CNA sues for firing after she reported resident's claims

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A whistleblower claims foul play after she relayed a residents comments.
A whistleblower claims foul play after she relayed a residents comments.

A former certified nursing assistant at an Illinois continuing care retirement community is suing her ex-employer for more than $75,000 and reinstatement of her job, alleging that she was fired for reporting a resident's mistreatment claim.

Juana Walsh filed the lawsuit in November against Hearthstone Communities in Woodstock, IL, arguing that the company violated the Illinois Whistleblower Act when it fired her in November 2016. The suit names Hearthstone, its parent company, its administrator and nursing director.

According to the lawsuit, Walsh was checking on a male resident several days before her firing and the resident told her he was “very afraid of” a male nursing assistant, who he claimed had treated him roughly when he had asked the employee to fix his pillow.

Walsh reported the concern to her supervisor and the community's human resources director, who Walsh says then asked her to put together a report about the man's claims, after he repeated them to a social worker. The human resources director allegedly told Walsh the claims wouldn't be looked into because the resident was “confused,” and accused her of coaching the resident on what to tell the social worker.

Walsh shared the report with the resident's brother, and when Hearthstone's administrator found out, she accused Walsh of “stealing” the man's information, saying that she had put the agency and everyone's job — including her own — at risk, according to the lawsuit. Walsh was then fired and escorted off the property. Representatives from Hearthstone did not respond to McKnight's requests for comment.

“You cannot fire someone under retaliation that is … clear public policy, [and] they fired her for reporting suspected abuse,” said Walsh's attorney Jim Harrison.

The case resumes Feb. 28 in McHenry County Court.