Fired Nurses Sue Swedish Hospital

Nurses Allege Age Discrimination, Retaliation

Three former nurses claim they were fired for speaking out about what they considered unsafe practices in the intensive care unit at Swedish Medical Center.

Their claims are the basis for a federal lawsuit that will also test a relatively new state law.

The women were supervisors in the IC unit in the fall of 2007 until they voluntarily sought lower positions based on what they felt was a lack of qualified staff.

“We believe that these nurses had legitimate complaints about staffing concerns, brought them to the attention of management and as a result were dismissed," said Penelope Clor, attorney for the three women -- Jan Arnott, Peggy Dutton-Graber, and Monica Teuscher. "They don’t believe the concerns were addressed satisfactorily.”

Those claims include "an incident where a pacifier was taped in a baby's mouth," according to the complaint.

A spokeswoman, Julie Lonborg, Director of Planning & Business Development for the hospital issued this statement:

"First and foremost, Swedish Medical Center is known for and is committed to continuing to provide outstanding patient care in a compassionate and safe manner. The Medical Center does not discriminate against its employees nor does it retaliate against them. Because this matter is currently in litigation, we are not able to share detailed information, but we certainly disagree with the allegations made by the three former employees and we will vigorously defend ourselves. The facts in this matter are very different than what the plaintiffs have alleged in their complaint, and we are confident in our position in this case."

All three women -- ages 45, 54, and 57 -- are also claiming age discrimination with 15 years of experience, Clor said.

“One of the nurses is working in nursing but none of the three has been able to find full-time work as a neonatal nurse," Clor said.

When asked if the women believed anyone was hurt as a result of the alleged lack of staffing, Clor answered, “No, I can’t point to anything that I could prove. I think the nurses were more complaining about the potential.”

State lawmakers passed a state statute in 2007 protecting "whistleblowers" from retaliation in the workplace.

Clor said that law will only be "an element" to the suit, which speaks unspecified damages from HealthOne, the owner of Swedish Medical Center.

The parties will attend a court-ordered mediation hearing on Friday.

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