Nurse's Claim Fails

The Connecticut Appellate court, in a decision that will be officially released next week, affirmed a dismissal an employee’s wrongful discharge claim in violation of “public policy” where the employee did not tie it to an explicit statutory or constitutional provision. 

The case, Armshaw v. Greenwich Hospital, can be downloaded here

Here’s what you need to know as an employer:

Connecticut is an as at-will state in the absence of a contract.  Most employment law claims against employers, however, derive from a specific violation of law — like Title VII which prohibits employers from discriminating because of race or gender. 

But the Connecticut Supreme Court has recognized a “common law” (as opposed to statutory law) claim of wrongful discharge.  In order to win such a claim, the employee has to show that the wrongful discharge violated some important public policy that the legislature highlighted (like keeping the food supply safe). 

In this case, the employee claimed she was discharged “because she consistently advocated and acted to support proper critical patience care in an emergency situation” and cited to various statutes. 

However, the court said that it could not find any “explicit statutory mandate, constitutional provision or judicial determination that prevents a hospital from discharging an at-will nursing employee, who has been the subject of previous disciplinary action, for failing to follow conduct and quality of work protocols…”

Result: Dismissal of employee’s case is affirmed.

For employers, it’s important to keep in mind that there are claims out there that are far removed from the traditional notions of discrimination.  But some claims are too far out there even for a court to support.   

(Kudos to my former law partner for his successful defense.)