Capital Clicks

Nursing home worker fired after talking to state investigator

By: - November 15, 2022 2:34 pm
Close-up of woman holding senior man's hand leaning on cane

A state worker who was fired after talking to a state investigator has been awarded unemployment benefits. (Photo by Getty Images)

A caregiver at a central Iowa nursing home was fired earlier this year after speaking to a state investigator looking into conditions at the home, according to state records.

Brandy Johnson, a certified nurse aide, worked at the Aspire of Perry nursing home for three years until August, when she was fired. According to state records, while working at the home, she periodically served as the facility’s de facto administrator, performing administrative duties and hiring workers due to frequent turnover among the home’s licensed administrators.

On Aug. 23, a state worker contacted Johnson and questioned her as part of an investigation pertaining to the nursing home. The investigator said they understood the claimant was no longer working for the company – although, at that point, the company had not told Johnson she was fired.

About an hour after she spoke to the investigator, Aspire’s administrator called Johnson and told her she was discharged for creating a hostile work environment, according to state records.

Administrative Law Judge James E. Timberland recently presided over a hearing on Johnson’s application for jobless benefits and concluded Johnson “had done nothing to create or contribute to a hostile work environment,” while the administrator of the home had “engaged in a pattern of unprofessional, belligerent and offensive conduct” aimed at Johnson.

Timberland determined Johnson was eligible for unemployment benefits.

More care facility unemployment cases

According to state unemployment records, several other Iowa care facility workers participated in hearings recently concerning their requests for unemployment benefits, including:

Donald Norris, who was fired from Salem Lutheran Home in June after 13 years of employment there as a certified medication aid and certified nursing assistant. According to the judge’s findings in the case, a supervisor at the home reviewed security-camera footage at the home and saw Norris sitting in a chair and watching television during the night shift, getting up only to answer residents’ call lights without making the required rounds and checking on residents every two hours. He was fired for neglect of the residents of the home and for interference with co-workers. An administrative law judge concluded Norris committed on-the-job misconduct and was ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Timothy Jordan, who was fired in March from Mercy Health Services’ Siouxland Medical Center where he worked as a mental health security technician. According to state records, Jordan was responsible for checking on the physical safety and welfare of patients every 15 minutes throughout his shift. On March 3, a supervisor at the hospital received a text message from another worker that indicated Jordan had been sleeping in a chair for at least 20 minutes. The text message included a photograph of Jordan in which he appeared to be sleeping. An administrative law judge ruled Jordan was ineligible for unemployment benefits and directed him to repay $11,682 in jobless benefits that had already been paid out.

Angela Burke, who was fired in May from DSM Management’s Genesis Senior Living after one month of employment there as the assistant director of nursing. Burke allegedly failed to perform assessments of multiple residents upon their admission to the facility, failed to adequately check a physician’s orders, and failed to perform wound care on a resident who had significant injuries. At Burke’s unemployment hearing, a facility manager testified that Burke seemed to lack the knowledge, capacity or willingness to perform the job, and alleged Burke spent more time on her phone or gossiping about other employees than learning the duties of her new position. Burke was denied unemployment benefits.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.