Arbitrator Reinstates Veteran Nurse Terminated for Single Missing Pill, Cites Great Work History, Poor Investigation, Inconsistent Discipline

February 26, 2020

Progressive Discipline will not prevent the termination of even the best employees found to have committed certain serious misconduct. Health care employers frequently inappropriate access of medical records or missing medication or medication errors as a terminal offense. However, the seriousness of misconduct does not relieve the employer of its basic obligation to prove that the employee actually committed misconduct. Attorney James Hykel persuaded a neutral arbitrator that the Town of Nantucket failed to establish that an Our Island Home registered nurse 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East gave too much or little Oxycodone to a patient. As soon as the nurse in question realized that a pill was unaccounted for, she reported it.

The Arbitrator determined that the Town failed to investigate, and thereby rule out, many equally legitimate explanations for the unaccounted-for pill. And the employer's contention that the nurse had repeated problems with medical errors dissolved upon inspection. Attorney Hykel and the Union showed that the nurse in question actually received less counseling on medical performance than her peers.

The Arbitrator ordered the Town to offer reinstatement and to provide lost wages and benefits.