TRANSPARENCY for EQUAL ACCOUNTABILITY in MEDICINE

September 25, 2007

UNJUST “AT WILL” FIRING LAWS

ABOLISH UNJUST “AT WILL FIRING” EMPLOYMENT LAWS:  AN IGNORED CONSTITUENTS OPINION ALMOST EXACTLY AS IT WAS SENT TO MARYLAND REPRESENTATIVES IN 2001.

A COPY OF THIS CONSTITUENT OPINION WAS SENT TO BOTH OF THE MARYLAND SENATORS AND TO CONGRESSMAN CUMMINGS BACK IN MID 2001. DESPITE FOLLOW UP CALLS TO THESE REPRESENTATIVES THERE HAS BEEN VERY LITTLE INFORMATION REGARDING THEIR CONSIDERATION OR ANY PROGRESS ON THIS IMPORTANT LEGISLATIVE CHANGE. SENATOR SARBANES OFFICE WAS RECONTACTED TO INQUIRE IF THIS CONSTITUENT’S OPINION HAD HAD AND BEARING ON “SOX” ACT, RE WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS PUT FORWARD BY SARBANES, BUT THEIR MAIN EMPHASIS WAS FINANCE AND GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE PROTECTION. HOSPITAL STAFF STILL DESPERATLY NEED REAL PROTECTION

CONSTITUENT OPINION                                                                             pg.1. Constituent: Kim L. Sanders-Fisher
ISSUE: ABOLISH UNJUST, “AT WILL FIRING,” EMPLOYMENT LAWS.

New  Labor Laws are urgently required to provide basic standards of protection for both Union and non-Union employees. Businesses, especially the large corporations, will continue to take full advantage of the gapping holes in Maryland’s current system until stricter laws are enacted.

At Will Firing” Practices Severely Harm and Endanger Maryland Constituents.      

Maryland Companies are free to intimidate, coerce or finally remove anyone from the workforce for making a legitimate complaint: from vital public safety issues to gross negligence, fraud, or blatantly illegal practices. A hospital worker might ignore unconscionable patient endangerment, a secretary might turn a blind eye to shady dealings that defraud the public, a mechanic might never complain about substandard auto parts, a dishwasher may fail to contact the Health Department about a filthy, infested kitchen. The consequences impact all of us: a neglected patient dies; people loose their life’s savings; a bus crash kills innocent school children; an epidemic of food poisoning plagues the patrons of a run-down restaurant. All of these situations are potentially preventable when our ordinary citizens step forward to report a problem; however, the vast majority of workers genuinely fear persecution and the dire consequences of America’s flawed firing practices as applied here in the State of Maryland.

Whistle-Blowers are Effectively Silenced by Unjust,“Business Friendly,” Employment LawsFinancial Incentives Encourage “At Will Firing”  Practices in Maryland Businesses.

Unscrupulous Companies are further rewarded because here in Maryland they are legally entitled to just “write off” a percentage, or even the entirety, of accumulated vacation hours and other standard benefits, like health care or the vesture earned by tenured employees. I am sure that, on at least some occasions, this alone is sufficient financial incentive and a significant motivation for targeting diligent workers for removal or firing an employee without cause. The worker who accumulated vacation hours in preparation for a lengthy, well deserved, holiday suddenly looses her job; the diagnosis of a medical condition has to be abandoned after the, now less desirable, worker is fired; a staff member is falsely accused of “unsatisfactory job performance” just a few weeks short of becoming vested. This culling of the work force is only possible because in Maryland we do not require a person to be fired for cause.

At Will Firing”  Practices Negatively Impact the Entire Community in Maryland.

Maryland business Owners are also permitted to sabotage their former employee’s ability to find an alternative job or receive any unemployment. Keeping unemployment insurance low is an incentive for companies to block unemployment compensation after a termination. They can, and do, routinely delay desperately needed benefit funds even on occasions when they are subsequently unable to show any valid cause for the termination. By the time an employee is judged eligible for benefits the most disadvantaged of former workers have grabbed the first menial job available out of sheer desperation.

For the unfortunate victims of wrongful termination who might try to hold out for a suitable position with equivalent pay and benefits the simple phrase “Not Eligible for Rehire” is often sufficient to sabotage their prospects: they are thus penalized once again. The cruel stigma and ultimate degradation of being falsely accused is crippling, further impairing their ability to move on. They may be forced to abandon valuable scholastic and career goals thus becoming totally disillusioned by their powerless status in the work force to which they belonged. America’s “at will” firing laws have driven people into depression, addiction and criminal behavior; in rare cases these laws have led to suicide or a violent desire to exact revenge.

Ordinary citizens pay to support this corporate indifference while the entire community must share the burden of its dire consequences: we are all debilitated by these archaic employment laws

CONSTITUENT OPINION                                                                      pg.2. Constituent:  Kim L. Sanders-Fisher  

Condoning Laws that Permit Corporate Profiteering at the Expense of Workers is Morally Bankrupt and does not Promote Business or Stimulate Economic Growth.

The recent Enron debacle serves as a lesson to us all. Countless employees lost their retirement funds because those who knew Company stock prices were plummeting were too spineless to admit the truth. The corporate power mongers prohibited most regular workers from withdrawing their savings in time. Enron’s wealthy executives profited at the expense of ordinary staff members who, devoid of any basic rights, were powerless to prevent their inevitable demise: the majority of states in the US are no better!

Under Current Maryland Employment Laws that Support Businesses by Depleting the Rights of All Workers, Union Contacts Afford Minimal Additional Protections.

The majority of employees believe that their Union contract will protect them from unjust business tactics or Management persecution, but this is a false sense of security. In many cases Unions have allowed a reduction in termination pay to be inserted into their contract not fully realizing that they are increasing the incentive to fire Union workers for little or no cause. The language used to describe grounds for disciplinary action or termination is so vague and all encompassing that no effort is required to create what, on the surface, appears to be just cause. However there’s generally no necessity to elaborate on these vague one-liners so they are wide open to manipulation and gross misinterpretation. The action to remove an employee from the workforce is often immediate, requiring no investigation of the facts or presentation of evidence to support termination. Following a dismissal it is impossible to return to the work place, speak with co-workers or obtain any evidence at all.  One is barred access to ones own personnel file and any potential evidence, including letters of allegation. Pay records can be suppressed to ensure that pay discrepancies are never uncovered or raised. Unions can, and do, attempt to obtain evidence and information on ones behalf but this can become a torturous and often fruitless project.

  • 1.)       It took my Union eight months and pressure from the Labor Board to obtain copies of three letters, initially described as “Letters of Outrage,” one of which was then found to be at least partially supportive to my case.

  • 2.)    My Union has still not managed to obtain copies of my Pay Records that have been suppressed for at least fifteen months because they contain evidence that I was forced to take time off without pay.

  • 3.)    The charges against me remain unspecified, never quantified: to this day there are just two vague phrases “Verbally Abusive” and “Disruptive Behavior in the Workplace.”  At each confrontation the  false allegations against me change and have escalated significantly to the level of criminal acts!

So called Grievance Hearings with Management, Labor Relations and the Union are delayed as much as possible in the hope a former employee will just give up and look elsewhere for a job. When they are finally held no evidence is required from Management to prove that they had real cause to fire the employee and anything the worker brings to the hearing is completely ignored: this rubber-stamps the grossly unfair, one-sided process. Recourse after the inevitable denial is minimal and may stretch out for more than one year. The Maryland Commission on Human Relations and EEOC are in place to investigate some abuses, but their mandate of protection under the law is so narrowly defined that in many cases it is worthless. Internal regulatory bodies are available at some companies, but it does not take long to realize that their main objective is to protect the Employer and white-wash over problems.

The Union contacts the National Labor Board and the Wage and Hour Board for Union Employees. Congressman, Senators, Representatives, the ACLU, Legal Aid, Lawyers, the State’s Attorneys Office, the Federal and District Court House, the Public Defenders Office: all appeals in all directions are completely useless because in Maryland, as in so many other States, we have no fair Labor Laws!  I have actually contacted every single one of the above mentioned officials and agencies with no result. My missing pay checks may total as much as $1500 if I include pay for Forced Time Off. However I was told by my Union that when we go to Arbitration, I cannot even mention missing pay or the clear agenda to force me out of my job in retaliation for bringing a legitimate complaint against a Manager. If this is how protracted and difficult the process of seeking justice is for a “protected” Union Worker you can imagine how hopeless and abysmally unfair it must be for those who are not Union Members.

CONSTITUENT OPINION                                                                        pg.3. Constituent: Kim L. Sanders-Fisher

Industrial Progress is Impaired when the Input and Ideas of Innovative Workers is Thwarted by Insecure Managers who Label these Subordinates “Troublemakers.” 

An innovative employee is traditionally seen as a threat by less imaginative supervisors; these are the people most often targeted for removal from the workplace. Positive input and opinions are viewed as disruptive to the status quo; all regular employees are strongly encouraged not to “rock the boat.”   Even when a suggested change might save money and improve conditions, the implementation of any new ideas will generally require extra effort, especially by Managers, and additional expenditures by the company. There are incentive bonuses compelling most Management personal to cut costs to reduce their own workload; few look beyond their own immediate goals to consider “the big picture.”

  
Industry as a whole is debilitated by this stifling of ideas. Many companies run inefficiently, incurring unnecessary expenses, with workers hopelessly frustrated and dissatisfied in their jobs; any respect for Management or corporate bosses, is abysmally low.  Companies squander thousands on an expensive consulting firm, but choose to disregard unpleasant conclusions like, “Your business is top heavy.”   Ignoring consultancy advice, rather than trimming the glut of management positions, they lay off large numbers of minimum wage earners or force them to reduce their hours, take pay cuts or sacrifice their benefits.  The burden always falls on those at the very bottom of the job market, regular workers who have no rights! I have seen this futile process three times, in two separate hospitals; the lesson is never learned. These huge layoffs swell the ranks of unemployed, a consequence which impacts all of us.  

Forward-thinking American Companies who have independently decided on implementing basic fair employment practices foster a positive work environment, and are generally rewarded with increased productivity as job satisfaction is optimized. Regular employees from every level of their business feel valued and free to submit their input without recrimination or fear of retaliation. Companies benefit from this multidisciplinary, internal review of their standards and practices, expensive consulting firms are unnecessary and new avenues of business are opened up.

Capitalizing on the innovative ideas and knowledge of the rank and file, regular employees who are already familiar with your particular type of enterprise, makes good sound business sense. However, this bold strategy will not be implemented across the board by all businesses without government intervention to ban America’s unjust “At Will firing” practices that continue to intimidate potentially brilliant employees from helping their company to attain higher goals.

 Abolition of the “At Will Firing” Laws will dispel the pervasive atmosphere of distrust for Management by the majority of regular employees in the workforce, thereby motivating, inspiring and boosting productivity among despondent, disillusioned US workers. This bold positive change to restore confidence among all US workers must ultimately stimulate economic growth. 

W.H.E.N? WHISTLEBLOWERS in HEALTHCARE EXPOSE NEGLIGENCE 

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/938995258

A CITIZEN’S FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS CANNOT BE JUST SUSPENDED IN THE WORKPLACE 

Obscure, unwarranted subjective feelings, vague, unspecified, uncorroborated accusations manipulated to deliberately misinterpret the rules cannot, or should not become grounds for dismissal. No employee should be able to swear at, harass or intimidate their coworkers without being disciplined, but these events must be documented in full and in writing with the unsolicited corroboration of other employees before a worker is fired.  If an employer cannot provide an accused employee with a detailed account of the circumstances or actions that justified their dismissal then their motivation for firing must be regarded with a high degree of suspicion.  Employers using such deceitful tactics certainly do not deserve public accolades and awards for “Honesty, Integrity and Transparency!”

An employee should feel free to defend their own integrity by denying false charges without the very denial itself becoming a cause for further discipline. An appeal for acceptable, fair and even handed treatment is not “Berating;” phone calls to request reasonable consideration are not “Harassing phone calls;” telling a supervisor that they are being “Unnecessarily Inflexible” is not “Verbal abuse;” and those who claim to feel “Threatened and Intimidated” but cannot identify why, should not be believed.  If those same employees did not feel sufficiently threatened to call Security they probably didn’t really feel threatened at all, besides worrying that their own jobs were under threat if they did not provide a solicited letter of accusation.  No one should loose their entire livelihood because a coworker felt threatened or intimidated by behavior as innocuous as having ones arms folded or standing with hands on hips!  

If something a coworker thought that they might have heard you muttering to yourself under your breath is sufficient grounds for dismissal then workers have suspended all first amendment rights while on the job! When even Union employees cannot ask simple questions of a potential witness or obtain evidence to support their innocence, without incurring additional disciplinary action or being fired, then businesses are encouraged to coerce, torment and persecute their workers with impunity.

                                                                     

All of the above circumstances and false accusations pertain to my own wrongful termination case.

THIS SAME LAW PROBABLY APPLIES IN YOUR STATE AND RESTRICTS YOUR RIGHT TO PROTECT PATIENTS FROM HARM DUE TO FEAR OF RETALIATION AND WRONGFUL TERMINATION. WE NEED NEW LEGISLATION TO PROVIDE BETTER PROTECTIONS FOR ALL WHISTLEBLOWERS, BUT ESPECIALLY NURSES AND OTHER HOSPITAL STAFF.   IF YOU HAVE BEEN NEGATIVELY IMPACTED BY THIS ISSUE PLEASE COMMENT.

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