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Can I Be Fired For Reporting Patient Abuse? I Need A Lawyer!

| Jan 26, 2015 | Employment Discrimination, Whistleblower Claims, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio Whistleblower Attorney Answer: Does Ohio have a special whistleblower statute for nursing home employees? Can my boss retaliate against me for reporting abuse of nursing home residents? Do I have to report suspected resident abuse to a supervisor or the Director of Health?   

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Most whistleblower claims in Ohio fall under Ohio Revised Code §4113.52, which makes it unlawful to take any disciplinary or retaliatory action, including firing, against an employee for reporting  the violation of any work rule or company policy of the employee’s employer that the employee reasonably believes to be either a criminal offense that is likely to cause an imminent risk of physical harm to persons or a hazard to public health or safety. As a result, many nursing home employees who face retaliation for reporting suspected abuse will attempt to pursue whistleblower claims under this statute.

However, Ohio R.C §4113.52 has some very particular requirements that must be met for an employee to avail themselves of its protections. Specially, the employee must make their complaint both orally and in writing to their supervisor or another management level employee. Because many employees do not think to look up the statutory requirements of Ohio’s whistleblower statute until it is too late, they often fail to comply with the statute’s written complaint requirement, and are unable to do anything about the unlawful retaliation they have experienced.

Do I have a whistle blower claim? To find out about your rights as a whistle blower, call attorney Brian Spitz and the employment law lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm for a free initial consultation.

Fortunately for nursing home employees, there is another statute, Ohio R.C. § 3721.24, which provides an extra layer of protection for employees who complain about the abuse of patients or the misappropriation of patient property. Specifically, R.C. §3721.24(A) states:

No person or government entity shall retaliate against an employee or another individual used by the person or government entity to perform any work or services who, in good faith, makes a report of suspected abuse or neglect of a resident or misappropriation of the property of a resident; indicates an intention to make such a report; provides information during an investigation of suspected abuse, neglect, or misappropriation conducted by the director of health; or participates in a hearing conducted under section 3721.23 of the Revised Code or in any other administrative or judicial proceedings pertaining to the suspected abuse, neglect, or misappropriation. For purposes of this division, retaliatory actions include discharging, demoting, or transferring the employee or other person, preparing a negative work performance evaluation of the employee or other person, reducing the benefits, pay, or work privileges of the employee or other person, and any other action intended to retaliate against the employee or other person.

Notice that, unlike R.C. § 4113.52, R.C. §3721.24 does not have a written requirement, nor specify to whom the complaint must be made.

In Hulsmeyer v. Hospice of Southwest Ohio, Inc., the Ohio Supreme Court recently found that the absence of any language in  R.C. §3721.24 as to whom a report of suspected abuse must be made meant that a nursing home employee would enjoy whistleblower protection so long as he or she reported suspected neglect or abuse their supervisor, a coworker, or the members of the patients family:

The purpose of R.C. 3721.24 is to protect persons from retaliatory discharge for reporting suspected abuse or neglect of long-term-care facility and residential-care-facility residents. See generally Dolan v. St. Mary’s Mem. Home, 153 Ohio App.3d 441, 2003-Ohio-3383, 794 N.E.2d 716 (1st Dist.), ¶ 17 (the purpose of R.C. Chapter 3721 is to protect “the rights of nursing-home residents and of others who would report violations of those rights” [emphasis added]). Providing employees broader reporting options than those found in R.C. 3721.22 is consistent with the purpose of preventing retaliation against employees. Employees may be more likely to report suspected abuse or neglect to someone other than the director of health, such as a resident’s family member or a coworker. …

In this case, Hulsmeyer’s reporting the suspected abuse or neglect to Brookdale and to the resident’s children triggered the protection of R.C. 3721.24. Therefore, the court of appeals did not err in reversing the portion of the trial court’s judgment that dismissed Hulsmeyer’s claim for retaliation under R.C. 3721.24.

As a result of the Ohio Supreme Court’s finding in Hulsmeyer, nursing home employees should feel safe to report suspected abuse and neglect of residents openly. Indeed, that was the very purpose of the statute. If you have reported patient abuse or neglect at the nursing home you work in (or used to work in) and were retaliated against, the best thing to do is to call the right attorney today.

Ohio law provides job protections to those employees that report or oppose illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions, such as OSHA violations, embezzlement, unlawful discrimination, or patient abuse, to name a few..  However, in order to have the protections under the law, there are a lot of steps that each employee must take. That is why it is absolutely critical for any employee confronted with illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions at work to immediately consult with employment law lawyers in order to make sure that everything is done right. If you wait until you are fired, you may have already lost your claim. Do not wait. If you have seen any illegal or dangerous conduct on your job, then the best thing you can do is call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The Spitz Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting Ohio employees from retaliation after blowing the whistle on unlawful and hazardous activities at work.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this whistle blower claims page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “what should I do if I am being harassed for reporting…”, “how do I …?”, “Am I …?”, “what should I do if…” or “can my boss fired me for …”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to particular whistleblower claims questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.