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After a documented absence from my employee orientation, I was told I have no rights and if I miss one more day or am tardy, I could be terminated. Do I have rights as a new employee?

Monday December 3, 2012
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

I recently was hired as a clinical nurse for a state-funded hospital, which is unionized. I am in orientation, which was supposed to last six weeks. I completed four weeks but got sick and was absent for the last two weeks, during which I had a physician note validating the reason for my absence. Upon returning to work, I was told I have no rights and if I miss one more day or am tardy, I could be terminated. I felt the nurse manager and nurse educator were insensitive, and from the beginning I felt I was unfairly treated. I originally asked for day shifts and was told there were no days available. However, three other nurses, who were hired weeks after me now work days. There has been an accumulation of things overall about this job that upset me. Do I have rights as a new employee? Should I fight and stay or look elsewhere and move on? I have about five yearsí experience as a nurse.

Upset & Exploring Options



Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Upset & Exploring Options:

Generally speaking, when one is a new employee and in orientation, there are few, if any, rights the new employee has with respect to his or her employment. However, you indicated your facility is unionized. A union may have negotiated different rights for its members during the orientation period when they negotiated the union contract with the employer.

One question that is unanswered in your situation is whether you are a member of the union and became one immediately upon being hired. If you are a member, have you raised your situation with the union representative? He or she is the first person with whom you should raise your concerns.

Your concerns include being treated "unfairly." This too should be raised with your union representative. If you have done so already but to no avail, seeking a consultation with a nurse attorney or attorney who works with employees would be an alternative for you.

Make sure you have all the information you need to make a sound decision on whether to stay in this facility or seek other employment. The attorney with whom you consult can guide you on how best to exit this position if that is your decision.

Cordially,
Nancy




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.