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What recourse does an RN have to fight wrongful termination, and how can she find a new job?

Question:

Dear Donna,

I was recently terminated for documentation issues. Prior to my termination, I had been being harassed in the workplace and received crank calls to my home and cell phones. I followed company policy and reported this harassment to my manager who reported it to the department director and human resources.

Harassment was discussed multiple times with HR. Harassment continued and escalated to the point I felt I was in a hostile environment and called out two days as I was afraid to go to work.

I went into work one morning and about an hour later was told to go to HR. I thought they had found out who was harassing me. Instead, they told me that no calls from the main phone number showed up as going to my home or cell phones. This is after I both e-mailed and hand delivered the phone logs I obtained, which showed many calls made from the work main number to my phones.

Then I was told that I have documentation issues and was put on paid suspension while they investigate. I’ve been a nurse for 25 years and have a certification in nursing ethics. I had my badge removed and left the building in a daze. At 4:30 p.m., I received a call stating that they had completed their investigation, and I was being terminated for documentation issues.

I then received a letter in the mail stating I was terminated as I had agreed to falsifying documentation. I am in shock. To me it seems HR and my manager falsified their documentation to have it state I admitted to falsifying documents.

I emailed the CEO and president of the company regarding the entire situation and called one lawyer who said my case was not definitive enough for his firm. I am unemployed and have this huge smudge on my nursing reputation. What do you suggest?

Feels Lost

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Feels Lost,

Because one attorney does not think the case is right for him doesn’t mean there is no case or that you have no further rights in this situation.

There seems to be two different issues, what you refer to as harassment piece and what you describe as wrongful termination. I would suggest you consult a nurse attorney as opposed to a non-nurse attorney, primarily about the termination. A nurse attorney has unique knowledge of the healthcare workplace. In fact, some nurse attorneys specialize in workplace-related issues for nurses.

Find a nurse attorney by asking around, getting a referral from your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org) whether or not you are a member or by contacting The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (www.taana.org). This is an important step. Your livelihood and your reputation are at stake.

In the meantime, start volunteering as a nurse somewhere health-related while you get this matter settled one way or the other and begin to look for paid employment. Staying idle will only exacerbate your emotional state and can push you into a depression. Stay engaged and productive as much as possible. I don’t recommend you get into what happened at your last job with those you approach about volunteering. Just say you are working on some issues that need your attention and would love to do some volunteer work. Contact your local public health department, a free clinic, blood bank or the American Red Cross.

You also may be able to get some non-hospital paid temp work through a staffing agency. Regardless of the outcome of this situation, read “Picking up the pieces of your career” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Pieces) and follow the advice there to start moving forward.

Best wishes,
Donna

By | 2014-11-12T00:00:00-05:00 November 12th, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|3 Comments

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    Nicole long March 13, 2017 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    I’ve been a nurse for 12 years in the same department. I work at a hospital with a union. I was threatened by a fellow employee that she was going to “cut me”, because We were in a verbal disagreement. I filed a report with security and also with the University Police Department. I didn’t press charges because that same employee was promoted to manager over part of the department but not me directly and I didn’t want to lose my job. She was made part of management only after I was called into the office and was accused by my nurse manager of lying about the threat. Her reason was because I said it happened on the 19th when it was actually the 18th. Since then , I’ve been written up for simple things that no one else gets written up for. I was put into corrective action for not having my ACLS certification renewed on due date. I was 2 days late on it and I was allowed to work without it one day (short staffed) but the next day I was sent home. One infraction within one year and I will be terminated. Union rep seems to think I would have a wrongful termination suit if in fact I am terminated. Do you have an opinion on this?

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    Alicia December 17, 2018 at 12:29 am - Reply

    I am currently in a similar situation. I was verbal assulted at work. The DON said he would take care of it the next day. The next day they told me that’s normal for that CNA and just ignore it, dont take it personal. When that wasn’t good enough excuse for me they wrote me up and put me on suspension.

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    Mary sofia December 18, 2018 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Hi i worked 10 yrs without taking Mc And very hard working i had some misunderstanding with sister time to get ssn they refuse and i question them back they gave me unnecessary reason i went higher authority to ask they are fed up put me in a new ward i was pregnannt and had diffrent issues unable to cope i came back from delivery only 6 months worked new ward the snm say cannot give contract
    I dont know who to consult iam very hurt

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