Worker's Compensation: Nurse's Aide Alleges Employer Retaliation 

Quick Summary: A nurse's aide's can sue for retaliation if filing for worker's comp was why she was fired.  She was injured caring for a resident in a nursing home.

Her doctor restricted her to light duty. The nursing home had no light duty, so she had to take time off.

She used up her sick leave and then filed a worker’s compensation claim. SUPREME COURT OF VIRGINIA, 1997.


A nurse’s aide worked in a nursing home where her duties, as the Supreme Court of Virginia described it, included helping the residents to bathe, dress and eat.

   The aide entered the room of an elderly resident and found her grasping the bathroom sink to keep from falling. The aide injured her hand holding the resident to keep her from falling.

   Her supervisor told her to ice her hand. The court said the supervisor asked the aide why she had not just let the resident fall, instead of getting herself hurt.

   She went to the emergency room after her shift, had the hand splinted, and was referred to an orthopedist. His diagnosis was a hyperextended thumb. He restricted her to light duty. There was no light duty available at the nursing home, so the aide used up six days accumulated sick leave and then filed an application for worker’s compensation. Soon afterward she was sent a letter of termination.

   When her orthopedist released her to return to work with no medical restrictions, her former supervisor told her there was no work available for her at the nursing home.

   The aide filed a lawsuit for retaliation. A lower court threw out the case. The Supreme Court of Virginia, however, ruled for the aide. The Supreme Court did not weigh whether the allegations of retaliation were true. It ruled only that the aide was entitled to her day in court to present her evidence, because if an employee is fired in retaliation for filing a worker’s comp claim for an on-the-job injury, the law recognizes a right to sue. Mullins v. Virginia Lutheran Homes, Inc., 479 S.E. 2d 530 (Va., 1997).

Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)4 Apr 98