A nurse who claimed that she was terminated illegally from an Illinois nursing home following her reports of abuse, has received a jury award of $5.2 million.
The licensed practical nurse worked at Heritage Health in Dwight until October 2012 when she was fired by the employer. Her employer, Heritage Enterprises Inc., operates close to 50 long-term facilities and most of them are located in Illinois.
Allegedly, the nursing home employee was fired because she refused to follow facility director’s orders. The orders given by the director were to double dose any agitated resident with anti-anxiety drugs.
Furthermore, the nursing home nurse refused to omit or delete records regarding suspicious injuries for patients.
In many cases of alleged nursing home abuse, it’s either the staff members or the loved ones of affected patients who bring forth a claim.
If it’s an employee who does so and believes they are reporting legitimate illegal or fraudulent activity, that worker is protected under whistleblower statutes.
The verdict included benefits, $5 million in punitive damages, and past wages. The nurse was employed by the facility for approximately 19 months and an 8-day trial led to a 2-hour jury deliberation that ultimately led to awards for her.
Because of the fact that many companies and facilities are coming under fire for alleged nursing home abuse, this could have an important impact on future legal claims.
The jury sided with the former nursing home nurse on all three counts that she generated under Illinois whistleblower laws.
Basics of Whistleblower Protections
Whistleblower laws are designed to encourage people who become aware of illegal, fraudulent, or dangerous activity to come forward with it without fear of retaliation.
This is becoming especially important in nursing homes and other highly regulated industries due to the number of severe claims and problems being brought forth by residents and family members.
Allegedly, the firing was legal, according to the employer. However, the plaintiff showed that her firing was in retaliation to a call she made to the corporate hotline to report concerns involving her supervisor. That nursing home nurse now works at another long-term care facility.
The development of a whistleblower case can be especially complicated and involves state and federal laws. Whistleblower laws are designed to enable government authorities to become aware of alleged violations and to take action quickly without the employee becoming fearful of retaliation such as being demoted or fired.
If you believe you have grounds to bring a whistleblower case and are concerned about the protection of your rights, consult with a knowledgeable whistleblower attorney as soon as possible to protect your interests.
Have you witnessed nursing home abuse? If so, contact the attorneys at McDonald Worley for a free case evaluation.