Two former Finley Hospital nurses in Dubuque claim they were blacklisted from getting another job with other Unity Point Health hospitals, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Dubuque County District Court.
Former nurses, Lisa Flanagan and Ellen Rath claim in the suit their former employer put messages into a database discouraging prospective employers to hire the woman, which is “blacklisting” according to state law.
“Finley placed into the database network ‘do not hire,’ do not rehire,’ or some other phrase expressing a negative statement about establishing a future employment relationship with Plaintiffs,” according to the lawsuit.
The comments entered into the database are accessible to other Unity Point hospitals and clinics, according to the suit. The suit contends Finley’s interference with prospective employers is “willful and wanton and done in malice or in disregard” to the women.
Susan Chapman, director of community relations for Unity Point-Finley Hospital, said they hadn’t been served with the lawsuit as of Tuesday afternoon but based on the copy received from Rush and Nicholson, the hospital “intends to defend the claims and indicates that Finley complies with the law in this area.”
“No employer has any obligation to re-hire an employee nor is it illegal for an employer to remind itself not to hire a particular individual,” Nate Willems, of Rush amd Nicholson in Cedar Rapids, attorney for Flanagan and Rath, said. “It is wrongful for an employer to initiate a message to other employers urging them not to hire a specific person.”
Rath of Dubuque, said in statement that after she left Finley in 2011 she had a several interviews with other Unity Point hospitals. She worked for Finley from 2005 to 20011.
“I would have a good initial interview with a department head but once human resources got involved I never heard back,” Rath said.
Flanagan of Dubuque, also worked for Finley from 1989 to 2009, Willems said. Both women currently have jobs as registered nurses in Iowa, but not with Unity Point Health.
Willems said Iowa has had a blacklisting law for more than 100 years, along with other states with similar laws. It was created in response to employers sharing lists of suspected union sympathizers. The law prohibits any employer from attempting to prevent a former employee from obtaining employment, unless the prospective employer first contacts the former employer asking about the employee.
“It wasn’t the case of (Finley) being contacted by a prospective employer for a recommendation,” Willems said.
“Many Iowa hospitals and clinics have a relationship with Unity Point,” said Bob Rush of Rush and Nicholson, also an attorney for the plaintiffs. “If none of those different employers will hire you because you have been blacklisted, it makes it difficult to get another job in health care in Iowa.”
The nurses are asking for a trial and damages.