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California nurse claims wrongful termination, retaliation in suit

A California nurse claims she was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on a number of unsafe patient care instances at Kaiser Permanent Hospital in South San Francisco. Her wrongful termination lawsuit was filed in San Mateo County Superior Court and claims she was terminated for reporting unsafe incidents involving medication errors and distribution, patient transfers to inappropriate care departments and violations of admission policies.

The nurse is suing for retaliation under the California Labor Code and for wrongful termination in violation of the state's public policy. In addition to compensatory damages, she is also seeking consequential and punitive damages in the suit. The nurse began working as an assistant nurse manager at the medical center in 2005. It was between the middle of 2009 and December of 2010 that she complained of various incidents that she claims not only affected patient care and safety, but was also in violation of specific regulations that govern patient care.

One of the issues involved an error in the dispensation of "high alert medication." Another involved the transfer of a patient who had had a stroke into the plaintiff's unit which was not certified to care for such patients. The third incident involved over-admitting patients in violation of the medical centers requirements for a 5 to 1 patient to nurse ratio. The nurse's suit states that hospital staff retaliated against her after making the complaints by giving her negative performance reviews, written warnings and placing her on a performance improvement plan.

In January of 2009, the nurse said she was only given an incomplete evaluation of her performance review verbally and even though she requested written copies of the review repeatedly she was not provided with one until mid-April of 2010. She claims she was given a "notice of final warning" at this same meeting even though she had never received any previous such warnings either verbally or in writing. This final warning was withdrawn only to be replaced in October of 2010.

Retaliation resulting in a wrongful termination is all too common when an employee complains about workplace safety violations and there are numerous state and federal laws that protect employees from such actions. If you feel you may have been wrongfully terminated, consult with an employment law attorney who can guide you through your rights and help you determine whether you have a valid employment discrimination claim against an employer.

Source: Courthouse News Service: "Kaiser Safety Worries Led to Firing, Nurse Says," Philip A. Janquart, Jan. 4, 2013

Our San Jose, California, law firm handles an array of employment law issues, including discrimination claims, wrongful termination and retaliatory discrimination, similar to the case discussed in today's post.

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