Retaliation Against Nurses for Complaining About Staffing Ratios

by Attorney Arkady Itkin.

ark-photo-2013-672x1024-avatOne of the most common types of employment claims in hospitals and other healthcare facilities is retaliation against nurses for complaining about nurse-to-patient staffing ratios by nurses, doctors or other healthcare professionals. When these strict staffing ratio requirements are violated, this means that each nurse and/or each doctor is assigned with more patients that they are legally allowed to treat at the same time. This means that less time and attention is spent on each patient. As a result, the quality of care is compromised because when a hospital worker has to allocate her time, energy and attention among greater number of patients, she wouldn’t be able to pay as much attention to each one of them. This is likely to lead to substandard care and ever serious mistakes in care and treatment, including injuries due to substandard care, lack of care or even deaths.

From a legal standpoint, these types of retaliation cases are compelling and often result in large settlement or trial verdicts. This is because (1) the judge and the jury understand the significance  and seriousness of those types of complaints; and also because (2) the employees who are retaliated against for complaining about improper staffing ratio or other patient safety issues are often disciplined or terminated for petty reasons, such as a minor charting error or some subjective issue like “insubordination” or “not being a team player.”

Note: Retaliation against nurses for complaining about nurse to patient staffing ratio is prohibited virtually in any State.

Ohio has a general whistleblower protection statute that protects whistleblowers who report suspected felonies, crimes that may cause physical harm, and crimes that may produce a hazard to the public health or safety. Also, several other Ohio statutes contain anti-retaliation provisions. Employees who engage in protected activities under laws in the following subject areas are protected from retaliation: abuse or neglect of residents at health-care facility, discrimination, minimum wage, wage discrimination, and workers’ compensation. See Filing a Whistleblower or Retaliation Claim – Ohio.

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