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Judge: Southwell fired illegally from hospital

Posted: August 11, 2012 - 8:38pm  |  Updated: August 11, 2012 - 8:56pm

Central Peninsula Hospital officials unlawfully fired a nurse in 2010 for making numerous statements about their management and making allegations of workplace bullying, an administrative law judge recently ruled.

Judge William G. Kocol wrote in a decision issued to the National Labor Relations Board that by disciplining, suspending and firing Nikiski resident Ray Southwell in accordance with two of their employee rules, that CPH broke labor laws. Kocol ordered CPH to offer Southwell his job back, pay his lost wages and make whole any other lost benefits.

CPH officials have a period of time to either comply with the ruling or challenge it legally.

“I think they are great,” Southwell said of the judge’s rulings.

Southwell said he has not yet heard from CPH.

“I will take that job back — I’m ready,” he said. “I’m waiting for the phone call.”

Central Peninsula General Hospital Inc. Board President Lore Weimer disagreed with the judge’s assessment of Southwell’s termination.

“But, he did not rule on what Mr. Southwell was saying, or whether he was saying anything that was accurate, just whether or not we could fire him for what he said,” she said. “We still disagree with that and we will spend some time over the next few weeks looking at our options going forward.”

Southwell was ultimately terminated from his post in October 2010 because of his criticism of CPH’s management style after the November 2008 hospital shooting by Joseph Marchetti, who had been fired from his job at the hospital.

Southwell, who at the time served as the nurses’ union vice president and grievance officer, said his criticism centered around hospital management “bullying,” which he felt was a root cause in the 2008 shooting and for other employees’ workplace frustrations. He said he personally witnessed and experienced similar management bullying.

Former CPH Chief Executive Officer Ryan Smith told Southwell to stop making such comments because they were false, misleading and defamatory, or he would be fired. Southwell continued his comments in several public venues, online and in letters to the editor of the Peninsula Clarion. Kocol wrote such statements were protected concerted activities.

“Consistent with my earlier analyses, Southwell’s remarks were again a continuation of his concerted activity to identify and rectify workplace issues,” Kocol wrote. 

Kocol later wrote that Southwell’s remaining complaints about multiple unfair labor practices were true, and there were indeed forced policy changes and unfair firings. In addition, he wrote Southwell’s reports of sexual and racial harassment were not made “with a reckless disregard of the facts,” that there was indeed workplace bullying, according to the results of a study, and a recommended policy generated from that study was never implemented.

“My question is why hasn’t the anti-bullying policy been implemented?” Southwell said. “When you read through the decision it is clear what is going on and what is still going on at the hospital.”

As for Southwell’s allegation that “there is immeasurable fear generated by the hospital CEO at all levels,” Kocol wrote that “based on what happened to Southwell himself and based upon reports from others, if (it’s) not true then (it’s) certainly not made with a reckless disregard for the facts.”

Southwell originally filed a complaint with NLRB staff. The NLRB filed on Feb. 24 an administrative complaint and requested a hearing before an administrative law judge in May to determine if his two allegations were true and required action.

The second allegation deals with CPH rules used to fire Southwell that center on the behavior of hospital employees, their conduct and outside activity that might interfere or conflict with hospital operations.

The judge said those two rules were not unlawful, but were applied in an unlawful way. Kocol ordered the hospital to stop applying them in ways that interfere with protected concerted activities.

Daniel Hickey, a field examiner for the NLRB in Region 19, said the judge’s ruling was immediately transferred to the national board and both parties have until Aug. 30 to file an exception to the ruling.

If CPH files an exception, the board would review the judge’s ruling. If the ruling is upheld, CPH can take the case to a U.S. Federal District Court, but that is rare, Hickey said. If CPH doesn’t file an exception, they must comply with the order.

CEO Rick Davis said the hospital has “not yet” done anything internally to respond to the ruling.

“There are still so many variables out there and we are still evaluating our options and waiting for legal counsel to do an in-depth review,” Davis said, adding the hospital would have to weight the cost versus the “distraction.”

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.

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Carver
1133
Points
Carver 08/12/12 - 07:55 am
7
4
Congratulations . . .

Congratulations, Ray,

Whether justified or not, the hospital's board and administration have long been perceived as arrogant and high-handed. Ms. Weimer's remarks are telling in that regard.

The judge's decision is welcome news, and CPGH Inc. needs to listen.

CPGH Inc. needs to be dissolved and replaced by an elected board as is currently the case with Homer Electric.

doka
11
Points
doka 08/12/12 - 08:54 am
5
4
Ray Southwell

It can be a long road to see an issue (hopefully) to the end. Whatever job, event,or situation, no one should be above the law with regard to policy, guidelines or rules and worst of all any kind of bullying. Even with support, in the end you stand alone navigating the right course for yourself. It is unfortunate the situation had to go to that length. I wish everyone well, most of all, move forward.

RaySouthwell
1034
Points
RaySouthwell 08/12/12 - 09:25 am
3
4
Carver

Thank You,

Here is the, public record, of the judges decision of August 2, 2012. Scroll down to “docket activity.” click on “view” of the “Administrative Law Judge Decision.”

http://www.nlrb.gov/case/19-CA-032835

RaySouthwell
1034
Points
RaySouthwell 08/12/12 - 09:33 am
6
4
doka

This was not the best course for myself. It was the worst course. I am reminded daily, of that.

Occasionally people must stand up for what is right regardless what happens to me myself and I.

Moving forward can only occur when the anti-bullying policy (developed by Dr. Namie in December 2009) is implemented and the corporate board has true public oversight.

Carver
1133
Points
Carver 08/12/12 - 03:01 pm
7
4
Totally agree!

"Moving forward can only occur when the anti-bullying policy (developed by Dr. Namie in December 2009) is implemented and the corporate board has true public oversight."
********************

Absolutely! As it stands now, CPGH Inc., as a self-appointing board, is answerable only to themselves.

From my-way-or-the-highway management to let's-sell-the-hospital to unrepentant, unfair firings, CPGH Inc. is totally out of touch with the public.

CPGH Inc. should be dissolved and replaced by an elected board responsible to the public they're supposed to serve.

radiokenai
562
Points
radiokenai 08/12/12 - 10:35 am
0
0
Mr. Southwell
Unpublished

To Mr. Southwell: Though many oppose your beliefs and actions, it is due course that the majority agrees with your plight on this issue.

It is no secret that CPGH ran its business with a power-thrust mentality. They were the only gig in town, and they darn sure let you know it.

Through your efforts, CPGH may see the truth of their actions and make some serious managerial and policy improvements.

I applaud you for taking correct legal measures through the court system to right the wrongs that were done against you.

Sometimes, the system actually works...

To CPGH: Get a grip people! My suggestion is for Management to start taking "Management Skills Classes" at KPC. Ray Southwell was the only one to have the courage to stand up in court. The rest of the Kenai Peninsula was well informed at the Politically Charged atmosphere that CPGH is fueled with.

CPGH sort of reminds me of watching a cross between "Peyton Place and The Office"...if you know what I mean...

denseyler@yahoo.com
46
Points
denseyler@yahoo.com 08/12/12 - 07:31 pm
5
4
Ray Southwell

Way to go Ray! I wish you the best of luck in taking this hospital board and administration to a dead end. This kind of bullying is not only happening in Soldotna but all over the nation. What the heck is going on? Obamacare? Ray, I know that this is a very rough and turbulent road for you to take, but do what you feel is right and it will all work out. Until proven different, I am behind you all the way. SOMEBODY HAS TO STAND UP FOR WHAT IS RIGHT!

muselix
15
Points
muselix 08/12/12 - 08:14 pm
4
4
Congratulations, Ray.

I've been watching this from afar...and let me just say that I am inspired by you. All you've gone through, all you've fought for...and the fact that you're willing to go back and work for the same people that treated you so poorly...you're a better man than I. Best wishes to you and your family, Ray. When the crap hits the fan, I hope you're in my corner. Congratulations.

Watchman on the Wall
2893
Points
Watchman on the Wall 08/12/12 - 09:47 pm
4
3
Praise the LORD

Congrates Ray & Praise the LORD.
Some times right wins and evil loses. But make no mistake evil hates to lose these little wars and more than likely the CPGH management will not allow this to change their style or mode of operations.
Just remember the Rightious Judge, Jesus is his name, will judge all evil some day & they won't be allowed any form of trial lawyers in his court or be allowed to twist the truth and reality of their actions and will all be found guilty, then what?

Just remember everything is passing away and will be judged by fire and only the things done for Jesus will be all that matters or counts, and thats why Ray and a few others do stand up for right against the many wrongs that control this present evil world.
So just which side are you on in this fight of good against evil? Every one must make a choice and doing nothing is a choice when fighting evil actions of evil people.

msjinxie
127
Points
msjinxie 08/13/12 - 06:56 am
5
3
Congrats

About time! Glad to hear the community also sees CPGH's harmful side to the good people that help people day in and day out. A hospital (have worked in one elsewhere) should never chastise an employee for our right to free speech. Kinda like saying do what we say and keep quiet. Just because you work in a large enviroment like a city hospital, doesn't exclude you from the wrath if you dare say the wrong thing. I say fire the Administration and get new blood in there with the SAME goals. The patient care WILL begin to go downhill even more if nothing happens. As that old saying goes, theres a pig in the poke! Anyway, Ray good luck with everything and again, I am glad the truth was finally told! Amen!

Norseman
3593
Points
Norseman 08/13/12 - 07:30 am
3
4
hired?

Who hired this guy in the first place? Whoever was responsible for the hiring decision that led up to this should be fired.
We as a public owned hospital have to absorb these legal and financial costs that could have been avoided if he had not been hired in the first place.
We need a change at the hospital alright, and that is a big change on how hiring decisions are made.
Now us, the taxpayers, are left with the bill, while militia man ray smiles all the way to the bank.

RaySouthwell
1034
Points
RaySouthwell 08/13/12 - 07:33 am
1
2
Dr. Gary Namie article

Here is an article written by Dr. Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute, regarding the NLRB decision.

http://www.workplacebullying.org/2012/08/12/southwell/

kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 08/13/12 - 05:58 pm
5
3
Militia?

FIRST: We must be reading two different articles. Ryan Smith and the board were found at fault for workplace bullying. Mr Southwell's actions are protected by law, managements were not.
SECOND: what does Mr Southwell being in the militia have to do with the quality of care he delivers at the hospital? Would being a democrat or republican affect the care a person delivers? What if he were Catholic or Protestant? Norseman, there is nothing illegal about being in a militia and one has nothing to do with the other..
THIRD: It seems the court found that Ray had done nothing wrong but to simply address a workplace injustice.
FINALLY: You are correct, we need to find out who hired Ryan Smith and fire them!!! He seems to be at the root of the problem. Mr Southwell simply exposed him.

cbeard
132
Points
cbeard 08/13/12 - 11:26 pm
3
2
Non-issue

Clearly there was emotional bullying in both directions as a result of a senseless tragedy. For any party to "win" a judgement at the expense of the loss of life in that tragedy is disrespectful.

cheapersmokes
1017
Points
cheapersmokes 08/14/12 - 04:33 am
5
3
NLRB and Southwell!

My admiration and congratulations to Mr. Southwell for having the courage to pursue this matter to a court hearing! When your fighting for your rights against a whole legal team it is a daunting task! And then to get a favorable decision is quite unusual to say the least. Just wait for the hospital to appeal this and waste more of your money and still end up losing!

Maybe this will wake up the public to demand answers from the board members and also the commissioners for the borough on their plans in moving forward and resolving these issues!

trapper46
16
Points
trapper46 08/14/12 - 07:24 am
4
2
Hospital Board

Lore Weimer's comments is another real reason the Hospital Board should be elected from the public owners of the hospital, by the public owners . When will this happen? What has to be done to get the Borough Assembly to act and make an open election possible?

kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 08/14/12 - 08:14 am
4
3
cbeard

I'm not certain you could define what happened as "bullying in both directions." But I respect your opinion.
However, let me ask you this; if a wild cat is backed into a corner and fights his way out, it that bullying? Or self preservation?
Many (not all) of the staff at CPGH has felt this downward pressure on them and fought to get out of "the corner" and I believe as a result of Mr Southwells actions, this may now be possible.
As for a winning party ... I believe there is a winner! A clear and defined winner. That would be the people of the CPGH service area and the employees. It is sad and unfortunate that such change would come at the expense of two lives and many other lives that were changed forever in a matter of moments.

radiokenai
562
Points
radiokenai 08/14/12 - 08:34 am
0
0
Noreseman
Unpublished

FINALLY! We agree on something! I was actually thinking the same thing! The fact that the management at the time who hired Mr. Southwell, obviously was incompetent as Managers or they would have done a simple INTERNET search to discover their could be a better choice!

It goes to prove the point that Mr. Southwell makes in the first place that CPGH Management is out of control!

radiokenai
562
Points
radiokenai 08/14/12 - 09:01 am
0
0
Kenai Kid
Unpublished

Agreed also! The winners are: Mr. Southwell, CPGH Employees and the Resident of the Peninsula. The losers are Management (who are know to be the problem of CPGH for many years). Maybe hiring Mr. Southwell, is EXACTLY what CPGH needed? Their incompetent hiring practice, was their internal management doom!

Isn't it ironic...?

MeO
39
Points
MeO 08/14/12 - 09:23 am
4
3
Norseman is anti everyone.

To Norseman - some day you will need someone to help you out of the jam that your mouth will eventually get you in.
Way to go Ray - keep up the good fight.

colonialpast
56
Points
colonialpast 08/15/12 - 09:33 am
3
3
Why...in the first place?

If Ray was so unhappy there...why be employed there? It's seems like one is looking for a fight when they hate their employer so, yet they stay employed.

kenai_Kid said: "THIRD: It seems the court found that Ray had done nothing wrong but to simply address a workplace injustice."
It is everyone's right to voice their concerns, but there is a proper way and inproper way to do it...two wrongs don't make a right and Ray did not handle his end properly either b/c there are a lot of people on the hospital staff that feel Ray was being a bully with threatening behavior.

There is nothing illegal about being a member of a militia but when you act like everyone with authority over you is corrupt by default then there is a problem with you. There is one in the kitchen at CPH who acts just like Ray...no matter who it is managing over her she has fault with and causes nothing but negative energy and brings down the work place atmosphere. So, I ask again...if you hate your employer so much why stay employed with them? Why be so unhappy? Doesn't make any sense!

kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 08/15/12 - 08:20 pm
3
3
Hate the employer?

I don't believe correcting injustices of an employer has a pre-requisite of hate or contempt for said employer.

colonialpast, I'm not sure if you have ever testified at or have been in any way involved in a NLRB hearing, but both sides (employer and employee) have an opportunity to present witnesses to support their case. I am certain CPGH management presented employee witnesses that felt the same as you. I am equally as sure, Mr Southwell's side provided witnesses that supported his argument. The NLRB is not an employee advocate group and is not there to find fault in management. It is in fact an independent agency of the federal government charged with not only conducting organized labor elections but investigating and remedying unfair labor practices. While the board did not decide if the way Mr Southwell voiced his concerns were right, they did decide that they were legal and are considered a protected concerted activity.

I can not speak for Mr Southwell as I don't know him on a personal or professional level, but he may like his job and just felt there was an injustice that needed addressed. To some degree, his co-workers trusted Mr Southwell as I believe they elected him to his post of Vice President of their local union.

kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 08/15/12 - 09:22 pm
3
3
A few tid bits from the public record:

From the public record of the hearing:

In 2009 CEO (Ryan) Smith searched online and discovered that Southwell had been a member of
the Michigan Militia before he moved to Alaska. Smith gathered a good deal of information
about Southwell and sent it to John Nelson, an active member of the community. On
February 26, 2009, Nelson sent Smith a message with the subject “Disavowal” and that read:

"I need to let you know that, after reflection, research, and conversations with friends, I totally disagree with and distance myself from the material you gave me that references Ray Southwell’s association with the Michigan Militia. It appears that the Michigan Militia was a perfectly legal organization under state and federal law, representing conservative political views and not that dissimilar from the National Rifle Association and like organizations. Impugning or questioning Southwell’s character by linking him to the Michigan Militia is an *ad hominen attack with the undertones of McCarthyism.

The issues generated by the nurses’ contract need to be addressed in terms of their substance."

*adhominen;
1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.

I strongly suggest those that are interested in this case read the public record. In short, it is nothing less than embarrassing for the hospital administration and the board.
Again, here is the link provided by Mr Southwell:
http://www.nlrb.gov/case/19-CA-032835.

To Mr Southwell;
I admire you for your selflessness, your concern for your fellow workers and most importantly for your search of the truth. You have been smeared, vilified and defamed beyond belief. After reading (in its entirety) the public record, I find the actions of Ryan Smith and the Hospital Board deplorable. May your good name soon be restored.

kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 08/16/12 - 08:03 am
3
3
@colonialpast

You wrote:

"It is everyone's right to voice their concerns, but there is a proper way and inproper way to do it..."

From the public record:
In a written statement to all CPGH employees, Ryan Smith wrote:

"Ray Southwell (Emergency Room Nurse) requested and was invited by the CPGH, Inc.
Board of Directors to express his opinions regarding issues at CPH at their January 29th
meeting. While Ray’s presentation to the Board addressed union representation, he also
spoke of the events of November 26th. Reactions to Ray’s presentation have ranged from support (employee applause at the meeting) to fear, anxiety, shock, and anger."

Also from the public record:

"The next morning Southwell sent Smith an email message asking for the opportunity to
respond in writing to all employees who received Smith’s message; Smith rejected the request
but offered to meet with Southwell to explain why. Smith and Southwell then met. During the meeting Smith said that he had his venue to communicate to employees and Southwell would have to find his own venue to respond."

So you see colonialpast, it looks as if Ray tried to do address his concerns the proper way, but was denied.

Again, the link to the public record:
http://www.nlrb.gov/case/19-CA-032835

colonialpast
56
Points
colonialpast 08/16/12 - 09:07 am
3
3
Call it how you will...

Call it how you will...but a bad egg is a bad egg no matter how you peel it.

Norseman
3593
Points
Norseman 08/16/12 - 10:06 am
3
4
Bottom line is that any

Bottom line is that any personnel manager worth their salt would NOT have hired an active member of a militia that is under constant FBI surveillance.
This was irresponsible and look at what that mistake costs us now.

Just look at what employers do now when doing background checks on potential employees. Do you seriously think any business in Alaska would go out and hire any militia now?

Only if they want to get sued or be in the headlines someday.

colonialpast
56
Points
colonialpast 08/16/12 - 10:09 am
3
2
Norseman...You are right on that!

Norseman...You are right on that. This is a certain responsibility on both parts.

kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 08/16/12 - 03:14 pm
3
2
colonialpast/norseman

Again, from the public record:

"Ray Southwell, a registered nurse since 1976, worked at CPH beginning in 2003 in the emergency room under Posey’s general supervision. CPH admits that Southwell was a very good nurse who received excellent annual reviews."

It sounds as if both of you supported McCarthyism and wish to bring it back. What's next? Don't hire a nurse because he/she is an active member of the socialist party? Or maybe worse yet a (gulp) democrat? One simply has nothing to do with the other! What happened to civil liberty's? Have we sunk so low as to bring Joseph McCarthy back from the dead? Good nurses are NOT a dime a dozen. And by the hospitals own account, Ray is a "very good nurse."

"Do you seriously think any business in Alaska would go out and hire any militia now?"
I do know that the employer that discriminated against a potential employee based on legal activities that were, in their opinion distasteful, would face a great deal of legal battles if that was the sole reason for not hiring him or her and it could be proven in a court of law.

I ask you this; who would you rather have tending to you in ER if your life depended on it? A flunky that has no idea what the difference is between an aorta and an anus who happens to be of your political or theological beliefs? Or a well trained well seasoned nurse that has served his or her country and sees all patients the same ... as a person in need and happens to be a member of a militia, the NRA, the NAACP, a Protestant, a Muslim, a Liberal. a Conservative a Jew or an African American? If you prefer the first, I only hope some day you may encounter that experience. Rays union activities and militia past have nothing to do with his performance in an ER.

The militia issue would not have been known to anyone had it not been for the hospital (Ryan Smith) trying to bully him with his past. It all started after the union business which Ray did not start.

The one person who wasn't thoroughly vetted based on his professional record seems to be Mr Smith... and he has left the building...community and the state.

Some victims of Joseph McCarthy who were also under FBI surveillance:
Burgess Merideth (actor)
Arthur Miller (playwright)
Edward G. Robinson( actor)
Benjamin Keen (historian)
Leonard Bernstien (musician composer)
Charlie Chaplin (actor / director)
Lena Horn (singer / composer)
Pete Seeger (musician / composer)
Irwin Shaw (playwright)

Eight of these nine had one thing in common ... Do you know what that is? Hint: Only two were found to be members of the socialist or communist party (which is still a guaranteed right).

There are many more on that list that we've never heard of ... because Senator McCarthy and his House Committee on Un-American Activities ruined them before they were truly able to leave their mark. Of the hundreds that were called only a handful were ever found to have done anything truly "un-American" and most of those findings are deceptive. The 99% were with in their legal rights and doing only what the constitution of the United States supported ... living by their "inalienable rights."

RaySouthwell
1034
Points
RaySouthwell 08/17/12 - 05:31 am
3
2
Norseman

The Judge talked about Ryan Smith spreading the rumors of my militia. Here is the judges decision
http://www.nlrb.gov/case/19-CA-032835
.
Read pages 6-7. and 16. You have beat that horse to death.

Say I bet you could do a Google search, like Ryan did, and find something about my secret marriages and divorces. I bet my x-wifes would love to give you some info about me. Good Luck.

RaySouthwell
1034
Points
RaySouthwell 08/17/12 - 05:39 am
3
2
cbeard

I have won nothing. This has always been a lose-lose situation for me. I understood it from the beginning.

Here is what Dr. Namie has in print regarding the occasional consequences of bullying.

“The documentary, Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal, was released in Sept. 2011. Experts participating in the film include criminologist Alan Fox, Northeastern University and forensic psychiatrist Michael Weiner. Both state in the film that most murder sprees have some basis in long-term persecution (or perceived persecution) of (by) the future shooter who believed there was no other way to get "justice."

Do you support bullying in the workplace?

Here is what Dr. Namie recently posted.

“Note: Southwell’s perseverance is incredible. He kept pointing out the facts that toxic work environments lead to disastrous effects for the corporation, eroding funds from a community-funded hospital. Even more critical was his nagging about the effects on people working under tyrannical chaotic managers. Research supports his every contention.”

When the anti-bullying policy is implemented, we all win, the community, employees and management.

If you knew what I know, you would understand why I push so hard for this simple policy. Say, could Ryan Smith have used this policy on me? I wonder why he and the Board opposed it?

BTW, It was the Corporate Board who took this to court. They had a choice, twice, to settle without a trial. At no monetary expense.

What is disrespectful is how the Corporate Board continues to distort the truth.

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