Ms N stood on the curb outside of the nursing facility where until 10 minutes ago she had been employed. The registered nurse had called a friend to pick her up after she was terminated from her position. Ms N had never been fired before, and she was surprised how affected she felt by the event.  She had started working at the nursing facility 7 years ago, and the job seemed like a good fit. Ms N enjoyed her work, and her reviews after her first few years were extremely positive. Her only problem was that she began suffering from debilitating migraine headaches, which often affected her ability to work. Her employer, however, was understanding and allowed her to use flex time to adjust her schedule when the headaches prevented her from working.

After 3 years, Ms N was promoted to the position of minimum data set  coordinator, which required her to evaluate the condition and needs of nursing home residents following admission to the facility. Ms N was pleased with the promotion and the additional responsibility and threw herself into the job. Things were fine for a couple of years until she began noticing something disturbing — on more than 1 occasion, she saw narcotic medication being left out in the office of the director of nursing, Mr D. Concerned, Ms N reported the issue to the assistant director and then to the head of the facility, Mrs H.

Ms N was surprised at how long it took anyone to look into the issue. Eventually, Mrs H conducted an investigation and ordered drug testing for some employees. Mrs H reprimanded Mr D and another employee for not storing medication properly after 2 pills were discovered missing, but no additional action was taken.

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Ms N was disappointed with how the situation was handled, but she hoped that the reprimand would encourage the rest of the staff to take the storage of medication more seriously.

A few months later, Ms N was demoted from her position as minimum data set coordinator. She was told that it was because a state review of the facility had identified deficiencies in Ms N’s performance of her duties, but Ms N knew that she had only ever made minor clerical errors.

Meanwhile, Ms N noticed that medication was still not being stored properly, despite Mrs H’s reprimand. Ms N wrote to Mrs H about her ongoing concerns. A second investigation ensued as a result of Ms N’s letter, and the facility hired a nurse consultant who identified issues related to medication storage and the system used for medication management. However, the nurse never spoke with Ms N as part of the investigation, and when Ms N discussed the investigation with coworkers, she was written up for allegedly breaching the confidentiality of the investigation by discussing it with colleagues.

“But no one told me I couldn’t talk about the investigation,” she told the director of nursing and human resources manager.

“You should know that this can’t be discussed,” was the reply.

Things continued to steadily get worse for Ms N. Soon after the second investigation, she was told that she could no longer use flex time when she developed a migraine.

“We’ve changed our policy,” said Mr D.

A few months later, Ms N was inexplicably switched to working the night shift, making her headaches more problematic because of the change in her sleep schedule. She was ultimately called into human resources and told that she was being terminated because of errors that she had made.

Ms N shared this situation with her friend who had arrived at the nursing facility.

“You need to speak to an attorney,” she advised Ms N.