After I started a new job, my employer switched my hours to an excessive amount. I worked 16- and 24-hour shifts for 11 days in a row, without being paid for the extra hours. After trying by all means possible to rectify this with the company, I went to my state attorney generals office. They investigated and determined the employer was in violation of state labor laws. I was paid for the hours worked and the AGO gave the employer a strongly worded directive that a criminal complaint could be pursued. When the employer discovered I had reported them, I was fired. I then obtained a job with another employer who I felt was committing fraud. I reported that to the appropriate agency and gave my notice. I am sure that company suspects I reported them, as I had been vocal about not changing my assessments or notes. Since that time, I’ve interviewed for several positions, and prospective employers always seem interested in me until it comes to reference time, then they drop me like a hot potato. I suspect one or both of these previous employers are saying derogatory things about me. I am a good nurse with a clean record. Do I have any recourse here? Because I’m a relatively new nurse, I need to show the experience on an application.
Nancy Brent replies:
It is very difficult to find out what previous employers might be saying unless you are lucky enough to have a colleague or friend tell you about false information that is being said about you. You can certainly obtain a copy of your personnel file if that is possible by statute in your state, but it may not be of much help in tracking down what is in the file versus what is being said about you.
More likely than not, your being “dropped like a hot potato” is due to your “whistle blowing.” As long as what the former employers are saying is truthful about your reporting to outside agencies, there is little you can do because you did whistle blow, as was your legal and ethical obligation. You should be commended for doing so.
If you have not done so already, when you interview for the next position, you might want to bring up what happened at these former positions and why you had no choice but to report the misconduct to outside agencies. Although you may not believe this, there are employers who value employees who bring wrongdoing to the employer and its compliance officer’s attention so that it can be rectified.
You might want to contact a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who may be able to help you determine what is being said about you that is untrue and is resulting in prospective employers not wanting to hire you. Also, you should discuss with the attorney you select whether you have a possible case against the employer that fired you. In many states, such a firing is seen as, for example, wrongful termination. Reporting wrongdoing is a protected activity. As a result, no retaliation can occur against the employee because of the reporting of misconduct to outside agencies.