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Arbitrator Orders Washington Hospital Center To Reinstate Veteran Nurse Fired During Blizzard

Press Release Press Release, 12/22/10

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For Immediate release
December 23, 2010

Ruling Expected to Set Pattern for Re-instatement of Other Nurses

The union that represents 1,600 registered nurses at Washington Hospital Center today celebrated an arbitrator’s decision that reversed a decision last February to fire one of the 18 registered nurses who were unable to get to work at the peak of crippling snow storms that paralyzed the capital region.

“This is long overdue and a victory for the nurses at Washington Hospital Center,” said National Nurses United Co-President Deborah Burger, RN.  “We believe that the principles of this ruling, including restoration of work and back pay, should be available to the others who were affected by these unjustified dismissals.”

Arbitrator Roger P. Kaplan, an Alexandria,  attorney selected by the hospital and the union to hear the dispute, directed Washington Hospital Center to cancel the termination of Geri Lee, 54, and awarded her back pay for all but 10 days of the nearly 11 months of since her dismissal.

“The evidence demonstrated the Lee has an exemplary performance record, having received awards, commendations and testimonials from the employer as well as from patients.  The evidence further showed that she has a clean disciplinary record and has not had attendance problems.  This is a remarkable record built over 31-plus years of service,” said Kaplan in his 37-page decision.

Lee was one of the nurses fired after the record snow storm made it impossible for her to get her car out of the neighborhood in suburban Maryland where she lived.  The hospital had not declared a snow emergency, nor did it offer transportation assistance to stranded staff.

The snow storms which battered the Mid-Atlantic region Feb. 4-7 closed the federal and local governments and most private businesses in the Washington area for a week or more.

Earlier the hospital reinstated nine of the nurses, while five found other jobs, according to Union Steward Stephen Frum.  The hospital and National Nurses United, which affiliated the Washington Hospital Center’s independent nurses union in the fall, re-started collective bargaining negotiations after the nurses voted to stage a one-day work stoppage.  

A copy of the arbitrator’s decision is available upon request.  National Nurses United, with 160,000 RN members, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the country.

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