Nurse fired for commenting on workplace violence
The North Bay Nugget reports on the first day of arbitration in the Sue McIntyre discharge case. Ms. McIntyre was dismissed for comments attributed to her regarding workplace violence.
While attending a conference for Registered Practical Nurses (RPN) in late January, Ms. McIntyre spoke for a few minutes about the risk of violence nurses face in hospitals with forensic psychiatric units or medium secure units where patients come from area prisons. OCHU issued a media release following the conference quoting Ms. McIntyre and giving her name as a contact.
Ms. McIntyre contacted OCHU and asked to have her name removed from the press release, which was done. However, the North Bay Nugget picked up the press release and published a story using the quotes attributed to her. That story was also revised to remove Ms. McIntyre’s name, but her employer, the North Bay Regional Health Centre, fired her for making ” inappropriate, inaccurate and unprofessional” statements.
Mark Wright represents the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) and CUPE Local 139, Ms. McIntyre’s trade union. In his opening remarks to Arbitrator Bram Herlich, Mark disputed the employer’s claim:
McIntyre’s lawyer, Mark Wright of Goldblatt Partners of Toronto, called [McIntyre’s] statements “substantially accurate.
“She did explain that many patients are young and strong and suffer from mental health issues. She doesn’t identify any patient,” he said.
“She’s at a union conference talking about violence. It’s hard to fire someone for describing where she works.”
Wright said McIntyre had no role in drafting the release and only learned that she was quoted after receiving a copy in an e-mail from OCHU president Michael Hurley.
“She noticed her name on the bottom as a contact. However, the telephone number was wrong,” Wright said.
“She became immediately concerned, contacted OCHU and spoke with Hurley. McIntyre stated she was worried about being disciplined and targeted.”
Wright said the release was posted online by The Nugget.
“McIntyre is worried that her name is front and centre. She contacts the (Nugget) reporter and asked that her name be removed, as well as the quotes attributed to her.”
Wright said a revised story appeared online shortly after with different quotes from an anonymous mental health nurse.
“That nurse (who talked with The Nugget anonymously) is not the griever. For that, McIntyre got fired. The reason she was fired is because of the media reports,” he said.
“McIntyre didn’t speak to the press and leak the story. It appears that the hospital concluded that she had.”
The arbitration hearing will continue in April.