Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (7)7 Jul 99

Quick Summary: A hospital employee cannot refuse a reasonable directive from the employer just because it is not in writing.

   A hospital has the right to deal with its employees on a non-written basis and has the right to expect that reasonable oral requests will be carried out by employees.  COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA, 1999.

   A hospital services worker objected to having to work on Sunday. His supervisor honored his request to a degree by scheduling him for hours which did not conflict with church services.

   The supervisor told the employee what time he was expected to work. The employee wanted it in writing, so the supervisor e mailed it to the computer at the employee’s work station at the hospital on Saturday afternoon, but he had already left for the day.

   The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania said it did not have to delve into the complicated freedom of religion issue to decide this case, as there was no conflict between work and attending church.

   The court ruled it is insubordination, that is, misconduct justifying termination to disregard an employer’s reasonable request to report to work when needed. A hospital does not have to put reasonable requests to employees in writing for those requests to be valid, the court said. Brady v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 727 A. 2d 1199 (Pa. Cmwlth., 1999).