determined to be without merit, and Ms. Lee’s retaliation claim was allowed to move forward.
This matter was reported on a website for human resource management. Their teaching point was that “an employer should investigate a complaint of harassment or discrimination, even if the complaint is made to avoid legitimate discipline.”
However, from my perspective, the teaching point is that you should document any negative comments directed to you. Also, if you feel like you are in a hostile work environment, report it and do not stay there. If you are thinking that you might be able to file a lawsuit afterwards, realize that it is very difficult as well as a very emotional and distressing process. It is so much easier to try to resolve things amicably.
It does seem that hospital institutions are finding ways to ask nurses who are aging and on the top of the salary range to leave. If you don’t feel like you’re getting support from your supervisor, go up the chain of command.
What are your thoughts about this? Leave your comments below.
This is a common problem, even though it is not Spoken, you can observe the reaction & treatment toward older nurses. Suddenly they start getting picked on. Going to management or following the chain of command is futile if that Chain has been instructed to employ younger nurses & put more resources on the younger nurses.
There are departments/units that are Older-Nurse-Friendly. I would encourage an older nurse who is in a hostile environment to seek transfer to those departments. Don’t stay there & get depressed – it’s not worth it.
As a nurse working for the past 45 years, I personally have not experienced this type of situation. However, I have seen it happen to other nurses. It was so disconcerning to witness. I even spoke up to support the individual stating her strengths and a valuable resource. What it came down to was once the person in leadership wanted this nurse gone, it was supported by the team. I learned to watch my back and stay clear of these caustic people. There was one point, I left the hospital for 9 months due to poor leadership. After my unit leader was “fired”, I returned to the same unit!! Was welcomed back with open arms.
There was another situation where a hospital eliminated positions and it just so happened to involve several nurses in a higher age group and some with health issues. It was never stated it was age or health but when you evaluated the involved nurses, it was truly a majority.
It’s valuable people like Lori who give us the education and leverage to remain strong in our profession. I share her newsletters to my colleagues so we all can learn and give the support to others. That is a true profession.
I would like to know what it will,be like for me when I get out of nursing school at age sixty five? I am a male and this does not look promising.
My hospital system (5 acute care facilities plus several free standing outpatient centers) began a system wide purging of employees (primarily nurses in both clinical and administrative positions) 6-7 years ago. If you were over 50 it was unlikely you would advance any further and several highly qualified colleagues lost advanced positions to younger, less experienced staff. Last year a retirement incentive package was offered to those 62 and older with the message that positions were being eliminated and cuts were imminent if an adequate number did not accept the package. (Non-clinical, administrative positions were particularly targeted). Decisions were required within 45 of the offer and all those accepting had to leave by early December.
In February, a hiring fair was announced with heavy advertising through the media particularly targeting new grads.
It seems to me that an “exchange” of loyal (many of is had over 20 years service) and highly experienced/knowledgeable employees for younger, cheaper (and with less burden on the Healthcare costs) took place. Discrimination? Perhaps not by the legal parameters, but a disturbing pattern nonot the less.
Try getting hired as an RN 55 or older!!! They will dial up a new grad in NY second because they do not have to pay. My observation especially during our new COVID exsistence is the work force including management lacked the clinical experienced to respond to the crisis as this does not come from books.
And JACHO🤨safety? Never has any inspection considered safe staffing (they come and go during critical shortages) or ask the wet behind the ears nursing power that be actual clinical questions that directly affect outcomes including safe staffing ratios—— Lack of PPE and JACHO is still considered relevant 🥲if this pandemic did not prove the waste of financial resources diverted to this joke agency nothing will.