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RN - Accused of putting a patient at risk and fired. Accusations are false. Do I have any recourse?

Los Angeles, CA |

Termination letter states information that is not true regarding my judgment, actions and subsequent documentation of a patient; pretty much made up.
My documentation and the documentation of others that assessed the same patient is my only proof of the truth. Patient was not put at risk nor did the patient experience any kind of harm. My documentation was in line with others' documentation and actions but I was fired.
What can I do?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Best answer

    It depends. You need to discuss the details of the situation with a plaintiff-side employee rights attorney. If you can prove that the reasons offered for your termination were false and that the termination was really for an "illegal" reason, then you might have a wrongful termination claim, as well as other claims based on that unlawful reason. You may also have a defamation claim if the statements were demonstrably false and were made with "malice."

    Afshin Mozaffari - Employee Rights Attorney - MOZAFFARI LAW - Telephone: (323) 696-0702 - -

    *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Afshin Mozaffari provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange.***

  2. You really should talk to an experienced employment lawyer who represents Plaintiffs. RN's have some protections that other employees don't have because of Title 22 and Title 9. An RN may have a case for wrongful termination if they were terminated for complaining about patient safety. An RN may also have union protection. However, before deciding you next move talk to a lawyer. A lawyer will give you a free consultation.

    Best of luck.

  3. If you belong to a nurses union, you must contact your representative immediately to determine what action the union can take to contest the termination. If you are not in a union, there is not much you can do to contest the termination because employers have the right to terminate employees at their will.

    The larger question is why would your employer fabricate such a charge? A charge alleging that a nurse put a patient at risk raises further implications because it likely will be reported to the nurses board, which may lead to an inquiry. For that reason, you do not want to say or do anything (particularly on a public website like this) which can be used against you. If you believe your employer fired you for an unlawful reason, this is something you should discuss privately with an employment law attorney. You may also need to line up an attorney to be available to protect your license.

    They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.

  4. If you are not represented by a union, or covered by an employment contract, then you are an at will employee and at will employees can be fired for any reason that is not unlawful. The employer is not required to be correct in the grounds, nor to investigate the truth, nor even to have factual grounds.

    Because at will employers are not required to state any factual basis for the termination, most major health care facilities do not make a formal statement of grounds unless (1) the facility is concerned about defending against claims of liability based on the action underlying the termination, or (2) the facility intends to make a formal complaint against the employee with the employee's State licensing agency (Board of Registered Nursing). The fact that your employer made a statement of factual reasons should be understood as a potential indication that you may yet face a disciplinary investigation and action by BRN. In recent years BRN has become very harsh and unyielding in its assessments of licensee conduct.

    It may be important for you to focus very specifically on the statements of the employer here. It is altogether beside the point whether the patient was put at risk or harmed -- those points do not matter, at all. What matters is (1) whether you violated your employer's rules or instructions or expectations, and (2) whether you violated any professional rules, regulations or standards. Those are the ONLY issues remaining. It is also usually beside the point that others were not treated as harshly (exception where race, gender or another protected basis is the reason for the discrepancy in treatment). In most circumstances, employers can treat individual employees differently for the same misconduct because the employer can take other factors into account.

    It is not uncommon for BRN licensees to receive a telephone call or informal letter from a BRN investigator or analyst asking for additional information pertinent to employment events, complaints, or pending disciplinary investigations or decisions. My law firm handles a great many of these and we advise that licensees not allow themselves to be trapped unexpectedly by any hit-and-run telephone inquiry, and that they defer to legal counsel for all responses to the licensing agency. You will not incur any licensing penalty or disability for referring any BRN staff inquiry to your attorney.

    Finally, BRN will not ordinarily notify the R N licensee when (if) BRN closes out a complaint with a decision not to investigate or take a disciplinary action. That's one of the less humane practices of the agency. And there is no time-limit for BRN to conclude the investigation or decide as to any formal disciplinary action. You just have to soldier on to your next employment.

    Good luck to you.

    No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.

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