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Do I have recourse after my contract was canceled due to false patient allegations?

Dear Nancy,

I had a poor working assignment, working a 12-hour shifts without enough time to have a glass of water. I am not embellishing. I had three patient complaints one day. The first was I did not give a pain medicine that the patient never requested. The second said I was rude because I did not give a patient ice chips or water (both of which were not to be given per physician orders). The third came from the wife of a patient who was concerned I wouldn’t know where items were because I was a traveling nurse.

My contract was canceled due to those complaints even though I had been there a month with a good review from my preceptor.

I believe they are giving me a poor reference and I have not been able to get a job.

My agency dropped me with the cancellation of my contract, saying there were other nurses there doing just fine. This has hurt my career and I have been off for more than six months looking for a job. Agencies are telling me I have been off too long to get a travel assignment. Do I have any recourse?

I don’t feel the hired at will rule is fair as there are many understaffed and overworked nurses that have no protection in these types of work environments. Managers seem to take the side of the patient when complaints are lodged, even when the nurse is doing her job appropriately and for the patient’s welfare.


Dear Dedria,

Your working conditions at this particular assignment sounded difficult to say the least. And it is unfortunate you were not able to contest the unfounded allegations against you. Apparently your contract with the travel agency and the facility did not provide for this option. In the future, you may want to ask that that protection be added to your contract. A nurse attorney or other attorney with whom you consult could suggest draft language to include in your future contracts.

Keep in mind that you are not an employee-at-will. The nurses with whom you work at these facilities most likely are, and there is always controversy about its application and often misuse of an at-will-employee’s status by some employers and some employees as well. Your employment was contractual, and therefore that contract governs your work during that assignment. That is why reading it carefully, and getting an attorney of your choice to review the contract, is always a good idea before signing up to take an assignment.

It is unclear why these untrue allegations against you would surface by patients to whom you provided care or their families. What do you think was the reason? Were these individuals just distrusting of agency nurses? Or, was there another motive, such as race, gender or age, as examples? The attorney with whom you consult may be able to counsel you about your options if these false accusations were discriminatory.

It is unknown if your race, gender or age motivated these complaints. In one instance in which patients did not want to be cared for by African-American CNAs, the facility supported this, and that support was “accompanied by racially-tinged comments and epithets from co-workers.” The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the facility’s treatment of one black CNA violated Title VII, created a hostile work environment for her and that her termination might have been based on her race (Chaney v. Plainfield Healthcare Center (2010). You can ask for further details about this, and other reported cases, when you meet with your attorney.

Sincerely, Nancy

By | 2021-05-07T16:34:14-04:00 June 29th, 2015|Categories: Nursing Careers and Jobs|0 Comments

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

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