Second former hospital worker files suit

Liz Kearney

A second former employee of the local hospital has filed a wrongful discharge lawsuit against Livingston Health-Care.

According to the complaint filed Thursday afternoon in Sixth Judicial District Court in Park County, former certified medical assistant Terri Wheeler, through her attorney, Kevin Brown of Livingston, states that from Dec. 2016 through Dec. 2017 she “was continuously subjected to offensive conduct by her supervisors, including harassment, intimidation, and demeaning and condescending behavior.”

Wheeler worked for LHC for more than 20 years, beginning in 1996, and routinely received positive jobperformance evaluations, according to the complaint.

In the complaint, Wheeler seeks redress for being “constructively discharged without good cause.” Wheeler resigned and subsequently took a lower-paying job.

Wheeler’s case follows that of former LHC hospice nurse Linda Roberts, who filed a wrongful discharge suit on March 27. Roberts said she was fired on May 2, 2017, after a nearly 40-year career with the organization, without being offered the opportunity to resign.

Wheeler’s complaint states that when one of Wheeler’s co-workers resigned in August 2017, a supervisor assigned that person’s tasks to Wheeler, effectively doubling her workload “with no associated increase in pay.”

Wheeler resigned on Dec. 18, 2017 because she “found the work environment at LHC to be so intolerable that voluntary termination was the only reasonable alternative to continuing her employment,” the complaint states.

Montana law 39-2-905(1), according to the complaint, provides a remedy of up to four years of lost wages, minus interim earnings. The lawsuit also seeks compensatory damages, costs of the lawsuit, and other relief “as the Court finds just and appropriate.”

LHC’s Interim CEO Deb Anzack and Marketing and Communications Manager Whitney Harris did not immediately respond to voicemails seeking comment.

A number of current and former LHC staff told The Livingston Enterprise recently that after decadeslong careers of receiving good to excellent annual evaluations, they were suddenly told by their supervisors that their work was subpar and that co-workers and patients were complaining about them.

The nurses cite management changes and a culture of centralized power that does not seek input or comments from staff.