May 1998 Legal Update

LEGAL UPDATE
By: Louis D. Stober, Jr. Esq.
CSEA REGIONAL ATTORNEY

STOBER VINDICATES GERIATRIC CENTER NURSE'S AIDE'S RIGHTS

A recent arbitration has resulted in a victory for a Nurse's Aid accused of patient abuse by a coworker at the A. Holly Patterson Geriatric Center. The employee was reinstated with full back pay and benefits, after being terminated back in February of this year. This matter was arbitrated to great success by Christine L. Cardinale, Esq. of my office.

The key witness for the County was a coworker who was walking down the hallway when she allegedly saw the Nurse's Aide strike a patient while feeding her. At the arbitration, it was established that the witness was over 50 feet away from the Aide at the time of the alleged abuse and that there was a food cart obstructing any clear view of the event. Perhaps most compelling to the arbitrator was the lack of any physical evidence of abuse. While the County's own witnesses and documentary evidence clearly established that the patient was "fragile skinned", the County could not produce any evidence of cuts or bruises to the patient.

This victory is important in that it serves as a reminder to the County that in any disciplinary matter it is the County who bears the burden of proving the allegations; the burden is not on the employee to establish his or her innocence. In fact, the Arbitrator begins his "Findings and Conclusions" by reaffirming that "[t]he Employer carries a heavy burden of proof in discharge cases."

So, if you are involved in any disciplinary proceeding, do not loose heart. The CSEA will not sit idly by and allow your employer to discipline you without proving the charges they have leveled against you. It is not enough for your employer simply to charge you with a disciplinary violation, they must prove these charges at arbitration.