Unflattering greeting card message deemed inappropriate
An Alberta nurse held a grudge against a colleague too long and faced dismissal after writing a nasty note in a card meant for the colleague.
The worker was a registered nurse employed by Alberta Health Services (AHS) at the South Health Campus in Calgary. Hired in 2012, the worker received several disciplinary measures between May 2015 and April 2017 — three written warnings followed by three suspensions. The worker was on medical leave from February to April 2017 and the last two suspensions — one for four days and one for five days — were issued when she returned to work.
The disciplinary letters accompanying all the warnings and suspensions stated that a recurrence of similar misconduct or “any other unacceptable conduct” would result in more discipline “up to and including dismissal for cause.”
When the worker returned to work, she had no medical restrictions or concerns about fitness for work. The College and Association of Registered Nursed of Alberta (CARNA) investigated the last two suspensions and interviewed the worker’s unit manager in April 2017.
During the interview with CARNA, the unit manager shared unsubstantiated information about the worker’s marital situation and other allegations, though she acknowledged it wasn’t proven. The unit manager had heard this information from an employee who had been told the information by one of the worker’s colleagues. The employee had told the unit manager about it because she thought it could impact the worker’s performance and wellbeing.
CARNA then interviewed the worker, who was shocked that her personal story had been shared. She knew who had revealed the information and said in the interview that she had trusted her colleague and the story had “gotten twisted, and then escalated.”
The worker also grew to believe that the same colleague was checking up on her, as she was sometimes locked out of the electronic patient files.
On Sept. 7, 2017, a greeting card for the colleague was passed around. The worker wrote “All the best,” then later wrote four phrases in which the first letters vertically spelled out “NARC” and were highlighted.
The next day, the nurse who had organized the card signing brought it to the unit manager to show her and get a new card for co-workers to sign. The worker was placed on administrative leave with pay while AHS investigated.
AHS interviewed the worker about it and the worker denied it, saying she didn’t “know how to spell NARC.” However, the nurse who organized the signing described the worker’s signing of the card in an interview. On Sept. 21, AHS terminated the worker’s employment.
The worker acknowledged that she displayed a lack of professionalism and may have put the other nurse “in a bad spot,” but said she didn’t agree with her account of the card signing. She also said that she had not been herself and admitted at the arbitration hearing that she had written the phrases with “NARC” spelled out. However, she and the union argued termination was excessive.
The arbitration panel noted that the worker’s signing of the card occurred five months after the worker learned that her personal story had been shared with the unit manager and CARNA. Given this passage of time, the workers’ misconduct couldn’t be viewed as a provoked reaction, said the panel.
The panel also found that the worker “demonstrated clear intent” even after she had multiple warnings that further misconduct would result in more discipline. In addition, the worker made no effort to fix the situation and tried to cover up her misconduct in the investigation. This dishonesty and failure to acknowledge responsibility, along with her past discipline, provided just cause for dismissal, said the panel.