Nurses throughout Minnesota know of instances of employers intimidating and retaliating against staff for a wide variety reasons, like reporting unsafe staffing, speaking up when they disagree with a program or pilot, reporting managerial unethical or illegal behavior, engaging in union activities, and many more.
These types of incidents can cause managers and administration some headaches, but they are all part of the ebb and flow of the employer-employee relationship. Unless, of course, the employee is punished for legal and ethical actions.
Unfortunately, retaliation in the workplace is all too commonplace – and not just in hospitals.
For nurses, the opportunities for retaliation are higher than in many other fields. In addition to issues with employers over the way they conduct business, nurses’ licenses require them to follow an additional set of rules that often contradict their employers. They are responsible for ensuring that every assignment they accept is safe for the patient, refusing overtime if they don’t feel safe, and reporting situations in which a patient is injured or in grave danger.
Because of that, the opportunities for “disappointing” the employer increase in the nursing field, as are the opportunities for retaliation.
Some recent examples show that retaliation in the healthcare field is not improving:
- The National Labor Relations Board issued a formal complaint last October against North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale for harassing and intimidating staff for their participation in an informational picket calling for safe staffing levels. The hospital fired one employee, revoked work agreements and forced employees to work weekends, “repeatedly interrogated” staff about their union activities and falsely claimed that talking about union activities was prohibited.
- A nurse at another Metro hospital was recently targeted by management and her CNO for speaking up about a pilot project that she and many others thought was endangering patient safety. After her union colleagues protested, the nurse was asked to “review hospital policy” that she never violated in the first place.
- After a nurse filed a Concern for Safe Staffing form, she was called into the office and asked why she went to the union with her concerns. The nurse defended her actions, and said her union was the proper place to share concerns. The hospital attempted to terminate her a short time later, but MNA rose to her defense.
- A nurse who refused an unsafe assignment was berated in front of colleagues, pulled into a manager’s office and berated some more. Other nurses were so upset at the treatment, that they stood up and defended the member.
As you can see, hospitals have many ways to retaliate against nurses and other staff.
The good news is that nurses do not have to put up with this. The law and your union – your colleagues – are on your side.
It’s illegal for employers to retaliate against you for any concerted activity about the terms and conditions of employment, such as speech or other actions that don’t disrupt the workplace in a private or public facility; and it’s especially illegal for employers to retaliate against nurses for blowing the whistle on a situation that in the nurses’ professional judgment risks patient safety.
If you have experienced workplace retaliation, share you story with us.