And you thought your employees’ squabbles were hard to deal with.
Nursefinders is a staffing company that provides pre-screened nurses and medical personnel to hospitals and other facilities.
The company hired Theresa Drummond and assigned her to work at a Kaiser facility as a medical assistant.
At some point, Drummond and colleague Sara Montague had a disagreement at work regarding how rooms were to be stocked. Drummond and Montague later had a discussion regarding misplaced lab slips where Drummond raised her voice. Montague didn’t consider either argument serious enough to report to a supervisor.
Drummond, on the other hand, must have been a bit more frustrated, because several weeks later she responded by pouring carbolic acid into Montague’s water bottle. When Montague drank from it, her tongue and throat started to burn, and she vomited.
Could it possible have been Nursefinders’ fault?
Montague then sued Nursefinders, claiming the company was vicariously responsible for Drummond’s actions.
The court didn’t quite agree, though it did take an interesting approach to ruling on the case.
First, Montague claimed that Nursefinders had a duty to train its employees on how to handle workplace disputes (presumably not by poisoning) and to not engage in workplace violence — and the court agreed.
However, with that in mind, the court found that Nursefinders did, in fact, provide such training. Nursefinders trained Drummond on Kaiser’s policies and procedures on “violence in the workplace” and “management of threats and aggressive behavior.” And Nursefinders’ own orientation covered workplace violence as well.
Second, the court found that Nursefinders, as a staffing placement company, couldn’t be held responsible for something that happened between two employees at Kaiser.
The folks at Shaw Valenza had a quick takeaway from the case on their blog:
So, the takeaway is that employers should conduct workplace violence training to avoid the argument that lack of training could result in an employee’s not knowing it’s wrong to poison a co-worker’s water.
The case is Montague v. AMN Healthcare.