Calgary nurse terminated after falling asleep on duty

Supervisor’s testimony inconsistent, unreliable: AUPE
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 09/09/2019
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During a night shift, a nurse in a senior’s care centre was seen sleeping by a supervisor who unexpectedly showed up.

The nurse (who was not identified) worked as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at Clifton Manor in Calgary since 2013, and was stationed in the KINDD (Kindness, Independence and Nurturing for Developmentally Disabled) unit which catered to seniors and others who suffered from dementia or a developmental disability.

The unit housed patients in a locked unit and extra care was required for the residents, some of whom stayed awake during the night and required special care.

On Nov. 15, 2016, program manager Surinder Bedi, who oversaw the KINDD unit, arrived at the centre around 2:40 a.m. She couldn’t sleep that night, so she went in to catch up on paperwork. Normally, Bedi worked from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

When she arrived, she was speaking with a health-care aide when they heard screaming coming from a patient’s room, identified as “CP.” When the two went into his room, “he continued to make noises; he did not stop,” said Bedi, so she decided he needed further assessment.

Bedi walked to the lounge area to look for more staff on duty and saw the nurse sitting in a chair with her legs resting on another chair. The nurse’s eyes were closed, and some clothing was covering her chest area, testified Bedi.

Bedi stood there for 20 to 25 seconds and observed the nurse sleeping. She then tapped her shoulder, and the nurse stood up. Bedi asked the nurse if she was on a break and the nurse replied: “No, I just dozed off.”

But according to the nurse, she said during her testimony: “How can you talk about sleeping? Nobody sleeps here. We don’t sleep.”

(Another staff member who was also observed to be sleeping during the same time was terminated and later reinstated after an arbitration hearing.)

Bedi and the nurse then dealt with the screaming patient. Bedi then went to her office and took handwritten notes about the sleeping incident, which were later typed up by the HR department and signed.

At 7 a.m., Bedi told Roxanne Roberts, director of nursing, what happened. The nurse was dismissed for sleeping on the job the following day.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), Local 048 Chapter 017, grieved the termination and argued that Bedi’s testimony was unreliable because it changed during various hearings.

As well, the other employee who was fired was not found to be sleeping on duty, said the union, and her dismissal was overturned due to Bedi’s inconsistent testimony.

Arbitrator John Moreau disagreed and upheld the firing. “Although there are a few examples where Bedi contradicted herself, they are not critical to the main issue of whether the grievor was observed sleeping on the job for some 25 seconds before Bedi said she touched the grievor on the shoulder and woke her up.”

And Bedi’s account was given more weight by the arbitrator.

“I am of the view, after a careful review of the testimony of the grievor and Bedi, which is central to this case, that the grievor did not provide an honest account of what occurred when Bedi walked on to the KINDD unit at 3 a.m. in the morning on Nov. 15, 2016. She testified that she saw the grievor fast asleep, and then waited for some 25 seconds before touching her shoulder and waking her up. There is no evidence that the Bedi held a grudge or was otherwise out to target the grievor. Bedi went to work early because she wanted to do some paperwork. But for the screaming of patient CP, she may have never even entered the lounge area looking for the night nursing staff.”

Reference: The Brenda Strafford Foundation (Clifton Manor) and Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, Local 048 Chapter 017. John Moreau — arbitrator. Rebecca Silverberg for the employer. Ralf Kuntzemann for the employee. May 21, 2019. 2019 CarswellAlta 974

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