Nurse in Carbonear, N.L., senior home terminated after telling dirty joke

Coworker in tears recounting story about ‘vulgar’ language
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 06/10/2019
Senior home
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After a nurse told a “vulgar” joke to a resident in the Carbonear Long Term Care Centre in Carbonear, N.L., she was terminated for the culminating incident.

Laura Noseworthy, licensed practical nurse, had worked for Eastern Health for nine years.

On Jan. 9, 2018, Noseworthy and Amanda Evely Follett, personal-care attendant, were in a patient’s room, identified as “R.,” to move her from the bed to a chair. R. had various cognitive issues and was known to regularly swear to staff members. But on that day, Noseworthy asked R. in a joking manner about Evely Follett’s sexual behaviour.

The word “cocksucker” was used in the punchline.

After they finished with R., Evely Follett reported the joke to another coworker, who advised her to tell management about the off-colour joke. At 3:30 p.m., she advised Donna Warford, resident-care manager, about what happened.

Evely Follet was in tears when she recounted the story.

On Jan. 15, Evely Follet told two more managers about the joke and she said that it made her feel uncomfortable and it gave her a lot of stress.

During testimony, Noseworthy said that Evely Follett’s version of the story was incorrect and during the incident, it was R. who called her names.

“You can’t be calling her a fucker or a cocksucker,” said Noseworthy to R.

But on Jan. 17, Noseworthy was terminated.

“Making such a vulgar statement to a coworker in the workplace is unacceptable. However, this statement was also made to a long-term care resident of a vulnerable nature. Multiple accounts advised that the resident was ‘agitated,’ and ‘not herself’ the remainder of the day. In this situation, you demonstrated a lack of dignity to both your coworker and the resident while making this inappropriate, sexually aggressive statement,” read the dismissal letter.

Noseworthy had been previously suspended for four months in 2017 (reduced to three months after an appeal) for “multiple incidents of inappropriate conduct and language.”

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) union grieved the firing and argued it was excessive.

But Eastern Health countered and said the incident happened less than three weeks after the previous suspension and Noseworthy’s behaviour had a negative effect on a “vulnerable” patient.

Arbitrator James Oakley dismissed the grievance.

“The employer previously attempted to correct (Noseworthy’s) behaviour by a disciplinary suspension and a return-to-work plan. (She) was directed to review materials and to be prepared to return to work without repetition of the inappropriate conduct that led to her suspension. However, upon return to work, (Noseworthy) repeated her inappropriate behaviour. The employer was entitled to regard the incident of Jan. 9, 2018, as a culminating incident. In these circumstances, it would not be just and appropriate to reinstate (Noseworthy) in employment.”

Noseworthy’s history weighed heavily against the possibility of reinstatement, said Oakley.

“The prior discipline was the result of multiple incidents of inappropriate behaviour with residents, use of cellphone while working, falsification of documents, delayed care and breaches of confidentiality. In particular, (Noseworthy) made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to family members of residents, as noted in the letter of prior discipline. It was noted in the prior letter of discipline that (she) did not appear to show remorse or accept that her behaviour was inappropriate. Therefore, (Noseworthy) has a significant prior disciplinary record for multiple incidents, including other incidents of inappropriate conduct with residents. (She) should have known that the language used was offensive and inappropriate having regard to her prior disciplinary record and return-to-work program.”

Reference:

Eastern Health and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees. James Oakley — arbitrator. Emily Caines for the employer. Vina Gould for the employee. Jan. 30, 2019. 2019 CarswellNfld 198

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