Termination appropriate for nursing home worker who lost temper with resident

Verbal abuse of residents considered a serious offence for a health-care aide

Dismissal was appropriate punishment for a nursing home health care aide who lost her temper with a resident, an arbitrator has ruled.

The health care aide, a woman referred to as M.A. in the arbitration, worked for several years at White Eagle Nursing Home in Toronto.

On Oct. 20, 2005, another aide reported she heard repeated shouting coming from the dining room. When she went to investigate, she found M.A. and an elderly male resident “nose-to-nose.” The resident was swearing and M.A. was yelling at the resident with an angry look on her face. The other aide told M.A. to step back and break it up and when she looked at her, the resident slapped her across the face.

In a later statement, M.A. claimed the altercation began when the resident accused her of not sending an elevator back to his floor when she had told him she would. When she encountered him in the dining room, she said the resident held up his cane and acted like he was going to hit her. She moved away but the resident came near her and hit her on the side of her head with his fist. M.A. denied the report she yelled at him and said she believed she didn’t verbally abuse the resident.

The arbitrator found M.A.’s testimony to be “inconsistent, uncertain and evasive” while the other aide was “forthright, open and consistent” and as a result found M.A. did yell and verbally abuse the resident. The arbitrator found this was behaviour contrary to what a health care aide should know is correct and she should have “disengaged and sought assistance.” The fact she denied her actions further undermined her justification she was provoked by the resident.

The arbitrator noted M.A.’s misconduct was very serious for a health care aide and her denial of her actions along with the fact she had received a written warning and a suspension for her behaviour in the past made her “rehabilitative prospects” doubtful and raised serious trust concerns for the nursing home.

The arbitrator agreed M.A. verbally abused a resident, a serious offence for a health care aide who works independently and closely with residents. The arbitrator ruled her past disciplinary record combined with her refusal to accept responsibility meant “it is not just and reasonable to substitute another penalty for the discharge” and M.A. was not entitled to reinstatement or notice. See White Eagle Nursing Home v. S.E.I.U., Local 1.ON, 2006 CarswellOnt 8839 (Ont. Arb. Bd.).

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