RN prevailed on retaliatory termination.

PositionNursing Law Case on Point

CASE ON POINT: Nelson v. County of St. Louis, A10-676 MNCA (2/8/2011)-MN

CASE FACTS: Janis Nelson was employed since 1978, as a Registered Nurse by the County of St. Louis, owner and operator of Chris Jensen Health and Rehabilitation Center (Center). During her employment, she held nursing and supervisory positions at several facilities. She began working as a Unit Supervisor at the Center in December 2002. In February or March 2003, she filed a vulnerable-adult report with Debra Switzer, the head of the department in which Nurse Nelson worked, expressing concerns about the care provided to a resident of the Center. Following an investigation, the Office of Health Facility Complaints issued a report in March 2004, finding that neglect had occurred, but that the Center had taken corrective action. During the following summer, when staff workloads at the Center were adjusted, Nurse Nelson's workload was significantly increased. Consequently, she had difficulty completing her work. Following standard procedure, she reported her difficulty with her workload to a supervisor. She also reported the workload problem to her union, and requested the union's assistance. Her supervisor at that time was a male employee whose conduct caused her to file a gender-harassment grievance with her union in July 2004. For several months following the grievance, her supervisor continued to harass her. During the same period, she began to experience depression and anxiety about her work environment. In August of 2004, her workload was reduced. In November 2004, following an investigation conducted by the County's Employee Relations Department, the County concluded that the gender-harassment grievance was unfounded. But some "administrative concerns" were identified. One week after she learned the results of the gender-harassment investigation, Nurse Nelson took a medical leave that lasted from November 2004 until March 2005. She returned to work as a weekend part-time Nurse Supervisor. On March 27, 2005, she made an oral vulnerable-adult report to the Director of Nursing relating to medical care provided to a patient during the shift before hers. On May 5, the Director of Nursing placed Nurse Nelson on a paid suspension pending an investigation of the March 2005 incident. Because she was not notified that the Center had reported the March 2005 incident to the proper authorities as required, she submitted a formal vulnerable-adult report on May 9. Following an...

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