A former nurse at a Louisville nursing home alleges she was wrongfully fired after raising concerns about COVID-19 and residents during the pandemic in 2020.
Donna Frank, a registered nurse, filed a lawsuit on June 3, 2021, against Signature Healthcare at Jefferson Place Rehab and Wellness Center claims to have been wrongfully fired six months after starting work.
Signature Healthcare is Kentucky’s largest long-term care company. It operates over 40 facilities in the state and is part of a chain of 110 facilities throughout ten states. As of 2007, Signature Healthcare is headquartered in Louisville.
In 2020, 34 residents and 28 employees at Signature-Jefferson Place tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, ten residents died. As of 2021, an additional eight residents and four staff tested positive, resulting in three more resident deaths.
According to the lawsuit, Frank was fired in retaliation for filing complaints related to COVID-19 infection control procedures. She repeatedly raised concerns regarding infection control and lack of personal protective equipment. But, according to her lawyer, Charles W, Miller, “The more she complained, the more of a headache she became, and they just got rid of her.”
However, the state later determined that the facility had not complied with infection control requirements as neighed the receptionist or worker at a screen table were wearing masks as required by state and federal regulations. According to Signature-Jefferson Place, no residents were affected by the breach of requirements, and the problem was remedied.
In an email from Signature Healthcare, spokesperson Ann Bowdan Wilder noted the company does not comment on pending legal matters and said, “there are two sides to every story and judgment or opinion should be withheld until allegations are proven and/or disproven in the legal process.”
Frank now works for the health cabinet’s inspector general, overseeing nursing homes. The lawsuit is looking to recover lost wages and benefits and punitive damages, and legal fees.
Termination Laws in Kentucky
Kentucky is one of many “employment-at-will” states. This means that an employer or employee is typically allowed to terminate an employment relationship for any reason and at any time. However, employers cannot fire an employee if it violates an employment agreement or contract or if the employee is a member of a union.
State law allows employers and employees to change the at-will nature of employment through mutual agreement, like a multi-year contract. Federal anti-discrimination laws prevent firing an employee on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or veteran status.
There are a number of laws and regulations that can impact someone’s at-will employment status. To have a comprehensive understanding of your rights, it’s best to get in touch with an attorney.
Rights of Wrongfully Terminated Employees
A significant number of Americans in all industries were terminated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on the reason for the dismissal, it’s possible some of those firings could be considered illegal. For example, if you faced one of the following situations, you may have a legal claim:
- You were retaliated against for reporting unsafe working conditions
- You refused to work when you had reasonable belief that you were at immediate risk of death or serious physical harm due to working conditions
- You took family or medical leave under state or federal law, including the Families First Coronavirus Act
- You have a preexisting condition that makes you more vulnerable to falling ill
- You filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19
While those are the most common scenarios for wrongful termination during the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s not where the list stops. If you think you have a claim, it’s time to get in touch with an attorney.
Contact Thomas Law Offices
If you think you were wrongfully terminated from a place of employment, the lawyers from Thomas Law Offices can help. We have extensive experience representing victims in all types of claims, and we’re prepared to take yours on next. Contact us today to learn more.