discrimination harassment retaliation

Wrongful Termination After Nurse Repeatedly Refused to Perform Nurse-Led Stress Tests

Nurse-Led Stress Tests

The Nursing Practice Act (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 2700 et seq.) regulates the practice of nursing in California.  The Nursing Practice Act permits nurses to perform certain functions that would otherwise be considered the illegal practice of medicine, when such functions are performed pursuant to a hospital’s “standardized procedures.”  (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 2725, subd. (c).)  The Nursing Practice Act Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations contains the guidelines promulgated implementing the NPA.  (See Cal. Code Regs., tit. 16, § 1470-1474)

In Nosal-Tabor v. Sharp Chula Vista Medical Ctr.Karen, a registered nurse repeatedly refused to perform nurse-led stress tests and made numerous complaints concerning the testing to Sharp’s management.  The nurse complained that stress testing constitutes the practice of medicine and that Sharp had not adopted sufficient procedures to allow nurses to perform such tests.  Sharp’s management disagreed and told the nurse to conduct the stress testing.  After the nurse continued to refuse to perform nurse-led stress testing and to complain about its implementation, Sharp disciplined her and eventually terminated her employment.

Wrongful Termination

Nosal-Tabor sued Sharp, alleging wrongful termination and two causes of action premised on claims of improper workplace retaliation.  Sharp filed a motion for summary judgment.  The trial court granted the motion, ruling that Nosal-Tabor presented “no credible evidence that the Standardized Procedures in place at the time of her termination were insufficient.”

On appeal, Nosal-Tabor claimed that the trial court erred in granting Sharp’s motion for summary judgment.  Her primary contention is that the trial court erred in concluding that there was no evidence upon which a reasonable juror could find that Sharp had failed to adopt standardized procedures that comply with the guidelines.  Nosal-Tabor contended that this error caused the court to improperly conclude that she would be unable to establish any of her causes of action.

The appellate court determined that the documents that Sharp maintained for its standardized procedures did not contain several elements required by the regulations.  “In light of these deficiencies, a reasonable juror could find that Sharp improperly retaliated against, and wrongfully terminated, Nosal-Tabor when she complained about, and refused to perform, nurse-led stress testing pursuant to Sharp’s legally deficient procedures.”

Employers should be cautious when disciplining or terminating an employee for complaining about potential violations of the law.  Even when the company believes it has fully complied with the law, an employee may still be able to allege a claim for wrongful termination or retaliation.  If you have questions about your termination or if you are considering terminating an employee for potentially protected conduct, contact a knowledgeable wrongful termination lawyer.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

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