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Scottsdale Employment Law Blog

Summoned by the Arizona Board of Nursing? What next?

Whether you bounce out of bed at the first alarm or drag yourself to work after hitting the snooze button a dozen times, you likely reach a point in most shifts where you remember why you chose nursing as your profession. Those moments of gratification and reward can make the effort worthwhile and renew your commitment to giving quality care to your patients.

Nevertheless, when you received notification that the Arizona State Board of Nursing was initiating an investigation into a complaint against you, you may have felt demoralized and even angry. The biggest question on your mind may be, "What happens now?"

Director of Veterans Affairs hospital firing overturned by court

When it comes to your career, especially if your work involves a professional license of some kind, you should always consider fighting the charges against you, even if you do not have the support of public opinion in your favor. The truth of the matter is that public opinion and professional review boards are not one and the same, and even if you suffer a public relations fiasco, you may still succeed in beating charges and overturning your suspension or termination.

Just such a surprising turn of events recently occurred for the former director of the Veteran Affairs hospital in Phoenix, who was terminated amidst a public scandal in 2015 that involved VA hospitals generating allegedly false data around the wait times for veterans to receive care. Ostensibly, this false data was intended to improve the public image of the floundering VA, but the scandal did just the opposite.

Proving constructive dismissal

In some cases, continuing to work for an employer is simply not a safe or tenable option. This may be because of working conditions or an intolerable work environment. When employees leave the company on their own accord because they have no other reasonable recourse, this may constitute constructive dismissal. In many cases, constructive dismissal can support legal action similar to a traditional wrongful termination.

So, how do you know when you might have a constructive dismissal case? In broad strokes, constructive dismissal occurs when an employee leaves a position because of an employer's conduct. In the eyes of the law, if the conduct is documented, ongoing, and enough of a violation of rights, the employee is essentially involuntarily terminated by the employer's conduct. However, this is usually means meeting a fairly high standard of violation and proof of the violation.

I just lost my job. Can I sue?

You are not the first person to get fired, but that doesn't soften the blow, especially if your boss didn't give you a concrete reason for your termination. If being fired has left you struggling to pay your bills while also looking for work, you may have a feeling that something was not right with the way you were let go.

Many states, including Arizona, are "at-will" employment states, meaning an employer needs no reason to fire an employee. The manager or business owner does not need to provide notice before terminating you, and you can quit your job anytime you want to without giving a reason. This arrangement can give both sides a lot of leeway, but it can also leave both sides with more questions than answers.

New law restricts disability discrimination suits

Arizona legislators have passed a bill into law that may have a significant negative impact on those with disabilities. The new law, freshly signed by Governor Doug Ducey, seeks to minimize supposedly "frivolous" discrimination suits against companies that do not comply with disability regulations.

Under the new law, companies will automatically have 90 days to address any grievances that have to do with disability compliance, expanded from a 30-day compliance window when the bill was first introduced.

Toxic workplaces encourage discrimination

Workplace discrimination rarely occurs in a vacuum. If you look around and see signs of toxicity in your workplace, it s possible that harassment or discrimination may exist there.

Sometimes employees have simply gotten accustomed to consistently poor treatment. Not only are toxic workplaces a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination, they often lead to professional burnout. If your workplace may be toxic, be alert to discriminatory practices, for your own sake and that of your coworkers.

Nurses, think before you self-report

To many Arizona nurses, one of the most intimidating aspects of holding a professional license is the thought of having to appear before the Board of Nursing to answer questions in an investigation. You may also shudder to realize the Board expects you to tell them when authorities file certain criminal charges against you.

The list of felonies and misdemeanors to report is quite extensive, and complying with the Board's condition to self-report is not optional. If you are facing criminal charges, you may think that reporting to the Board will provide you with an advocate to protect your license. This is not the case, however.

What if my employer does not issue my final paycheck?

When you leave a job, either because you chose to leave willingly or because you were fired, it is often rather difficult to obtain you final paycheck. Unfortunately, many employers are not eager or motivated to pay you for your last portion of work, and often require some coercion. The good news is that the law is generally on the employee's side in these matters, even if it takes some legal muscle to exercise the law in your favor.

While the specifics may vary depending on your job and how you left it, an employer is usually allowed about 30 days to issue you your final paycheck. Of course, once you leave the position, communication with your employer can become awkward or just practically difficult, so it is usually wise to seek professional legal counsel if you believe that your former employer is avoiding paying you.

Can I challenge a litigation waiver after a wrongful termination?

If you face a wrongful termination after signing a waiver against suing your employer, you may feel as though you are out of options. However, litigation waivers are often not ironclad agreements, and a skillful attorney may be able to identify weaknesses in the agreement or ways that your employer behaved that invalidate the waiver.

In order to challenge a waiver, you will want to identify a few common problem areas in the agreement. First, were you properly aware of the agreement when you signed it? If the waiver was unclear or poorly constructed, it is possible that it will not hold up in court. Similarly, if you were aware of the nature of the agreement, but were discouraged or prevented from consulting with an attorney before signing the agreement, or if you had insufficient time to consider the terms of the agreement, you may have some wiggle room.

Responding to Arizona Board of Nursing investigations

After the Arizona Board of Nursing receives a complaint about a nurse, the Board sends a formal notice that the complaint is under investigation. If you have recently received such a notice, you may be unsure of how to respond.

Your reputation and your career may be in the balance, even if you feel the complaint is minor or unfounded. The way you react to the complaint could have some bearing on the final outcome of your case.