A New Jersey nursing home could be on the hook for more than $12,000 in penalties after one of its workers repeatedly hung up on a deaf social worker.
Nicole Perkins, worked at a local hospital system and was trying to contact Atrium Post Acute Care of Wayne, NJ, on behalf of a client, who also had hearing loss. An Atrium employee repeatedly hung up on her on that day in May 2016, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Wednesday.
“This was a troubling case because there simply is no excuse for a nursing home – of all places – to repeatedly refuse to accept a telephone call from an operator calling on behalf of a deaf person,” Grewal said in a statement.
To resolve the allegations, Atrium must pay Perkins $2,500, along with being subject to a $10,000 “suspended state penalty.” The latter fine would be reinstated, the AG said, if the nursing home defaults on any terms of the settlement or commits a new violation over the next two years. Atrium also must train employees on services and devices used by the deaf and hard of hearing.
Perkins had used a service called Purple Communications, which involves an operator relaying the call via text or facetime to the intended recipient, letting them know a deaf individual is trying to connect. The Atrium employee repeatedly refused the operator’s attempts, and later told investigators that he thought it was a robocall.
Atrium employees, in interviews with the Division of Civil Rights, admitted they were unfamiliar with such relay-assisted calls. The company — which has denied any wrongdoing in the matter — did not respond to a McKnight’s request for comment Wednesday.