Nurse calls out sick with flu, then is fired for violating hospital’s attendance policy

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio (KRON/CNN) — A nurse in Ohio is now out of a job after deciding she was too sick with the flu to work.

She says the hospital she worked for fired her after she got the flu.

This flu season is worse than normal, and when one “fill-in” nurse at University Hospitals said she was too sick to work two times over the course of a few days, it violated hospital policy.

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Just after Christmas, Theresa Puckett was hardly a picture of good health.

She called out sick once at the end of 2017, and when she came back, a superior sent her home early because she was still fighting off the flu.

“I was putting in my cough drops, I was drinking my water, I was putting in my Mucinex,” Puckett said. “I mean, the whole nine yards just to patch myself up enough to go to work.”

That led to another sick day, opening her up to being fired because of University Hospital’s policy that temporary nurses called PRNs, like Puckett, may be dismissed after two non-approved absences over 60-days.

Theresa says it speaks to the nursing and hospital culture, keeping hospitals staffed no matter the consequences.

“But when it happened to me, and I really truly was too sick to go to work, I was punished for that,” Puckett said. “I was punished for staying home with a doctor’s note.”

University Hospital has a “no-fault” attendance policy, where the hospital says “notes from a physician do not ‘excuse’ an occurrence of absence.”

The policy says only approved leaves of absence, workplace illnesses or injuries, scheduled paid time off –- like vacation time or doctors appointments –- or jury duty or bereavement leave are considered excused.

That means even Puckett’s note from her own doctor saying she shouldn’t interact with people who are already sick wasn’t enough.

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