Maine hospital loses legal challenge against employee fired over media policy

A federal court ruled against Northern Light Health Maine Coast Hospital in a case involving a former employee who was fired for writing to a local newspaper about a labor dispute, according to the Bangor Daily News.

The 1st Circuit appeals court upheld a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that found the Ellsworth-based hospital, previously known as Maine Coast Memorial Hospital, violated labor laws in the firing, according to a May 26 decision cited by the newspaper.

In 2017, Karen Jo Young, a coordinator in the hospital's rehabilitation department, alleged that she was fired after submitting a letter to The Ellsworth American that raised concerns about working conditions at the hospital after its acquisition by Eastern Maine Healthcare in Brewer, now Northern Light Health.

At the time Ms. Young submitted her letter, the hospital didn't allow employees to contact or release information to news media without internal approval. 

A panel of judges for the appeals court said Ms. Young was fired because of the media policy hours after the newspaper published the letter, a first for the hospital. The panel added that the hospital later changed its media policy so it wouldn't bar employees for talking to news outlets about labor disputes.

The appeals court upheld the NLRB's order to reinstate Ms. Young in her role and grant her back pay, according to the report.

In a statement to the Bangor Daily News, a Northern Light Health spokesperson said they are "disappointed" with the decision but will adhere to it.

"In our view, if the law provides an absolute shield to a subordinate employee who, with no basis in fact, publicly accuses her organization's senior leadership, as well as certain of its board members, of dereliction of duty, then the law has gone too far and needs to be changed," the spokesperson said.

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