Daily Archives: January 5, 2012
Domestically within the United States, launching new work rules, employee handbooks and codes of conduct can trigger legal issues, especially in unionized workplaces. Then, in the US, a whistleblower’s call to a workplace hotline triggers a separate cluster of legal issues, such as regarding internal investigations, employee discipline and whistleblower retaliation. But American employers, even unionized ones, that offer a stand-alone workplace whistleblower hotline to US staff rarely face blowback. Indeed, offering employee report “procedures” stateside affirmatively complies with a mandate in Sarbanes-Oxley and is a recommended “best practice” response to the Dodd-Frank whistleblower bounty.
A “workplace whistleblower hotline” comprises three basic components: (1) a communication that encourages (or forces) employees to denounce colleagues suspected of wrongdoing, that explains how to submit a denunciation and (often) that guarantees informants confidentiality or anonymity and non-retaliation; (2) a medium or media (channel or channels) for accepting denunciations, such as an email address, a web link, a postal mail address, a telephone number or some combination; and (3) protocols/procedures and scripts by which a hotline responder, often a specialist outsourced company, processes denunciations and passes them onto someone at the hotline-sponsor company to investigate. (Internal investigations into whistleblower denunciations raise tough legal issues of their own, particularly in the cross border context, but investigations into specific denunciations are completely separate from the pre-investigatory launch and operation of a workplace whistleblower hotline. As to cross-border internal investigations, see our Global HR Hot Topic for October, November and December 2009.) Read the full article and see slide show by Whit and Case LLP here.
A complaint lodged by the National Labor Relations Board alleges that Steward Health Care System unlawfully fired a nurse at its Holy Family Hospital in Methuen in August for leading a union organizing drive, in a case that underscores the deterioration of once-warm relations between Steward and the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
The complaint, issued Dec. 29, also cited Steward for preventing other Holy Family nurses from wearing buttons during the summer in support of the fired nurse, Mary Ramirezcq, 61, a 40-year nursing veteran who worked at Holy Family for 18 years.
“We found reasonable cause to believe the unfair labor practices alleged in the complaint occurred,” Robert P. Redbordcq, deputy regional attorney for the NLRB, said this morningthu. The board has scheduled a hearing on the complaint against Steward for Feb. 14 before an NLRB administrative judge.
Steward denied the allegations and said it was confident the board would support its decision to fire Ramirez when the facts are presented.
“Participation in union organizing activities played no role in the decision,” said Chris Murphycq, a spokesman at the hospital chain’s corporate headquarters in Boston.
Murphy said Ramirez lost her job because she intentionally changed a doctor’s order, committed an intentional medical error, and failed to enter into a patient’s medical record that she had administered morphine — all of which had been reported to management by another nurse, he said. Another factor in the firing, Murphy said, was that Ramirez previously had been placed on probation for two years by the state Board of Registration in Nursing for diverting patient medication for her personal use.
Ramirez conceded she made a mistake by administering a drug intravenously rather than injecting it, but said the error was not intentional. The drug in question is commonly given intravenously, Ramirez said, and the patient was not harmed. She said the nurse who alerted managers to the mix-up “embellished” the story. While acknowledging she had earlier been placed on probation by the nursing board, Ramirez said no patients were harmed by her actions then, either.
Contending her firing was punishment for organizing the union drive that in July resulted in nurses electing to affiliate with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, Ramirez said she wants to be reinstated and given back pay. She also said she has long advocated for more staffing and better safety measures at Holy Family.
“I had no trouble telling management when I felt they were being unfair to the nurses or showed a lack of respect,” she said. “Right now, my goal is to just settle this matter. I want them to know that I’m not going away until the matter is settled.”
The nurses union, which supported Steward’s acquisition of six Catholic hospitals in the Caritas Christi Health Care system in 2010, has since soured on the new owner, which was created by New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.
MNA and Steward representatives are currently in arbitration over a dispute related to a new pension plan the two sides had agreed to in 2010, just before state regulators and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts approved the Caritas buyout. Last month, the MNA led a protest in front of the Cerberus home office in New York.
“The whole atmosphere there is fear and intimidation,” said MNA spokesman David Schildmeiercq. “This is what happens when you turn over community assets to a for-profit private equity firm that is only interested in profits.”
Steward’s Murphy said the facts regarding Ramirez’s termination are conclusive. “We actually have a culture of quality,” he said. “And if you don’t meet the quality standards we put in place, then there’s no place for you at our hospitals.”
From networking to interview skills, groups at St. Mary’s R.C. Parish and Christ Church in Middletown offer practical help for those out of work.
After 18 years of recruiting candidates for her company, now she was the one who needed help getting recruited. She turned to St. Mary Roman Catholic Parish in Middletown, which hosts a job networking group once a month. It also posts resumes of job seeking parishioners on its Web site.
There, she got a chance to brush up on her interview skills, and perhaps more importantly, get moral support from like-minded people — her fellow church members.
“When you’re out of work in a terrible economy, you have to believe and have faith that the right thing is going to happen,” she said.
Before too long, that right thing did happen for Donohue who landed her current position as director of human resources at LEO Pharma in Parsippany.
As providence would have it, just when Donohue joined the church group, the human resource person who had been heading it moved overseas. Donohue stepped up and has advised the group ever since, passing on her skills and encouraging others in their searches.
A melding of the practical and the spiritual, these meetings begin and end in prayer. The rest of the time members do things like network, practice their elevator speech and hear from human resource professionals on how to market themselves.
Church job resource groups have been quietly operating here in Monmouth County for years, under the radar of those comfortably employed.
In July, Donohue’s group had a mock interview session and recently held a resume writing workshop, where members get to benefit from her over 20 years in hiring.
“I have the knowledge and ability to help others interview better and help them put together a resume that’s really going to pop,” she said.
Chuck Watson of Red Bank is a financial advisor who works in Red Bank and Sea Girt and attends Christ Church, an Episcopal parish in Middletown. He started his job search group about seven years ago around the time of the tech bubble crash that laid off two of his fellow church members.
“My rector came to me at the time and said, ‘What can be done?’ I said, ‘I have no idea.'” So he traveled to a Princeton parish to see their group in action and brought the model back to Middletown.
His group, which usually meets the first and third Saturdays of the month, is one of the largest in the area with secretaries, bus drivers and CEOs all working together to get hired. Watson said very few parishioners attend but the church has gotten a few church members out of the group.
For the first hour, when the group presents speakers from human resource departments or networking group representatives. Whatever comes in the second hour is up to those who attend. If they need help with their resume or spiritual support, Watson and his group are there to help, but the focus is getting people back to work.
“We are God’s conduit for information about getting a job,” he said.
Both groups are open to the public.
Group attendance at Christ Church has peaked twice in the seven years the group has met, first in 2004 with the first tech bubble crash and again two years ago. Since then, Watson says, attendance has been tapering off, from about 20-25 attendees six months ago to about 10-12 recently. Watson says that’s a good barometer of what’s happening in the job marketplace.
Visitors to Watson’s group are often referred by the Professional Service Group (PSG), an association of job seeking professionals affiliated with and sponsored by Workforce in Neptune. Or they come from other churches.
Watson has also become somewhat of an expert of the job search. He and Regina Donohue of St. Mary’s have taken turns speaking to each other’s group and their members sometimes attend both. Though both are gainfully employed and busy, they remain passionate about helping people find jobs.
For Watson, the reason for this side gig is simple. “I like doing it,” he said.
“It’s natural in a church setting to want to help people,” said Donohue, who prays for the members of her group when they have interviews. She’s doesn’t get paid for this, but she does get rewarded.
“That first time after they have been hired wearing a suit and wearing the pride on their face [is rewarding],” she said.