Nurses are the backbone of the American healthcare system. They work on the front lines of patient care daily. Unfortunately, this also puts nurses on the front lines of demotion, harassment, or other consequences for reporting wrongdoing, blowing the whistle on unsafe conditions, and standing up for patients. As a result, many healthcare professionals find themselves asking, Do nurses have whistleblower protections?
To help provide nurses with whistleblower protection under the law and encourage reports of unsafe conditions, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 322, designed to protect nurses from whistleblower retaliation and discrimination. The new law responded to nurses facing discrimination, retaliation, and even physical assault for reporting unsafe or illegal conditions at the healthcare facilities where they worked. This new law helps protect health care workers by allowing them to report their concerns to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health without involving hospital management.
What Is Whistleblowing?
“Whistleblowing” is a term that refers to reporting employer or government misconduct. In the case of nurses, a whistleblower is someone who reports information that they reasonably believe is evidence of gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, a specific danger to public health or safety, or a violation of the law. Nurses may become whistleblowers when they observe insurance fraud, Medicare or Medicaid miscoding, or unnecessary procedures being performed and report this wrongdoing to hospital management or to the State of California.
Because nurses are in a position to support people at their most vulnerable, they are often also the most vocal whistleblowers in standing up to abuse. So do nurses have whistleblower protection? A variety of state and federal laws help protect whistleblowers by encouraging people to report waste, fraud, and abuse on the part of private and government employers.
California Whistleblower Protection Laws
Both state and federal laws provide nurses with whistleblower protections. California whistleblower protection laws make it illegal for healthcare facilities to discriminate or retaliate against employees who report quality of care issues or take part in an investigation of the quality of care or services performed by an accrediting organization or a regulator.
California whistleblower protection laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who come forward to report suspected violations of the law, regulations, or the employer’s own policies or public policy. California Health and Safety Code Section 1278.5 prohibits health facilities from retaliating against employees who are involved in investigations at an accredited health facility. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) also protects workers from retaliation if they complain about unsafe working conditions.
Even with all of these laws in place to protect nurses who report wrongdoing, California employers still dare to retaliate against nurses who report fraud and misconduct in the healthcare system. If you are a nurse whistleblower or are considering blowing the whistle on your hospital or healthcare facility, contact a knowledgeable whistleblower attorney. A California whistleblower lawyer can help nurse whistleblowers like you take steps to obtain maximum whistleblower protection at every turn.
Employer Retaliation Against Whistleblowing in Healthcare
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many nurses reported being bullied, intimidated, and ostracized for escalating issues about unsafe patient conditions and reporting unethical workplace behaviors. Even as the pandemic recedes, many nurses still feel like their jobs are being threatened if they report unsafe staffing conditions or dangerous nurse-to-patient ratios. Instead of being rewarded for preventing catastrophes by highlighting potentially fatal medical matters, nurses are retaliated against and terminated, sometimes in violation of their contract. If you or a colleague has experienced this kind of whistleblower retaliation, speak with an experienced whistleblower protection attorney as soon as possible.
When filing a whistleblower retaliation complaint, you will want to have an attorney with a track record in whistleblower lawsuits and who understands the full scope of employment law claims. Speak with a member of the King & Siegel team today. Our attorneys and legal staff can help manage all aspects of your case and can work to get you the financial incentives you are entitled to.
How King & Siegel Can Help
When filing a whistleblower retaliation complaint, you can have between six months to three years in which to file your lawsuit. Having an experienced attorney to help you navigate the process is essential to the success of your claim. At King & Siegel, our employment law legal team is especially well-qualified to take on challenging and complicated whistleblower and retaliation cases. The attorneys who lead our whistleblower practice have extensive experience in litigating complex financial and regulatory cases and white-collar criminal cases and are well-versed in accounting, regulatory compliance, and government enforcement agencies. We are experienced with helping clients make protected reports, walking you through preserving important documents without risking liability to yourself, and litigating and resolving claims in court, arbitration, and government agency forums. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and to discuss how we can help you pursue justice.