The prosecution of ten Filipino nurses for patient abandonment is over.
On Jan. 15, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division ruled that the nurses could not be prosecuted for resigning their positions with the Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Smithtown. Likewise, the ruling stated that their lawyer could not be prosecuted for advising them to resign.
The New York State Nurses Association has worked on behalf of the nurses for the past three years, ensuring that their rights were protected as registered nurses and immigrant workers.
The nurses said they left their jobs in April 2006 after their employer repeatedly violated the terms of the contract that brought them to the United States. They were recruited from the Philippines by the Sentosa Recruitment Agency, which had a business arrangement with the owner of several nursing homes on Long Island.
Investigations by the State Board for Nursing and the State Health Department found that the nurses did not abandon or endanger their patients. Nevertheless, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota filed criminal charges against registered nurses and their lawyer in March 2007, accusing them of endangering patients.
In its ruling that the prosecution was unconstitutional, the court stated that “the prosecution has the practical effect of exposing the nurses to criminal penalty for exercising their right to leave their employment at will. The imposition of such a limitation upon the nurses’ ability to freely exercise their right to resign from the service of an employer . . . is the antithesis of a free and voluntary system of labor envisioned by the framers of the 13th Amendment.”
“On behalf of the nurses and my family, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the membership of NYSNA and the American Nurses Association for their support,” wrote the nurses’ attorney, Felix Vinluan. “Your organizations’ filing an amicus brief definitely helped convince the justices to favor our petition.”
“NYSNA members and staff are extremely proud to have been able to provide support to these brave nurses,” said Nurses Association CEO Tina Gerardi, RN.