When retaliation is used as a basis for firing a worker, that worker may be able to hold their employer responsible.
A recent case-in-point involving an operating room nurse in New York highlights such a real-life instance. The New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor terminated a nurse for abandoning her patient post-surgery.
The New York branch office of the National Labor Relations Board disagreed.
About the case
The facts are as follows: In March 2020, the nurse was fired after she allegedly abandoned a patient to participate in ongoing collective bargaining negotiations in a nearby conference room. The nurse left the patient with another registered nurse to join other union representatives in the discussion.
The board’s conclusion
The hospital argued that the nurse abandoned her patient and duties. The labor board, however, found this argument “utterly uncompelling” and noted several facts for its reasoning:
- The patient was in a non-critical post-surgery condition
- Multiple individuals in the room, including two surgeons, did not note the egregiousness of the nurse’s conduct
- The other nurse left in the patient’s care indicated that he was completely comfortable being present with the patient
The labor board concluded that the nurse’s termination was directly related to her collective bargaining involvement, a protected employee activity under federal law.
The board ordered the hospital to reinstate the nurses’ position (or a similar position) at the hospital, provide her backpay for loss of earnings during her termination period, and remove any record of her wrongful termination from hospital or personnel files.