CHS Ordered to Pay $2 Million For Ohio RN Fired and Defamed for Patient Advocacy, Union Activity
A civil jury has ordered an Ohio hospital, part of one of the most notorious anti-union hospital chains in the U.S., to pay over $2 million in damages for its actions against Ann Wayt, an Ohio nurse it fired, illegally sought to have her nursing license revoked, and then defamed in retaliation for her outspoken patient advocacy and support for her union.
In a unanimous verdict, the Stark County, Ohio jury Friday ordered Affinity Medical Center of Massillon, Oh., operated by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems chain, to pay Wayt $800,000 for defamation of her character and another $750,000 in punitive damages. Affinity was also ordered to pay her attorney fees.
The decision came over two years after Wayt was fired, and just over a year after a U.S. District Court Judge delivered a sweeping cease and desist injunction ordering Affinity to reinstate Wayt and end a broad array of lawless behavior in illegal discipline and harassment of its RNs as well as refusing to bargain with its RNs and their union, National Nurses Organizing Committee-Ohio.
NNOC Ohio is the state affiliate of National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of RNs.
"NNU offers our heartfelt congratulations to Ann Wayt both for her steadfast advocacy for her patients and colleagues, and her refusal to be intimidated by a lawless employer,” said NNOC Co-President Malinda Markowitz, RN.
“This verdict should be a message to a particularly vindictive system, CHS, and to all hospitals across the nation that nurses will not be silent when you trample on their rights and try to silence their voice — and that our union will stand up with you," Markowitz added....
... Wayt, a prominent union supporter in the hospital’s orthopedics unit, where union support was “particularly strong,” as a National Labor Relations Board Judge Arthur Amchan later noted, was directly targeted, as symbolized by the decision of the hospital to begin an investigation against her on the very day of the election. NNOC-Ohio initiated the case by filing charges with the NLRB.
Affinity management then trumped up charges of patient care misconduct that Amchan termed in July 2013, “a pretext to retaliate against her for her union activity” despite a long “spotless” record as an RN.
Affinity not only fired Wayt, it then went to the Ohio Board of Nursing attempting to pressure it to revoke Wayt’s nursing license.
Noting the clear violation of federal labor law rights, Amchan concluded “it is hard to imagine a more effective coercive message to the union supporters… than the termination of a long-term employee with no (or no known) prior disciplinary record.” Wayt has worked at Affinity for 24 years and in 2008 Affinity provided clear recognition of her achievements by presenting her the Nurse Excellence Award....
... Though Affinity was forced to offer Wayt a return to the hospital bedside, it has failed to refrain from defamatory activity against her. Wayt responded with the civil suit that led to the verdict today. Affinity is also stalling in court-ordered bargaining with the nurses’ union.
CHS Ordered to Pay $2 Million For Ohio RN Fired and Defamed for Patient Advocacy, Union Activity | National Nurses United