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Thome Quoted in City Pages on Retaliation Case Brought by Former Nurse Against Hospital

Mar 04, 2020

On March 3, 2020, Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP partner Joni Thome was quoted in a City Pages article covering the story of a reprisal case against Madelia Community Hospital and Clinic. Thome represents Deidre Hruby in this case, the former director of nursing at the hospital who was terminated after nearly thirty years of employment. Grounds for the case arose in 2018, when the family of MCHC’s CEO Candace Fenske opened a brewery in Madelia called “Lost Sanity Brewing.” The brewery maintained their theme of insanity when naming their beers, with menu items such as “Botched Lobotomy,” “Hopzophrenia,” “Personality Disorder Porter,” and “Citra Insane-O.”

In June of that year, conflict within the hospital arose when Deidre’s son and MCHC dietary aid Michael Hruby expressed his disapproval for the theme of the company via op-ed in the Madelia Times Messenger, saying that “the idea of naming ANY product in a way that stigmatizes and belittles another human being is appalling.” Within days of this op-ed appearing in the paper, Fenske told the hospital’s HR director that Michael had been taking extra-long breaks. At the same time, hospital leadership began complaining amongst themselves about Hruby drawing attention to the issue, with one person saying they wished “the fag would just quit.” Deidre Hruby also had concerns about how the brewery’s theme and beer names would reflect on the hospital. When she spoke with Fenske about the issue, she was not only reprimanded but also passed over for a promotion to CEO when Fenske left (Deidre was the only internal candidate for the position.) In the fall of 2018 and into early 2019, Deidre made internal complaints about the issues surrounding "Lost Sanity," the harassment of her son and the board of directors' responses to her son being vocal about "Lost Sanity." 

In March 2019, Deidre filed a charge of retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that was dismissed soon after. In April, Deidre was told by the new CEO that the way she had openly discussed her concerns regarding her son was “unprofessional and disrespectful” and was told to pack her stuff and get out within 30 minutes. In response to Deidre Hruby’s subsequent lawsuit, MCHC has claimed that Deidre’s termination was one of several made due to budget cuts.

Although the hospital finds reassurance in the dismissal from the EEOC, Thome states that “when a complaint (to the EEOC) is filed and dismissed quickly, it really seems more likely there was a lack of resources.” As for the budget cut claim, Thome says she’s “never heard of a hospital that didn’t need a director of nursing,” and “It sounds like a pretense for reprisal.”

Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is an employment law firm committed to protecting the rights of employees from the unlawful acts of companies. For questions about employee rights, contact Joni Thome or any of our attorneys by clicking here.

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