Nurse Aid terminated from facility cannot pursue whistleblower claim
Rodica Biris is a certified Nurses Aid who worked in the Ingham County Medical Care Facility. She was interviewed as a potential witness in a claim of resident abuse against another worker. Almost immediately afterward, she was walking a resident's wheelchair down the hallway when she suffered an episode of "lethargy" and near-collapse. Her doctor and the facility's doctors disagreed over whether she had suffered a panic attack or a reaction to her prescribed anti-anxiety medication. It was acknowledged that she had suffered similar "attacks" at work on prior occasions.
The facility refused to hire her back without an "Independent Medical Examination" by a doctor of its choice. When she did not respond to schedule the examination, she was terminated. She sued, arguing that given her history of similar attacks, her termination was actually retaliation for her honest participation in the investigation of the resident abuse claim.The trial judge granted the facility summary disposition, holding that regardless of her participation in the prior investigation, the facility was acting reasonably when it terminated Biris's employment. He deemed the action reasonable in order to protect residents from the consequences of a similar collapse, regardless of whether the facility had ignored prior incidents. The Court of Appeals sustained this decision, holding that Biris had not provided a sufficient factual basis for a reasonable juror to conlude that her termination was retaliatory.