Defending a Nurses Rights

  1. And they wonder why we feel disrespected? Just look what this one nurse had to go through to keep her job. I can only imagine what would have happened if she was working at a non-union hospital. If anyone needs to know the difference between being a union and not being a union, there are many. This is but one........

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    Defending A Nurse's Rights
    by Mark Genovese
    Report - March, 2002


    NYSNA fights discrimination against RN with Sickle Cell Disease -

    Sickle-cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. Such cells contain an abnormal type of hemoglobin that causes them to become crescent-shaped. When these cells have difficulty passing through small vessels, they block blood flow, which damages the body's organs. This can lead to complications such as lung tissue damage, pain episodes, and stroke. Currently, there is no cure.

    Yet some employers still won't consider sickle cell disease a disability. Darlene Morris' employer didn't. And her health could have been in jeopardy because of it.

    Morris worked the day shift in the Labor and Delivery Unit at Long Island College Hospital (LICH). When LICH experienced staffing problems on the night shift, Morris - who had less seniority than others in her unit - was told she'd be transferred.

    "My daytime position allowed me to get home and get enough rest without changing the circadian rhythm of my body," she said. She explained that such a change could worsen the effects of the disease.

    Throughout her life, Morris and her family had suffered numerous, painful, physical problems. Sickle-cell took away her sight in 1980, but through experimental surgery she was able to regain it. She underwent 21 surgeries within a little more than a year. During this time, she was told that she might have to learn to live as the blind do.

    Morris was able to keep her day position at LICH for about a year because her nurse manager was sympathetic. When this manager left, the nurse who replaced her was one who had complained about Morris in the past. "She'd said it didn't matter what I had wrong with me, I shouldn't get any special consideration and that because of my lack of seniority, I should go to nights. This is when I realized what I was up against." With Morris' name already placed on the upcoming night schedule, she called NYSNA Nursing Representative Maria Flores for help.

    Flores immediately filed a grievance, maintaining that Morris was a victim of discrimination. She arranged a meeting with management, at which they requested the Employee Health Department review Morris' medical documentation. They promised that if her health status was confirmed, she could remain on the day shift.
    Morris followed management's instructions, but soon she found she was getting the run-around. The medical file wouldn't be enough. Now they wanted a blood test. Flores advised Morris that she didn't have to take the test, it would be a violation of her rights.

    "Sickle-cell is known as a 'Black disease.' Because it's not always an obvious disability I'm treated like I'm lying or guilty until proven innocent," Morris said. "But I agreed to take the test if it would solve the problem."
    The test should have taken only a few days, but mysteriously ended up taking a month. Morris, however, stayed home from work without pay during this time because the hospital would only let her work the night shift.

    Flores had enough of the obvious delays. She called hospital administration and pointed out that everything necessary had been forwarded according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and demanded that Morris be returned to her position. Morris soon received a phone call asking her to report for the day shift.

    But the fight wasn't over yet. When Morris returned, she was told her position was no longer available.

    After her NYSNA delegates intervened, Morris was told a new position would be created for her. Morris now works on a float team in Labor and Delivery and Post Partum Care - still on the day shift. In addition, management had to pay her for the time she was out and for the 11 days of sick time she was forced to use while waiting for her blood test. She also lost no accrued time.

    Expressing her thanks to Flores and to NYSNA, Morris said: "I feel I've been accommodated and that I've attained recognition as a person who despite her disability can do her job and fight for her rights."

    It is estimated that 2.5 million people in the United States have the sickle-cell trait and that more than 70,000 people have the actual disease. "Yet no one believes sickle-cell is a disability," Flores said. "And no one but NYSNA was willing to support her. I admire Darlene for her relentless pursuit of her rights under the ADA and for her courage to face the opposition." >>>>>
    http://www.nysna.org/publications/r...rses_rights.htm


    comments may be sent to: nancy.webber@nysna.org
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  2. 9 Comments

  3. by   eldernurse
    I don't know sickle cell personally. I just know that when you come into a profession that is 24/7, you can't expect special treatment.

    One of our nurses was told by her doctor that she needed to pick a steady shift because of her blood pressure. Daylight was not an option, even though it would have been the best choice for her illness. Hers was not a disease she knew about prior to becoming a nurse. She now does steady nights.
  4. by   SharonH, RN
    Sickle-cell is a very painful and debilitating disease. The fact that she is fighting it and still working is a testament to her committment ot her professionalism and her job. And look at how they tried to repay her. And they wonder why there's a shortage.
  5. by   SharonH, RN
    Originally posted by eldernurse
    I don't know sickle cell personally. I just know that when you come into a profession that is 24/7, you can't expect special treatment.

    One of our nurses was told by her doctor that she needed to pick a steady shift because of her blood pressure. Daylight was not an option, even though it would have been the best choice for her illness. Hers was not a disease she knew about prior to becoming a nurse. She now does steady nights.

    That nurse must be a fruitcake. No way would I risk my own health to work nights.
  6. by   -jt
    <I just know that when you come into a profession that is 24/7, you can't expect special treatment.>


    The Americans with Disablities Act is not "special treatment". It was created to ensure that people who have a disability will be "reasonably accomodated" for their disability so they can continue to work to support themselves.

    The nurse was hired for day shift & had been working there on the day shift for several years. She did not agree to a night shift job when she accepted employment there. The supervisor decided herself to change the nurse's shift. The point of the article was that instead of hiring the staff needed to work on the night shift, this employer tried to use this nurse to save a buck for itself. And when the nurse couldnt do it because of her disability, she was not "reasonably accomodated" - she was told she had no job.

    That is illegal but if she was not part of a union, she'd be out of a job & fighting for her it & her rights herself - if she had the strength and money to do it.

    The fact that the hospital eventually did have to accomodate her & repay her all that she lost while they tried to break the law shows that what they did was wrong. The union prevented them from putting her out of her job, got back what she was owed, and forced the hospital to make the reasonable accomodations for her according to the federal law - Americans with Disabilities Act. She still may retain a civil rights lawyer herself & sue the employer for damages for what they put her through.
    Last edit by -jt on Mar 20, '02
  7. by   SharonH, RN
    Originally posted by -jt
    <I just know that when you come into a profession that is 24/7, you can't expect special treatment.>


    The Americans with Disablities Act is not "special treatment". It was created to ensure that people who have a disability will be "reasonably accomodated" for their disability so they can continue to work to support themselves.

    The nurse was hired for day shift & had been working there on the day shift for several years. She did not agree to a night shift job when she accepted employment there. The supervisor decided herself to change the nurse's shift. The point of the article was that instead of hiring the staff needed to work on the night shift, this employer tried to use this nurse to save a buck for itself. And when the nurse couldnt do it because of her disability, she was not "reasonably accomodated" - she was told she had no job.

    That is illegal but if she was not part of a union, she'd be out of a job & fighting for her it & her rights herself - if she had the strength and money to do it.

    The fact that the hospital eventually did have to accomodate her & repay her all that she lost while they tried to break the law shows that what they did was wrong. The union prevented them from putting her out of her job, got back what she was owed, and forced the hospital to make the reasonable accomodations for her according to the federal law - Americans with Disabilities Act. She still may retain a civil rights lawyer herself & sue the employer for damages for what they put her through.


    Exactly. It would have been a different thing if she had been told from the beginning that she would be expected to cover other shifts or that she was subject to transfer based on staffing needs but for this to happen after several years on the day shift? Puleeeze. That might have been a-okay for some people but not for meeeeeeeeee.
  8. by   oramar
    You know, I think if a person is a loyal employee and they become ill, managment should try to help them out no matter what the original agreement.
  9. by   traumaRUs
    I agree with Oramar. I work nights by choice, I have plenty of seniority and can go to days at anytime. However, I would never want management to decide what shift I was going to work. Howeve, I know in our area, mandatory OT is becoming the norm and the OT is done on nights, because our staffing is dangerous for level one trauma center. In central Illinois, there are no unions (whisper that word).
  10. by   VickyRN
    not many kind hearts in nursing managment (Post# 7)

    You know, I think if a person is a loyal employee and they become ill, managment should try to help them out no matter what the original agreement.
    Why is it we nurses can care for patients so well, but the caring stops when it involves our fellow nurses?

    Why is it when an RN has MBA behind her name, she so quickly loses her identity as a nurse?

    Why is "customer service" so ultra-emphasized, but the GOLDEN RULE is thrown out the window when it comes to employee concerns???

    THE ANSWER:
    EVERY nursing facility needs a nursing UNION!!!!

    UNION--UNION--UNION
  11. by   -jt
    <<THE ANSWER:
    EVERY nursing facility needs a nursing UNION!!!!

    UNION--UNION--UNION>>

    LOL! I agree. Who knows why so many other nurses dont?

    re: Illinois & nurses unions - all you have to do is make a call to the Illinois Nurses Association. They are a good union for RNs:

    http://www.illinoisnurses.org/bargaining.html


    <<Illinois Nurses Association (INA) is the collective bargaining representative for nurses in the state of Illinois representing more than 6000 RNs in more than 100 public and private facilities throughout the state.

    With INA as their representative, INA collective bargaining RNs negotiate contracts with strong professional practice language that puts nurses at the decision-making table. INA also negotiates improvements in working conditions and salaries for RNs - INA RNs enjoy the highest salaries and best benefits in the state.......>>
    Last edit by -jt on Mar 21, '02

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