A federal judge appointed by former President Bill Clinton has ordered five Connecticut nursing homes to rehire striking employees despite a criminal investigation into allegations that some of those workers endangered the lives of seniors.
Judge Robert Chatigny on Wednesday ordered Healthbridge Systems to lay off hundreds of replacement workers in order to make room for the 600 striking members of the SEIU Local 1199, one of the Atlantic region’s most powerful unions. Those workers walked out of their jobs over a contract dispute in July. Some employees allegedly tampered with the identification materials and medical records of patients, including some suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, on their way out the door.
Chatigny’s ruling came despite the objections of Lorraine Mulligan, a registered nurse with 25 years of experience who was hired by Healthbridge to evaluate the impact of the strike on patient care and who concluded that rehiring workers would put patients in jeopardy.
“The nature and severity of the … incidents … put the safety, health, and well-being of the residents of those facilities in immediate jeopardy,” she said. “A court order requiring the reinstatement of any of them or additionally those who had knowledge of sabotage and failed to act would expose the residents to immediate danger and put them at risk of suffering serious harm or death.”
Connecticut state police are conducting a criminal investigation into the vandalism though no charges have been filed and the company has filed a separate federal lawsuit alleging that the union engaged in mafia intimidation tactics to bargain for increased wages and benefits. The union must respond to that suit by Dec. 18.