Remember that nurses have rights! Nurses are obligated to protect patients and report potential violations or misconduct. A nurse’s license could be at risk if he/she fails to act appropriately. The Texas legislature has created laws to protect nurses in their employment to discourage retaliation for their compliance with the Nursing Practice Act and other laws. The following are a few key laws that all nurses should be aware of:
Section 301.352 of the Texas Occupations Code prevents an employer from suspending, terminating, or otherwise disciplining, discriminating against, or retaliating against a nurse who refuses to engage in an act/omission relating to patient care that would result in a violation of the Nurse Practices Act or a board rule (as long as the nurse notifies the person at the time of refusal the reason for the refusal).
Section 301.413 of the Texas Occupations Code prevents an employer from suspending, terminating, or otherwise disciplining or retaliating a nurse for: a) making a good faith report under the Nurse Practices Act; b) requesting a nursing peer review committee determination; c) refusing to engage in conduct under 301.352; or d) advising another nurse of any of these rights.
Section 301.4025 of the Texas Occupations Code allows for optional reporting by a nurse. Specifically, a nurse may report to his/her employer or another appropriate entity any situation that the nurse has reasonable cause to believe exposes a patient to substantial risk of harm as a result of a failure to provide patient care that conforms to minimum standards of acceptable and prevailing professional practice or statutory, regulatory, or accreditation standards.
A violation of any of the above three sections could result in significant liability to an employer, specifically:
The greater of either a) actual damages, including mental anguish, or b) $5,000;
Compensation for lost wages during any period of suspension or termination;
Reinstatement (or three month’s severance pay);
Exemplary (punitive) damages; and
Court costs and attorney’s fees.
Section 261.110 of the Texas Family Code prevents an employer from suspending, terminating, or otherwise discriminating against a nurse (or other professional) who reports child abuse or neglect. A violation of this section could also result in substantial damages, including actual damages, exemplary damages (for a private employer), and court costs and attorney’s fees.
Section 161.134 of the Texas Health and Safety Code prevents a hospital from suspending, terminating, disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against an employee for reporting a violation of law or agency rule. A violation of this section could result in actual damages, mental anguish damages, exemplary damages, attorney’s fees, compensation for lost wages and benefits, and reinstatement (or front pay).
As shown by the above laws, nurses have significant protection to ensure compliance with their licenses and really to protect patients. If you are a nurse and believe you may have been treated inappropriately by your employer based on a good faith report or complaint, contact Sud Law P.C. to evaluate your rights.
This article is for general information purposes and is not to be construed as specific legal advice. Every situation is different and only a qualified attorney can evaluate your specific circumstances.