I recently received two written warnings that I do not feel are justified. One was for not completing a piece of paperwork on time for a social worker. Another nurse who was late with the same thing received no warning. Can this be considered discrimination since policy was not applied evenly? The other warning was for not responding immediately to a non-emergency routine task. I told the unlicensed worker that I had spoken to our float nurse, and she said she would attend to it as soon as possible. I had meds to dispense before our residents departed for day programming, and I was also making frequent checks on a resident. I have filed grievances against the warnings. I also told them I was uncomfortable signing the warnings, but I was told I had to sign them before I left the office. I feel like I was coerced into signing the warnings. If they try to threaten termination, do I have legal recourse? I believe I do because policy was not applied equitably and because I was forced to sigh the warnings under duress.
I consulted a human resources expert on this one. Heres what he had to say:
From the information provided, I cant comment on whether or not the disciplinary actions were fair, and I cannot determine whether or not the nurse is facing some form of discrimination.
An employee can not be forced to sign a document. In any case, a signature does not imply agreement with the disciplinary action. Generally, the employees signature indicates that the document was reviewed with the employee, and he was given an opportunity to comment. If an employee disagrees with the statements contained in the counseling, he should provide a written comment that expresses his position. By doing so, the nurse adds his side of the story to the official record. A disciplinary action is not invalidated by an employees refusal to sign. Typically, the document is placed in the file with a note from the manager indicating that the employee was given an opportunity to comment and sign, but refused.
If the nurse believes that the warnings were unfair, he is doing the right thing by pursuing the established grievance process. He should contact the EEOC or seek legal counsel if he feels that he is the victim of discrimination.
My best wishes,
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeeks Dear Donna and author of Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional and The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career. Information about the books is available at www.nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.nurse.com/asktheexperts/deardonna. Find a Dear Donna seminar near you: Call (800) 866-0919 or visit http://events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.