South-Western Legal Studies in Business

State Law Expressly Allows Nursing Home Employees to Sue for Retaliatory Dismissals
Description Missouri high court held that the state’s Nursing Home Act created a right of action for retaliatory discharge for employees of private and public nursing homes when employees suffer retaliation for reporting suspected abuse of patients to the nursing home regulators.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Retaliatory Discharge; Whistleblower; Sovereign Immunity; Nursing Home
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Two at-will employees of a county-run nursing home, one a nurse and one a physician, reported to the state improper medical care at the nursing home. They were both fired. They sued for retaliatory discharge, contending that their dismissal was in violation of the anti-retaliation provision of the state law governing nursing homes. The district court dismissed the suit, finding the nursing home to be immune from the tort claims based on the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Plaintiffs appealed.
Decision

Reversed. The Nursing Home Act prohibits a nursing home operator from retaliating against an employee who reports suspected incidents of patient abuse or neglect. This created a private right of action in tort for employees of nursing homes who are retaliated against for reporting violations of the Act. The legislature expressly waived sovereign immunity for public nursing homes under the Act, making government-run nursing homes subject to the same rules as private nursing homes. Hence, the suit against the nursing home may proceed.

Citation Bachtel v. Miller County Nursing Home Dist., 110 S.W.3d 799 (Sup. Ct., Mo., 2003)

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