March 13th, 2013

Let’s Talk with Kalola: NY Nurse


Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

Dear Kalola,

I am a 11-7 nurse on the 5th floor in a long term care facility who has a union. The 7th floor charge nurse for the the past 4 Fridays prior to our weekend off has called in giving her a 3 day weekend without reprimand. The evening supervisor comes to me and states every time she calls in I must take the floor putting me at a one nurse to 56 patient ratio. The last time this happened there had been four falls on 3-11, two on the 5th floor and two on the 7th floor and the supervisor told me “sorry I can’t help you. I had one CNA on each floor. This put the patients at risk and my license. On another day, she called in again the supervisor came to me again too take the 7th floor. I told her no and dropped a F bomb or 3. I did calm down took the floor because it was not the 3-11 nurses fault I wanted her to go home to her family. I got suspended for two days then terminated for insubordination. I have never been written up before.

A nurse was rehired recently who years ago had a altercation with the nursing director, threw the nursing director on the ground, and was brought up on charges. The charges were dropped and this nurse was let go. They just rehired this girl back. A nurse who stole narcotics years ago was just rehired back only to get caught stealing more narcotics and fired again. I could go on. 

I am a single dad and have custody of my boy. I graduate from the RN program in the spring. I told the union I want to go to Arbitration. My rep said to write a letter about what happened and the lawyer will review it and see if we have a case. I need help.  This union is in bed with management on a grandiose scale. I have been a union rep in the past and know for a fact. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated thank you.

Abbott


Dear Abbott,


Every worker has the right to a safe workplace.  Your employer may have a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence.  According to Fed OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.  It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.  It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.”

Reference:  http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/

Your letter states:  “I told her no and dropped a F bomb or 3. I did calm down took the floor because it was not the 3-11 nurses fault I wanted her to go home to her family. I got suspended for two days then terminated for insubordination. I have never been written up before.”  At the end of your letter, you asked for my thoughts on the matter.  I’m not saying that you didn’t have justification for being upset, you did.  However, it is the way you handled the situation that is the topic of this discussion.

Now, readers are thinking, “Hey, wait a minute, everyone swears.  A worker shouldn’t be fired for swearing.”  Depends on the circumstances surrounding the event.  This isn’t about slamming your finger in the door, and using an expletive.  Or, those words mumbled to yourself about something or somebody else or what you may call someone behind someone’s back.  Hey, we are all human.  Just don’t let the wrong person hear what you said. 

As I wasn’t present to witness what happened, I can only dissect from your letter what may have taken place.  It would appear that you became increasingly irritated each time the 7th floor charge nurse called in, and the evening supervisor told you that you  had to substitute for her on your weekend off.  It sounds like it was the last straw for you when you heard that the charge nurse, again, called in that she wouldn’t be working.  How intense was your swearing? You had to “calm down”.  I wasn’t there so I couldn’t see your body language which can also tell part of the story.  Were you in her face? Your actions may have appeared aggressive, harassing, menacing to the female evening supervisor that you let loose on.  This could have caused a “hostile work environment” in the eyes of the employer.  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says, “Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older) disability or genetic information.  Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.” 

Reference: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/practices/harassment.cfm

The employer responded by disciplining you (suspension), and later terminating you for insubordination.  Read your union contract, and the employer’s employee handbook concerning your rights.  Does the employer have a workplace violence policy? 

About unions—Some unions are there for their members while I’ve heard reports to the contrary.  My feeling about unions is that workers pay high union dues (usually a percentage of their earnings before taxes and sometimes with no cap), and by doing so there is the expectation that a union representative will represent the worker in disciplinary proceedings or at least be the go between so that the worker has the union representative or a shop steward present to make sure that any grievance meetings and/or investigations are conducted fairly.  It is in the best interests of the union to be there for their members so that they can see how the employer handles issues with workers, that there is fairness, and that the employer is keeping to the negotiated union agreement. 

What happened to other people who were disciplined does not pertain to your current situation.  Each disciplinary matter is reviewed individually by your state’s licensing board. 

You have told your union that you want to go through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or arbitration that is outside of the courts.   Your union representative said to write a letter affording you the opportunity to tell your side of the story which will be given to the union attorney for review.  Here are a couple of general articles about arbitration:

http://www.mediate.com/articles/grant.cfm

http://adr.findlaw.com/arbitration/what-is-arbitration-.html  

Do not blindside the attorney, give the attorney all the information related to your matter.  Leave out your personal opinions.  Discuss facts and observations that you can substantiate that are relative to your matter.  Are there other workers who can substantiate your story concerning working conditions, and issues/problems that have been occurring?  An attorney, whether the union attorney or an employment and labor attorney, will want to review your employee personnel file.  Obtain a copy of the union contract and/or your employer’s employee handbook for the attorney to review as well as any relevant documentation that you have or have received from the employer.

If your matter goes to arbitration, make sure that your attorney has a say on who will arbitrate your matter.  A third-party will be hired to be the arbitrator(s).  If the employer has hired the arbitrator, you may want another arbitrator on the panel chosen by your attorney to be fair to both parties. 

If you are not happy with the union attorney, you have the right to obtain your own legal counsel at your own expense. Many times the issue stops here simply because the worker has no funds to retain an attorney.  Most employers purchase employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) to protect their interests which means that the insurance company has several law firms on retainer or at the ready to represent an employer.  There are probably more employment and labor attorneys that work for employers than those that work for plaintiffs or workers only. 

Also, review the New York State Professional Misconduct Enforcement, Frequently Asked Questions which includes information about disciplinary actions.  The website is: http://www.op.nysed.gov/opd/opdfaq.htm

If your current professional license is suspended, find out for how long.  If you cannot work in your field for a number of years, you can still do what you can to keep up the continuing education requirements for the license until you are able to reinstate yourself back into the field.  You may want to consider other career areas that are related to your vocational background that do not require state licensing should you temporarily lose your license.

Issues/concerns about working conditions, the ratio of nurse to patients, and work hours should have been directed to the evening supervisor’s superior or your union representative instead of going off on the evening supervisor.   Dangerous working conditions can be reported to your state OSHA office anonymously.  If a worker files a complaint with their employer, state OSHA office or other governmental agency, and is later disciplined or loses their job as a result, the worker has 30 days (yes, only 30 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory act) to file a whistleblower complaint with Fed OSHA.  Website for whistleblowers:  http://www.whistleblowers.gov/.

 

For workers or Targets that are upset about work issues, it is a good thing to write things down documenting what occurred indicating all the details that you can recollect— include date/time/location/witnesses/circumstances.  Don’t tell anyone that you are keeping documentation.  Keep your documentation at home in a safe place.  If the dangerous condition is something (i.e., broken water pipes, exposed wiring, etc.) that can be photographed do so discretely (use a camera that will date stamp the photo).   If you plan to send a letter about the work issues to the employer, write the letter but don’t send it.  Put the letter away for a day, and the next day re-read the letter.  Keep doing this until the letter is toned down enough that it can be sent.  This will give the writer time to think about what they want to convey in the letter, and the repercussions of sending the letter.  Again, dangerous working conditions can be reported to your state OSHA anonymously.

A quote from Aristotle:  “Anybody can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”  An unknown writer said:  “Anger is only one letter short of danger.”

Thoughts about being angry when on the job.  Speak softly instead of loudly, better yet is to not speak at all.  Leave the scene, and find a place where you can be alone. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly … now count to sixty to yourself … one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand until you get to sixty one-thousand.  If you are still too angry, walk away and take a break.  Stay away from others when angry.  No slamming doors or slamming things down; no waving of your fists, no pointing fingers, or giving the one-finger salute, etc.  Being demonstrative when angry at work can get you into a whole lot of trouble.   After work, go for a run or go to the gym and work it out.  When you get home, call a good friend and talk it out.  If this happens frequently, consider seeing a mental health professional to help with the issue.  By this time, your friends and family won’t want to hear your complaints.  Holding onto anger is not a good thing.  That anger will eventually boil over into one’s personal life as well as affect your health.  If you are a Target of a bully, the bully is watching you.  Everything you do and say will be under scrutiny.  The bully will use your anger against you.

 

Mark Twain said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

 

Sincerely,

Kalola

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 at 9:00 am and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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