Ethical And Legal Issues

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mgarcia0711 | 22:32 Sat 02nd Feb 2019 | Law
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Assume Nancy was hired 15 years ago as a Special Procedures RN in Radiology by a non-union hospital. Over time the environment and regulations changed, and patients treated in Radiology became more complex. Now new and existing staff must be certified as Intensive Care Nurses. All the Radiology Special Procedures RN's take the required courses and everyone except Nancy passes. Nancy failed the course the first time, she took it a second time and now it appears that she purposely failed the second course. Over the years Nancy has had a "special" relationship with the Physician leader of this Section of Radiology, and the Hospital leaders suspect that she feels "protected and insulated" from any changes due to this relationship.
Her employer transfers Nancy to a position in another department, that does not require ICU certification. Nancy keeps her current pay and benefits but does lose departmental seniority, which effects her seniority for election of vacation and holidays.
Nancy resists the transfer, acts poorly toward her co-workers in her new department and sues for breach of contract.
Do you think Nancy has a case? Was there a contract in place that governed the relationship? What should she do now?


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I'm guessing that your in the USA, different different rules, reg's and laws to the UK.
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@Baldric, ***.. @mrs_danver, thank you for your response.. @tonyav, yes I'm from U.S & thank you for your response as well. This question was based on an ethical & legal issue in healthcare.. I was basically looking for some opinions on this matter.
it's quite common for companies and institutions to have rules in place banning relationships between staff members, especially where one is the other's senior. Whether that applies legally in this case I don't know, but it would probably apply ethically.

Anyway, her employers were being quite generous in finding her another job rather than firing her if she was no longer qualified for her old one.

But before you can tell whether there's a breach of contract, you have to know the terms of the contract.
Quite confusing. As far as I can see from your post Nancy has been moved to another department because she didn't pass the required test for her previous job.
Not sure what the 'special relationship' has to do with it, nor what //Was there a contract in place that governed the relationship?/ means.
It may depend on the periiod of time they allowed her to remain in her previous role in an unqualified capacity. If it was say 10 years and the rules didn't change then she might have a case, but if the new rules were recent they should perhaps have given here another chance to pass the ICU cert. In fact in either scenario they should have offered her the chance to resit. But it also depends on the process- did they give proper notice and give her a choice of retaking the certificate or at least consult her. And did they offer her a Grievance procedure? If they did these things she has a very weak case and should be disciplined for her treatment of coworkers
I am in the UK but have some experience in management in our health service. I think the ?deliberate failure and the special relationship are red herrings in this case. I also think that Nancy's behaviour, while it needs addressing via the disciplianary process, needs to be divided out from the contractual issues she is citing.
If it was me who had the investigation of this I would be wanting to establish the following.
What specifically in Nancy's contract had been breached by chapter and verse?
How the change to the qualification requirements had been handled by the management. When I have done similar, there was a clear process in place whereby all staff were informed of
:The need for the change and the reasons for it
:The process and timescale for them to achieve the new required qualification
:The process that would be followed (training schedule, who would fund it, and so on)
:Any options for people who did not wish to take the new training
:The procedure for people who did not achieve the required qualification
I would want to see evidence that the process was fair to both staff and the establishment and that it had been applied equably over all the staff concerned, giving due allowance to any allowable particular needs of individuals.
From those two points, it should be easy to establish whether or not Nancy has a case either because there has been a contractual breach or because there has been a breach of the policies and procedures covering general terms of employment.
BONUS!! I would then be looking at OBJECTIVE and VERIFIABLE evidence of Nancy's behaviour towards co workers with a view to starting a disciplinary process, I would also be investigating her "resistance to change", how verifiable that was and what she had said and done.
GENERAL COMMENT It is of the first importance when handling staff issues to focus on what is objective and verifable. Use of gossip and innuendo is not going to get you anywhere and should be avoided. So far as ethical issues, any code of ethics which is cited or considered as a part of a disciplinary investigation should either be specifically established either within the T and C of employment or within the professional code of conduct of the person concerned. Realtionships among staff may not be explicitly banned but using that relationship to obtain preferential treatment, if provable, is probably covered under equal opportunities policies.
Keep it provable and objective.
oh PS in the UK, the above advice would apply to Nancy as well, she should be assembling her case on the basis of what is documented, objective and provable.
I am not sure what you mean by "Was there a contract in place that governed the relationship? " Do you mean her alleged relationship between her and the Physician leader or between her and the hospital?
Either way its a question of what is in her contract, what is in the hospitals T's and C's of employment and in the behaviour requirements of her professional registration body.

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