What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? AL
On the morning of Sunday October 24, 2010 I arrived at work tired, and sick to my stomach. I had been up all night with a 16 month old with a stomach virus and myself and my husband, too had this stomach virus. Even though I was tired, sick and 5 months pregnant,; I knew I could not call in, however, because I am the only nurse on duty in the OR on Sunday’s. I got to work, performed all my daily tasks and at approximately 10:45 a.m. we were finished with our scheduled cases for the day. After taking my patient to recovery and giving the nurse on call report, I headed to the break room to eat lunch. On Sundays (and some Saturdays) we don’t always get to eat a normal “sit-down” lunch, so I quickly ate my lunch. I may have taken 10-15 minutes to do so. After which I went back to the OR and performed some busy work to pass the time. At approximately 1:30 p.m. I returned to the break room to sit down and finish my 30 minute lunch break. I had a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders, as it was very cold in the break room and it usually is on the weekends. I was mildly paying attention to the TV in the break room, participating in a conversation with co-workers, and playing around on my phone; all activities that are acceptable. I must have dozed off for 5-10 minutes. It couldn’t have been any longer than that. At approximately 1:45 p.m., a co-worker, walked in saying my name which caused me to stir. I opened my eyes and following behind her was the team leader. He said, in what seemed to be a joking manner, “You’ve been caught and COWORKER tried to warn you” and he was smiling. I immediately got up, as I hadn’t intended to fall asleep, and went to see what else I could do in the OR to make time go by.
My next scheduled work day, I was terminated for sleeping on the job. I didn’t know what to say, or how to react. I just sat there listening. During the duration of the meeting, I wasn’t given an opportunity to explain my side, I was simply told that there wasn’t really anything that could be said or done at this point. I also didn’t have a real opportunity to write anything under “employee remarks” on my warning record. It was simply put in front of me, and I was told to sign and date the form.
I followed up with unemployment and was denied benefits for approximately 6 weeks. I followed through with my employer’s grievance process which involved a hearing with the COO, my department supervisor, and a few HR team members. In the hearing, the COO asked HR if there was a policy in place that prevented employees from sleeping during breaks, she replied that employees are prevented from sleeping on hospital time wasn’t sure if the policy cleared defined break time as hospital time; it doesn’t. We do not clock out for breaks, but time is docked from our workday for 30 minute lunch breaks.
This particular team leader was responsible for firing approximately 3 other nurses around the same time as me….for a total of 4 heads on his pike…3 of which were pregnant, including myself.
My question, do I have a case here? I feel I was wrongfully terminated and my ability to seek employment has been damaged as I am not eligible for rehire at my previous employer now. My state is hire at will, but I feel I was treated differently due to my pregnancy. It is common knowledge that staff working the late shift and overnight routinely sleep during their lunch breaks.