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I was forced to resign after more than 30 years at a hospital, due to verbal and physical abuse from my manager. Is there anything I can do about this?

Wednesday June 19, 2013
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Dear Nancy,

I was an interventional radiology RN at a local hospital for more than 10 years and an ICU catheter lab RN for 20. The hospital is known for being authoritarian and has a new manager who was a radiology technician, not an RN. I was forced to resign after many conflicts involving patient safety — either not following nursing process, hospital policies or the nurse practice act. While I was attempting to do the hospital-required safety modules, she physically poked me, trapped me in a chair and yelled in my face. From the start, it was obvious she was attempting to replace me with a charge nurse, which she ended up doing, not part of our bargaining agreement. I tried to get help from the union, human resources and the director of nursing — in person and in writing, all were ineffective. I knew that I could not continue under this pressure and took a leave of absence and eventually resigned, due to the continued provocation of my manager. Is there anything I can do at this point? It affects my retirement and I would like to prevent others from being forced to leave this institution because this type of behavior is allowed.


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Kirill,

The situation you describe raises the issue of whether or not your resignation was, in fact, a constructive discharge. A constructive discharge is when an employer's agent makes working conditions so impossible through such things as intimidation, harassment, difficult work assignments that the employee resigns, not by choice.

Seeking a consultation with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who works in the area of employment law and works with employees would be your next step. The attorney can analyze what went on during this difficult period and determine whether or not a lawsuit alleging constructive discharge is possible.

Filing such a suit does not mean you must return to that workplace. Rather, it might result in monetary compensation for such things as lost wages, lost contributions to your retirement plan and emotional distress.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.