'Leave to protect' policy helped Rhode Island hospital finance exec dodge 2 layoff attempts

Alia Paavola -

A policy called "leave to protect" helped a Rhode Island hospital finance chief avoid losing his job despite two layoff attempts, according to local news station WPRI

Christopher Feisthamel, the chief of operations and financial management at Eleanor Slater Hospital, an embattled state-run psychiatric hospital in Cranston, R.I., made headlines in early May after a WPRI investigation raised questions about his job status and how he dodged multiple efforts to terminate him since last October.

In text messages sent to WPRI, Mr. Feisthamel said that his job is shielded by a human resources policy in the state's more than 120-page personnel rule book. The policy is called "leave to protect" and allows workers to have multiple jobs concurrently. He said this policy was how he avoided the layoff attempts. 

"I don't have much to say on the record other than I had leave to protect and would have bumped Jen White," Mr. Feisthamel wrote in the text message to WPRI. Ms. White was the former interim Eleanor Slater Hospital CEO. 

The policy was initially designed to protect workers and allow them to return to their previous jobs if they failed to pass an exam required to get a new position. But WPRI said the policy has been generously applied in the last few decades. 

Under the law, each person can hold claim to as many as three jobs at the same time. If fired from one position, they can return to the previous job, which makes it difficult to lay off employees. 

Rhode Island officials confirmed to WRPI that Mr. Feisthamel had leave-to-protect status and that his termination would have resulted in him having the option to return to Ms. White's position of interim CEO. Ms. White has since been reclassified, according to the report. 

Read more about the layoff attempts here. Read the full WPRI article here

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