Employee of State Mental Health Care Hospital Can Pursue Lawsuit Claiming She Was Fired in Violation of Her First Amendment Rights for Complaining About Quality of Care in Hospital

Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587 (6th Cir. 2003); 12(39) BNA's Health Law Reporter 1500-01 (Oct. 2, 2003)

The Sixth Circuit ruled the director of quality management at a state mental health care hospital who was fired after lodging complaints about the quality of care in the hospital could bring a federal lawsuit alleging she was terminated in violation of her First Amendment right to free speech.  She had complained that the placement of a psychiatrist's office in a patients' unit compromised the patients' privacy, that there was a lack of concern over quality standards, and that restrooms were not adequately kept clean.  The Sixth Circuit determined the focus of these complaints was on patient care, a matter of public concern, and as a result it was necessary to balance the interests of a public employee as a citizen commenting on matters of public concern against the interests of a public employer attempting to efficiently provide public services.  The court found no evidence the complaints either disrupted or threatened to disrupt the efficient functioning of the hospital and management had not established a state interest that outweighed the employee's First Amendment right to call her supervisor's attention to the quality of patient care in the hospital...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1