In recent years there has been much talk of “whistleblowers.” The most high-profile stories refer to government employees or military personnel who leak secrets to reporters about various government programs. There is significant public disagreement about the value of these political revelations.
It is important not to forget, however, all of the whistleblowers who are not engaged in political matters at all, but who step forward to demand fairness for vulnerable populations like medical patients and nursing home residents.
As elder care advocates know, one of the most important ways that the worst nursing home caregiving practices are fixed are when actual employees say “enough!” and come forward. These whistleblowing employees are able to provide direct evidence of the negligent, and often illegal, practices of individual nursing home or entire nursing home chains. In so doing, these individuals can enact massive changes, literally saving the lives of an untold number of residents.
Of course, it is easy to be an armchair advocate. No matter what the setting, it is not easy to take the plunge and come forward with complaints about one’s own employer. There is a very real fear of retaliation. It is understandable for potential whistleblowers to fear discrimination and harassment at work or outright termination of employment by voicing any complaints.
Illinois Whistleblower Retaliation Case
In fact, just this month a lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court where two former nursing home employees claim that they were fired because they spoke up about illegal practices at the facility. The complaint names S.I.R. Management, Inc, Greenwood Care Management, Inc., Greencare Inc., Greenwood Care, LLC as defendants.
The court documents allege that that owners of the facility hired a new Administrator and Director of Nursing in 2012. Those new hires enacted various changes, including cutting the number of certified nursing assistants (CNA). At times this led to a single CNA overseeing two entire floors of residents. The short-staffing allegedly led to many problems, including the unlawful falsification of patient records. Residents suffered severe physical injury as a result of the staff reductions.
The two plaintiffs in the case refused to sit idly by while residents were being hurt. They spoke to their superiors about the problem but received no response. The employees also spoke with managers at the defendant-company to no avail. Eventually they called the Office of the Executive Inspector General. Less than a week after the call to state officials, both employees had been fired.
It is incredibly sad that, if the allegations in this complaint are true, nursing home officials would not only prioritize profits over residents but fire an employee who sought to protect those in their care. Fortunately, as this very lawsuit demonstrates, all employees in this situation have a large body of legal protections.
There are built-in legal incentives for employees to come forward with claims of negligent or illegal conduct by a company. On top of that, it is unlawful for an entity to retaliate against whistleblowers. For legal help with any of these issues, please contact the attorneys at our firm. We are proud to work on behalf of all of those–including nursing home employees–who are fighting for better care for seniors.
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