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Whistleblower employees sue nursing home who wrongfully fired them for reporting suspicious deaths

Two employees were fired from a Fayetteville, Arkansas long-term care hospital for reporting what they believed to be suspicious deaths last April. The suits seek damages for emotional distress, defamation of character and breach of employment contracts.

Both women were fired in retaliation for going to authorities to report a suspicious nursing home death where a nurse negligently moved a resident whose tracheostomy tube became dislodged. As a result, the woman was unable to breath, went into cardiac arrest, and died. One of the women, a registered nurse, went to the director of nursing and told her that the death should be reported to the Arkansas State Nursing Board. The director refused to say whether she would report the death. The nurse said that it was her duty to report the death under the Arkansas Nurse Practices Act and that–if the director would not report it, she would. Shortly thereafter, the nurse was fired.

The second woman, a certified nursing assistant, was named as a witness to the act alleged by the registered nurse. After speaking to police, the woman was told by the home that she was to be suspended indefinitely.

Many states have protections for whistleblower employees at nursing homes relating to Medicare fraud which provide for the recovery of a specified percentage of damages if the whistleblowers come forward.

Not only that, but many states also have legislation requiring employees to report instances of suspicious deaths, abuse and neglect, or face a penalty under the law. For example, in Illinois, under an amendment to the Nursing Home Care Act (NHCA) passed this summer, employees of nursing homes have a duty to report abuse or neglect. If they fail to report these instances they are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

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