Nurses at one Michigan hospital say they were told to leave their emergency room after reportedly protesting unsafe work conditions. “We cannot safely take care of your loved ones out here with just six, seven nurses and multiple [ventilators] and multiple people on drips,” one nurse said. “We had two nurses the other day who had 26 patients with 10 [ventilators].”
The Nurses’ Showdown
Medical workers at the hospital confirmed the protest took place on Sunday, April 5th. According to one nurse, this day was the “breaking point” for many. The night shift emergency room nurses at this hospital refused to leave the break room until administrators brought in more nurses to help with the surge of COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital that weekend.
After four hours of deliberations with hospital administrators, the medical workers say they were told to leave the facilities that night if they refused to work. Several nurses then reportedly left the hospital.
Michigan Nurses Association President Jamie Brown said there was only so much a medical worker could do before “a tipping point is reached where the best thing any [nurse] can do for their patients, their families and their coworkers is to speak out rather than remain silent” in a statement to CNN.
You Have A Right to Protest Unsafe Working Conditions: Know Your Rights
McOmber McOmber & Luber knows that this is a very challenging time for healthcare workers. While they continue to demonstrate their commitment and dedication to their patients, we want to make sure their employment rights are protected.
What is Retaliation?
It is illegal to retaliate against employees who speak out about or protest unsafe working conditions, such as lack of personal protective equipment (“PPE”), amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
If a negative employment action is based on the fact that an employee engaged in a legally protected activity, such as those covered by New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”), it can violate an employee’s rights. Some examples of retaliatory actions include termination, discipline, demotion, and harassment. Employees who voice concerns about unsafe work conditions or object to illegal business practices also cannot be fired on the basis of those complaints.
Both state and federal law protect employees who shed light on wrongdoing by their employer. These employees can receive reinstatement to their position, back pay and in some cases a portion of whatever funds government officials recoup from the offending employer.
CEPA is a New Jersey law that protects employees from retaliation for objecting to something that they reasonably believed violated the law. Among other things, CEPA makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee if they refuse or object to participate in actions they reasonably believe are violative of a clear public policy requirement relating to public health, safety, or welfare. Also, in the case of a certified or licensed health care professional, CEPA also applies to an employee who objects or refuses to participate in an activity they reasonably believed constitutes improper quality of patient care.
Call Our Employment Lawyers In New Jersey Today
As a healthcare worker during the coronavirus pandemic, you have certain protected rights, and you also deserve respect and consideration as a worker who is at high risk of contracting the virus. If you are a healthcare worker and any of the above examples seem like your experience at work, please let us help you. At McOmber McOmber & Luber, we take a proactive approach to each and every legal issue our clients face, helping both employers and employees with legal areas including employment contracts, discrimination, whistleblowing, and retaliation issues. Please call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, OR contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.