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Fired for False Workplace Violence Accusation - Feeling Humiliated and Shamed

Nurses Article   (5,522 Views 29 Replies 949 Words)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice) Writer Innovator Expert Nurse

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

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What can you do when you are fired because of a false accusation made by a co-worker??

A nurse's job is hard enough without being falsely accused of something you didn't do. Here is one nurse's story of how things can escalate when a co-worker falsely accuses you of workplace violence.

Fired for False Workplace Violence Accusation - Feeling Humiliated and Shamed

Dear Nurse Beth,

I'm in need of advice. I have been a nurse for 16 years. I have made some poor life choices in the past that lead to being in the Diversion Program, which I completed, and now sit on the committee as a Board member.

 For the last four years, I have worked in the Preop/PACU and most recently in the OR as a circulator. Management put a lot of weight on the surgical techs judging the RN's performance. One tech, in particular, was always condescending and like to discuss personal life (partying/drinking) in the OR. This guy just rubbed me wrong, but I made up my mind to not judge, listen if he had useful information, etc.

I had an incident recently. During a surgery, the surgeon asked me to fetch an instrument. I did, but above surgical tech happened to be in the sterile supply room. He was in the aisle I needed access to. I said, "excuse me, I need to get through". He begrudgingly moved. I went in aisle and obtained what I needed only to turn around and find him blocking my path back out. Repeatedly asked to get by to no avail. I finally placed my hand on his shoulder to redirect him. I never pushed, shoved, etc. As I left room, he yelled, "Don't ever touch me again!”

After the case finished, I went to my charge to let him know of the encounter. Eventually, the director called me to her office to explain what happened, which I did. She then mentioned talking to the surgical tech to get his side. At the end of the day, I was called back to the director's office. There I discovered I was being written up. I read what she put and in it; she stated I "shoved" him!

I completely disagreed with what she wrote, which she stated I didn't have to sign and could write what I felt like on the back. I did this making sure to mention I disagreed with "shoving" other employees. I obtained a copy and left for the weekend.

After work on Monday, another surgical tech caught me and asked how I was feeling, as she had heard his ranting and raving the previous Friday and that I had gotten into trouble.  I told her how unfair it was. I did say I was joking but was very upset with the write-up and felt he was weak, "expletive". To this, she agreed but said I should be careful so as not to get HR's attention.

I said I was only venting as she had asked me how I was feeling. Not long after I had left for the day, HR did call me to say they were suspending me pending an investigation as the complaint was now elevated to "workplace violence". I was dumbfounded and also regretting venting. I was ultimately let go. Unfortunately, HR didn’t give me a “reason for being let go”, so I’m unable to complete unemployment paperwork. I took a loan out on my 401k and am living off that.

In the end, this hospital has flagged me as “not eligible for rehire”. I am seeing now how my past DP participation and now this is just flagging me as a “bad employee”, but I’m a good nurse and have loved this field for as long as I can remember.

I’m feeling humiliation and shame. I’ve been searching for work, and so far have only had one interview. I did share that I was let go. First, how should I approach prospective employers? I have a lot of negative information against me right now. I did reach out to fellow coworkers and even a doctor. All of whom have written me wonderful letters of reference.

Second, should I even bother advancing my education in nursing or leave this field completely? This is a small town, and I'm now currently barred from 3 of the 4. I feel so defeated. Any advice would be helpful.


Dear Defeated,

This is a "he said, she said" where they took his word over yours. There was no one there to witness the event, so there's your story and then there's his story. Somehow he was believed, or they decided he was the more valuable employee, and they were going to back him.

It's unwise to ever touch another employee as it can escalate to exactly this. HR and risk departments nowadays are not going to look the other way when there's an allegation of "workplace violence". Meanwhile, it's ironic, because his blocking your exit is aggressive and could also be considered workplace violence.

While this feels devastating, hang in there. This, too, shall pass. What's important is to reflect on what part you had in the conflict, so you can understand yourself moving forward and have success in the workplace. Be sure not to "vent" and manage your emotions professionally. Learn your triggers and let them be your cues that you are in danger of reacting.

You love nursing and have 5 years of peri-op and OR experience. You are still marketable. You've overcome diversion, and you can overcome being terminated.

When asked about previous employment, just say "it wasn't a good fit". Do not defend yourself or even explain. 

Best wishes to you,

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

Hi! Nice to meet you! I love helping new nurses in all my various roles. I work in a hospital in Staff Development, and am a blogger and author.

17 Followers; 99 Articles; 233,048 Profile Views; 1,980 Posts

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7 Posts; 540 Profile Views

Perfect response! "It wasn't a good fit" or better yet, "We were not a good fit"!

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41 Posts; 2,184 Profile Views

This answer was a joke, right?

”Think about your role in this conflict”? When she was falsely accused and wrongfully terminated.

 

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I would have immediately taken out my phone. Immediately. "Jeff Hotstuff has trapped me in the supply room where I came to get an instrument for the case." 

You can believe that [blank] would've been over the very instant. He would have ended his posturing the instant the dialing began. Even so, I would still file a complaint that he blocked me and didn't move until I began the call.

(If no phone, return immediately to OR, deliver the instrument, and place the call ASAP).

Never mess around with unstable people.

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ruby_jane has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in ICU/community health/school nursing.

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32 minutes ago, JKL33 said:

I would have immediately taken out my phone. Immediately. "Jeff Hotstuff has trapped me in the supply room where I came to get an instrument for the case."

Never mess around with unstable people.

This is one of those situations that we don't drill for, that we don't even know how to deal with until it happens. I love JKL's response but it's likely I wouldn't have been fast enough on my feet to think of it.

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41 Posts; 2,184 Profile Views

The real answer was “if you can afford it, talk to a lawyer.” This was slander. Resulting in a serious blow to her employability. 

a lot of lawyers would probably say “you’re SOL.” But a few might say she has a case considering that she made her own statement to the charge, and another staff person was sympathetic to her. So there could have been other witnesses as well who overheard him making contradicting statements. 

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Are you able to travel? OR nurses are in huge demand. My husband was set up, wrongfully terminated and blacklisted in our city. Travel nursing was a great choice for him. After a few assignments we moved to a different city where he was hired and appreciated. We choose to look at the situation positively but it was a difficult time.
 

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18 hours ago, ruby_jane said:

This is one of those situations that we don't drill for, that we don't even know how to deal with until it happens. I love JKL's response but it's likely I wouldn't have been fast enough on my feet to think of it.

I am meek/tolerant and polite enough right up until someone decides to threaten me or posture/behave as if they mean to scare me. [Note: that never includes me being aggressive or arguing with people over everyday stuff.] Some work settings provide informal training day in and day out. If someone means to scare/threaten me in a patient room, for example, there's no hysterics or arguing by me, just > 📱, I will immediately get them some help for their problem. I do not suffer foolish behavior, especially when someone means to simply [ ] with me. That calls for immediate business mode.

I am pretty sure I wouldn't fare as well in a dark alley where the odds of real badness are higher. So I try to avoid those situations. 😬

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beckysue920 specializes in Psych, HIV/AIDS.

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OP, I am so sorry you are having to deal with this, and all the extenuating circumstances, it is blatantly a set-up.  I hope you can get a lawyer to see if you have a viable case, (maybe a free consult?).

Are there any out-patient surgical clinics in your area?  That could be a source for employment.

I wish you the best.

 

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dream'n has 26 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in UR/PA, Hematology/Oncology, Med Surg, Psych.

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I've heard the saying, "is this the hill you want to die on?" all of my life, and 99% of the time it isn't.  But in this case, I think it might qualify.  This situation is a he-said, she-said.  It sounds like the employer felt they could settle the issue with this bully by simply getting rid of you and all could quickly go back to normal.  

I would certainly give alot of thought about filing a wrongful termination lawsuit and pursuing it with as much vigor as I could.  You may get what you want by just 'making enough noise' for the employer since they appear to want to sweep things away as quickly as possible.  I don't know if it would be a winnable case or if it would restore your name, but it appears that your back is against the wall and perhaps it would be worth a try?

Edited by dream'n

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On 10/31/2019 at 12:35 PM, JKL33 said:

I would have immediately taken out my phone. Immediately. "Jeff Hotstuff has trapped me in the supply room where I came to get an instrument for the case." 

You can believe that [blank] would've been over the very instant. He would have ended his posturing the instant the dialing began. Even so, I would still file a complaint that he blocked me and didn't move until I began the call.

(If no phone, return immediately to OR, deliver the instrument, and place the call ASAP).

Never mess around with unstable people.

She was trying to return to the OR.  He was blocking her egress.

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2 hours ago, dream'n said:

I've heard the saying, "is this the hill you want to die on?" all of my life, and 99% of the time it isn't.  But in this case, I think it might qualify.  This situation is a he-said, she-said.  It sounds like the employer felt they could settle the issue with this bully by simply getting rid of you and all could quickly go back to normal.  

I would certainly give alot of thought about filing a wrongful termination lawsuit and pursuing it with as much vigor as I could.  You may get what you want by just 'making enough noise' for the employer since they appear to want to sweep things away as quickly as possible.  I don't know if it would be a winnable case or if it would restore your name, but it appears that your back is against the wall and perhaps it would be worth a try?

Also explore suing this jerk.  

File your unemployment papers immediately.  Give what info you have.  Deal with a supervisor, manager, even higher, not just the first clerk you talk to.  Simply state what information the employer did give you and let the Unemployment Manager find out more.

As Beth stated, never touch anyone and never vent to anyone.  The tech who questioned you likely only cared about gossip, not about helping you.

Maybe you can work for an agency, or travel, or try long-term care.

If I were interviewing you, I would want to know why you and the job weren't a good fit, especially if you were there for more than a few months.  But I could be wrong.

But, yes, this will pass.  I wish you all the best.

 

Edited by Kooky Korky

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