What to do if I was recently fired for patient abuse?

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What to do if I was recently fired for patient abuse?

A co-worker recently wrote me up saying I was being too rough to a patient. As a result, I was terminated from a nursing home where I have worked for over 30 years. No injuries were documented and my record there is immaculate. What can I do to restore my credibility?

Asked on January 8, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You can't necessarily do anything, except as set out in 3), below:

1) Unless you had a contract guarantying you the right to certain job protections (e.g. a hearing, or warnings before termination, or proof of infractions, etc.), the employer may terminate you at will, including for unproven allegations of roughness.

2) You don't have a right to challenge or change what is written up in the personnel file--that file is company property, not yours.

3) What you can do, however, is if the employer tells others that you were too rough with a patient (e.g. discloses that to prospective employer seeking a recommendation), that could be defamation, since it is a negative factual statement about you, one which can damage your reputation, which you believe to be untrue. (Untrue facts are defamation; true facts or opinions--e.g. "John/Jane Doe is a bad employee," is someone's opinion, not a fact--are not defamation.) If the now-former empoloyer makes a defamatory statement about you to others, you could possibly sue them for defamation and recover compensation. You would speak to a personal injury attorney about this.


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