War Memorial ordered to reinstate RN, pay attorneys' fees
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Professional judgment of nurse upheld
WAR MEMORIAL ORDERED TO REINSTATE RN, PAY ATTORNEYS’ FEES
Sault Ste. Marie, MI – A battle lasting over two and a half years between a registered nurse who was terminated without just cause and War Memorial Hospital (WMH) has ended with a solid victory in favor of the RN. On September 7, 2011, Magistrate Judge Timothy Greeley of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan issued a decision in favor of the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA), who represents the nurse. The decision upheld an arbitration award which ordered the reinstatement and back pay for the nurse, who was fired from WMH in March 2009. The nurse returned to work on September 14 and will receive the proper education and orientation to acclimate into her former unit.
At the heart of the issue was the nurse’s professional judgment regarding the safety of a patient at WMH. When the nurse questioned both a supervisor’s direction and the adequacy of staffing at the time, she was summarily dismissed. Three days of hearings from a neutral Arbitrator determined that the nurse had not engaged in any wrongdoing. In fact, the nurse had used her professional judgment to assess a dangerous situation and worked to make the patient as safe as possible. The response from the Judge towards WMH when a lawsuit was filed to dismiss the Arbitrator’s findings was telling – “the Hospital knew or should have known that an action to vacate the award found no support in the law of this Circuit.” In fact, not only did the court uphold the original award, it ordered WMH to pay the MNA’s attorney fees for having to defend the case in the first place.
“This RN has been enduring the Hospital’s false accusations against her and continuous challenges to her innocence,” said Anita Szczpanski, Labor Attorney for MNA. “After two and a half years of hearings and litigation and two decisions by an impartial arbitrator and impartial judge, the MNA has been successful at every step to prove the nurse’s professional judgment was correct. The Hospital’s behavior is what should be looked at closely here – it deleted video images of the incident so that the MNA could not view it and after the RN was exonerated by the arbitrator, they filed a lawsuit with no merit to try to overturn the arbitrator’s decision. All the while, the Hospital has dismissed this RN’s stated concerns about this particular patient and the manner in which the patient was treated, including the RN’s documented concerns about the staffing and safety problems at the Behavioral Health Center.”
The WMH has decided to pay the MNA’s attorney fees, which were mandated by the court judge.
“What the WMH did was wrong,” Shela Khan-Monroe, MNA Labor Representative. “Nurses have an ethical and contractual right to stand up for their patients. This RN exercised these rights and used her best good faith judgment regarding the patient’s safety and was faced with unnecessary consequences.”
The Michigan Nurses Association is the largest, most effective union for RNs in Michigan. As the voice of all registered nurses in Michigan, MNAadvocates for nurses and their patients at the State Capitol, in the community, and at the bargaining table. MNAis a constituent member of National Nurses United and an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.