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Dwight, Illinois Nurse Awarded $5 Million After Being Fired for Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

Katrina Wesemann, a former nurse at Heritage Health: Therapy and Senior Care, a 92-bed, for-profit nursing home in Dwight, Illinois, was awarded $5.2 million by a jury in Livingston County, Illinois. In October 2012, Ms. Wesemann was fired for calling Heritage Health’s corporate hotline to report that she was being ordered to give residents higher than needed doses of anti-anxiety medications. The intended effect of overdosing residents on such medications is to control their behavior to ensure an easier work shift for nursing home staff. The orders, handed down by Heritage Health’s director of nursing, also included altering the medical records of residents to eliminate any notes pertaining to injuries they’d endured at the facility.

Nursing Home Staff: Truth Tellers Are Protected by Law
Heritage Health’s parent company, Heritage Enterprises Inc., is a medium-sized nursing home chain based in Bloomington, IL. The company’s website boasts of the owners: “Their vision is guided by their focus on keeping the best interest and well-being of the residents, their families and employees at heart.”

Out of the 54 long-term care facilities that Heritage Enterprises own, 53 are right here in Illinois.  During the jury trial, the nursing home chain attempted to dispute Ms. Wesemann’s allegations of receiving such orders, as well as the fact that she was fired for notifying them of the incidents. An employee who brings allegations of illegal, abusive, or neglectful behavior to management’s attention is protected under something called the Illinois Whistleblower Act. Firing or otherwise punishing an employee for being a whistleblower is referred to as retaliation and is punishable by law.

The central Illinois jury awarded $5 million of the $5.2 million total verdict for punitive damages. In Ms. Wesemann’s case, her reputation as a nurse and ability to find future employment was damaged. The remaining $200,000 of the jury verdict was specifically awarded to cover the wages and health benefits she lost from being unlawfully terminated, as well as to cover legal fees.

Nursing home employees: If you are aware of abuse, neglect, fraudulent or otherwise illegal activity occurring where you work, please know that you have legal rights that protect you from being punished, fired, or retaliated against for reporting these behaviors.

The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti have tirelessly spent almost 3 decades advocating for the rights of nursing home abuse and neglect victims, their loved ones, and nursing home employees who are good people placed in terrible environments and situations. Please contact us immediately if you suspect or know of anything that may be jeopardizing the health, safety, and overall well-being of a resident.

Please call our nursing home whistleblower hotline at 312-332-2872 to speak confidentially to one of our nursing home abuse an neglect attorneys. You can also email us at questions@levinperconti.com or through our website contact form. All calls and consultations are both confidential and free to you.