Fired Minnesota nurse sues hospital, alleges he was terminated for protecting his safety

A former employee is suing United Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., to get his job back after he was fired for actions he said were aimed at his safety, the Star Tribune reports.

Cliff Willmeng, RN, worked as an emergency department nurse at the hospital. He was fired May 8 after he wore hospital-issued scrubs during his shift caring for COVID-19 patients, a violation of United's policy prohibiting nurses from wearing uniforms that must be laundered by the hospital, according to the Tribune

Nurses were prohibited from wearing hospital-issued scrubs, which were set aside for emergency room physicians, Mr. Wilmeng told TV station KSTP. Nurses were supposed to wear their own scrubs to preserve supplies, he said.

But Mr. Willmeng told the Star-Tribune he did not feel safe bring his own scrubs home after work because the virus causing COVID-19 can survive on clothing. United Hospital contends the virus can effectively be removed by washing the scrubs at home.

Mr. Willmeng is now suing the hospital over the firing, which took place days after Minnesota Nurses Association in United's emergency department protested the hospital's safety practices. He told the Tribune his actions were for personal safety, and the hospital's policy surrounding his termination was not reasonable.

Minneapolis-based Allina Health did not comment specifically about Mr. Willmeng's situation in a statement provided to Becker's Hospital Review, but the health system did discuss its workers in general. 

"Allina Health’s employees are the foundation of our organization. Without them, we would not be able to serve the healthcare needs of our communities," the statement said.

"It is never easy to part ways with an employee," Allina added. "Our preference is always that education and coaching efforts will be successful. But we cannot appropriately retain employees who willfully and repeatedly choose to violate hospital policies designed to protect our patients and staff. Due to ongoing litigation, we won’t be commenting further at this time."

Read the full report here.


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