Healthcare News & Insights

Was nurse fired over her union organizing or poor performance?

A Boston hospital system has been accused of illegally firing a nurse who was trying to organize a union at her hospital. 

The National Labor Relations Board claims that Holy Family Hospital of Methuen, Massachusetts, part of Steward Health Care System, fired Mary Ramirez for her activity leading a union organizing effort. Ramirez, 61, has 40 years of nursing experience, 18 of them at Holy Family. NLRB also said that nurses at Holy Family weren’t allowed to wear buttons showing support for Ramirez.

Through a spokesperson, Steward has denied the allegations, claiming that Ramirez was fired for a variety of performance issues that were reported to management by a fellow nurse. The hospital claimed that Ramirez intentionally changed a doctor’s order, made an intentional medication error, and didn’t enter a morphine dose in a patient’s record. (Ramirez doesn’t deny that she administered a drug intravenously rather than injecting it, but said it wasn’t an intentional error. She also noted that the patient wasn’t harmed in any way.)

The hospital also said that the Board of Registration put Ramirez on probation for two year for diverting patient medication for her own use. Ramirez didn’t deny the allegation, but again pointed out that no patients were harmed by her actions.

Ramirez maintains that her union activity was the real (and improper) reason for her firing. She’s seeking reinstatement to her position and back pay.

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  1. If the allegations against Mary Ramirez are true, then the hospital had every right to terminate her employment. However, if it is found that these same types of mistakes were committed by other nurses and the hospital failed to enforce this practice consistently, then they probably did fire her under the pretense of poor performance. In other words, they fired her for her organizing efforts. On another note, the company probably could and should have found a better time to terminate her, waiting until the outcome of the unionization efforts and all that jazz died down.