This open-and-shut case may leave a bad taste

John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Napa Valley has given the world many memorable grapes. Lately, it's been the source of a fairly notable gripe.

As we recently reported, a former nursing director sued Napa's Piner's Nursing Home. Her allegation is that efforts to have an alleged sex offender removed from the payroll fueled her own termination.

Michele Scaduto received a tip that a coworker was a convicted felon and registered sex offender, according to court records. The suit also claimed that the unnamed convict just happened to be a cousin to the facility's president.

After bringing the matter to the president's attention, Scaduto claims she was fired without explanation.

At first blush, four immediate questions come to mind. Question one: Is this one of those farcical stories pulled from The Onion? The short answer is no. The lawsuit really was filed.

The second question is how does a nursing home defend itself against such a strange allegation? So far, attorneys for the facility are not willing to share those details with journalists. But in court papers, they argued Scaduto's claim “lacks information and belief sufficient to answer the allegations.”

The third question: Considering how easy it will be to determine whether the claim contains the information and belief sufficient to answer the allegations, how soon should the facility settle? I'm not an attorney and don't play one on TV. But in light of the circumstances, I think this is one of those times when it might be a good idea to break out the old checkbook post haste.

Which brings us to question number four: Doesn't state law prevent the hiring of sex offenders? Seems like a legitimate thing to ask. But as far as I can tell, the answer is apparently no. (If there is a specific California statute that says so, please illuminate me, as I could not find one.)

What we do know is that the federal government prohibits elder care facilities from hiring direct patient access employees that have been found guilty of violence against or neglect of a patient.

There's no doubt that sex crimes are a very serious offense. Or that sex offenders have become, for the most part, modern-day pariahs. Among the consequences convicted sex offenders face:

  • Limits on where they can live, work or travel in their city or neighborhoods.
  • Required registration as a sex offender.
  • Activities may be monitored by law enforcement.
  • Restricted access to websites and social media.
  • No participation in activities that involve children, even if it's related to religion.
Those restrictions are in addition to time served. They are fairly severe, but it's not too hard to understand why.

What I do find a bit troubling though, are some of the offenses that can land a person on a sex-offense registry. Chief among them are peeing in a public place. Yes, public urination can get you charged under “indecent exposure” statutes, which also cover mischievous pranks, such as “streaking” and “mooning.”

Imagine if every person in this country who had done any of those three things was listed on a registry? We'd rightfully be called a nation of sex offenders.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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