Who is at fault in this situation?

Betty is an outpatient clerk in a 150-bed urban hospital. Her duties consist of admitting patients for scheduled outpatient procedures, obtaining the necessary verification of benefits from insurance companies, and working with utilization review personnel to ensure that all the precertification information is received when needed. Various staff members have complained to Jean, Betty’s supervisor, about Betty’s abrasive attitude and the foul language she occasionally uses. Jean was hired six months ago to replace Kate, who moved to another hospital. Betty has a reputation of being hard to get along with and coworkers avoid contact with her as much as possible.

In June, Betty announced she was three-months pregnant and was expecting her baby in early December. Jean told Betty to review the requirements in the personnel handbook regarding pregnancy leave. A leave-of-absence (LOA) form was to be completed by Betty stating when her baby was expected and the amount of time she was requesting off. The personnel manual also stated that every effort would be made to return an employee on LOA to his or her previous job, but no guarantee could be made that the same job would be available.

In September, Betty began having trouble with her pregnancy. In early October, she was put on bed rest and instructed not to return to work. Betty called Jean to inform her of the doctor’s order, and Jean told her to keep in touch. Because Betty was not due to deliver for two more months and was expected to be off work at least six weeks beyond the due date, Jean felt she could not go that long without a person in Betty’s position.

In late October, Betty had her baby. When she called Jean to tell her the baby had been born, Jean asked about returning to work, but Betty could not give a date because the premature baby had some problems. She also told Jean that when she returned to work, she could only work on the days her husband would be home because she did not want to leave the baby with anyone else until it got stronger.

Jean told Betty that she could not schedule around her husband’s hours, but she would see what could be arranged to give her some part-time work. Jean then checked with the personnel director to see hat Betty had requested for time off. At that point, she discovered that Betty had never filled out the required LOA form. Because Betty had not done the necessary paperwork and only wanted part-time work when she did return, Jean decided to give Joanne, a temporary employee, Betty’s full-time job and put Betty in a part-time position elsewhere in the hospital. This position would eliminate her contact with the public and make her less visible to other employees, thereby relieving some of the problems Betty created.

Betty learned about the position change from a coworker who called to ask about the baby. Betty then called Joanne, cursed at her, and accused her of stealing her job. She called the hospital administrator and requested an appointment to talk to him about the unfair manner in which she had been treated and to request her full-time job back. The administrator called in Jean, the personnel director, and Jean’s supervisor. After listening to what had transpired and their comments about Betty’s attitude, the administrator asked to see Betty’s personnel file. According to the file, Betty had received satisfactory reviews from Kate, the supervisor prior to Jean. She had only one written warning in the file pertaining to a violation of the departmental dress code; she had come to work dressed in a revealing sundress.

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Who is at fault in this situation?

2. What solution can be proposed?

3. What are the responsibilities of the administrator and department director in this situation?

4. What are the ramifications of the Family Medical Leave Act, if any, on this case?

 

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