Nurse fired after Iraq deployment sues Sutter Health

  1. Nurse fired after Iraq deployment sues Sutter Health

    Matthew B. Stannard, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    (01-23) 15:30 PST -- A military nurse who has served in combat zones for 30 years today sued her civilian employer, Sutter Health, alleging the company violated federal law by firing her after she told her supervisor she was being deployed to Iraq.

    The federal lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, accuses Sutter Health of violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 -- USERRA -- by firing Debra Muhl, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, in June 2006.
    Sutter Health spokeswoman Karen Garner said Tuesday that Muhl's termination was based on internal economics and not on her military service. She said that while Sutter regretted the timing of Muhl's termination notice -- two days after her notification of deployment -- the company followed procedures and went so far as to continue paying Muhl more than required by law during her final deployment after her termination.
    "We have a strong and generous military- and-disaster-leave policy that goes above and beyond what the law requires," she said.
    Muhl said she was given the same economic explanation when she was fired, but rejected it, as did her attorney, David Lowe of Rudy, Exelrod & Zieff in San Francisco.
    "Colonel Muhl is an honest-to-goodness war hero," Lowe said. "She has treated thousands of wounded individuals and service members ... We felt this was an important case that required intervention by the courts."
    Muhl, 56, said she worked at Sutter from 2002 to 2006, most recently as administrative director of the joint cardiac program. She was called up to active duty status several times during that period, including in March 2003 for 10 months and twice in 2005 for military training.
    In her complaint, Muhl alleges that her supervisor, Richard Gray, the cardiac program's medical director, found her deployments frustrating, at one point instructing her to file a complaint with Congress seeking to get out of the military. As a compromise, Muhl said, she requested a transfer to a unit with fewer deployments.
    Nevertheless, in late December 2005, she learned she would be going back to Iraq for several months. Gray was visibly angry by the news, Muhl said, and two days later called her into his office.
    "You had news for me on Tuesday, now I have news for you," Muhl recalled Gray saying. "You will not have a job when you return from the desert."

    E-mail Matthew Stannard at
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  3. by   Gennaver

    This may get better read in a different forum.

    Posts such as this seem to belong in the "Current events" thread. Yes there is a Military Nurse in the article but, this is current events and not military nursing related.
  4. by   Miss Mab
    Quote from Gennaver
    Yes there is a Military Nurse in the article but, this is current events and not military nursing related.
    While I'm glad this was moved to perhaps get a larger audience, I have to strongly disagree that this is not military nursing related.

    With ever increasing use of guard and reserve troops due to world events, stories such as this are sadly becoming common once again. After an initial support push from reserve employers post 9/11, the drain of workers and replacement costs, "holding position" costs, etc.---particularly those in healthcare---has ceded much of the goodwill earlier put forth.

    This story is of importance to every military member. One of the basic tenet's of being a citizen soldier/airman is knowing that your job is safe back home. Dealing with repeat deployments is enough without adding the stress of an unsupportive employer.

    We are relying more than ever on our reserve and guard forces. Where is morale or recruitment incentive if this is the thanks and support given? Miltary nursing related? Absolutely. Someone correct me if I'm mistaken but aren't a great proportion of the currently deployed medical personnel, and in fact I think the majority of evac. capabilities, guard and reserve based?

    Glad this will get better coverage!
  5. by   oramar
    OH boy, what stinkers. Just hope the law suit goes her way. Probably will but you never know.
  6. by   Lacie
    Good for her for standing up for this!! After my son was deployed on 3 occasions and dropping out of college for all 3 of those deployments the state now wants thier tuition reimbursed to them (National gaurd) and he also lost 2 jobs due to those the deployments. They did not hold his positions and hired replacements. He came back to No job and was unable to return to school based on "credit collections to repay the $800.00 gi bill tuition" for dropping out of classes for his deployment. Now what's wrong with this picture. I applaud her for standing up for her rights in this issue and hope it makes an example for all employers who dont support our returning troops. I may not agree with being over there but our troops need all our support to come home return to without feeling they have lost what they have worked so hard for before being asked to sacrifice thier livelyhood.
  7. by   nuangel1
    that is absolutely not right to treat our soldiers that way not after their dedication and service to our country .i hope she wins.
  8. by   kmftiko

    Did your son contact the military when the civilian employers did not save his job? This is agains the law. There is no toleration whatsoever! The military and government will back your son 100% if the employer did not hold his job upon return. 100%. Also, the military cannot make your son pay back the college tuition if he was forced to leave classes because of the deployment. I really don't think you are telling the whole story or your son needs to be more assertive in getting all of this resolved. It only takes one phone call and I would be happy to find the phone number if you like. Good luck
  9. by   SmilingBluEyes
    This IS military nursing related as well as nursing news, therefore the thread would belong in either forum. I think it's a story worth reading and being followed.
  10. by   SmilingBluEyes
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