Tudor v. Charleston Area Medical Center, Inc

In Tudor v. Charleston Area Medical Center, Inc., 203 W. Va. 111, 506 S.E.2d 554 (1997), the Court recognized that a substantial public policy emanating from a state regulation on hospital patient care provided the basis for a constructive discharge claim where the nurse plaintiff had been terminated after expressing concerns regarding staffing problems and patient safety. The plaintiff in Tudor maintained that a substantial public policy was embodied in a state regulation providing that "there shall be an adequate number of licensed registered professional nurses to meet . . ." certain staffing requirements. Id. at 123, 506 S.E.2d at 566 (quoting W. Va. C.S.R. 64-12-14.2.4 (1987)). Disagreeing with the employer's contention that the regulation was too vague to present a substantial public policy underlying the employee's claim, as in Birthisel, we found that the regulation did set "forth a specific statement of a substantial public policy which contemplates that the hospital unit will be properly staffed to accommodate the regulation's directive . . . ." 203 W. Va. at 124, 506 S.E.2d at 567. The Court recognized that adverse employment actions taken in reaction to criticisms of nurse staffing policies and practices - criticisms that are based on the allegation that the policies and practices would threaten patient safety - may be actionable. In Tudor, the Court held that Ms. Jana Lynn Tudor, a nurse who complained about nurse staffing practices at CAMC, was protected by a substantial "public policy" principle that is articulated at W.Va. C.S.R. 64-12-19.2.4, designed to insure that ". . . patients are protected from inadequate staffing practices." Tudor, 203 W. Va. at 124, 506 S.W.2d at 567.