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Kennebec County Court affirms arbitration award against Down East Community Hospital

On August 29, 2011, the Kennebec County Superior Court ruled in favor of the Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA) and affirmed an arbitration award in favor of MSNA member Krista McCormick. Ms. McCormick worked as a nurse at Down East Community Hospital (DECH) until she was terminated on September 11, 2009. In accordance with MSNA’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with DECH, MSNA filed a grievance on behalf of Ms. McCormick contesting the termination. The grievance process led to an arbitration where a neutral arbitrator, who serves a role similar to a judge, found that DECH terminated Ms. McCormick without just cause in violation of the CBA. Consequently, the arbitrator ordered DECH to reinstate Ms. McCormick and compensate her for lost wages and benefits. This would’ve been a relatively straightforward case except for the fact that a court-appointed receiver, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (EMHS), was in control of DECH at the time of Ms. McCormick’s termination.

After the arbitrator ruled in favor of MSNA and Ms. McCormick, EMHS refused to abide by the arbitrator’s decision. So, MSNA had to file a lawsuit in court to enforce the arbitrator’s decision. EMHS argued that the court could not enforce the arbitrator’s decision against DECH because EMHS was the entity that terminated Ms. McCormick, not DECH. EMHS further argued that the court could not enforce the arbitrator’s decision against it because, as a court-appointed receiver, it was immune from MSNA’s lawsuit.

If EMHS had prevailed with its arguments, it would have deprived Ms. McCormick of any remedy for her wrongful termination. After thoroughly evaluating the various complex legal arguments that EMHS made, and MSNA made in response, the court rejected EMHS’s position and ruled in favor of MSNA and Ms. McCormick.

The Maine Employee Rights Group represented MSNA in this case.

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