Is there a maximum time length or statute of limitations that a boss can reprimand, write-up or terminate an employee?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is there a maximum time length or statute of limitations that a boss can reprimand, write-up or terminate an employee?

I am an OR nurse in a surgery center. My scheduled work shift had ended and I was still at work finishing up my last patient 30 minutes after my shift. My boss then tells me to go get another patient and take them back to the room to get their surgery started. I told her that it was already past my shift and that I had prior engagements and really couldn’t stay any longer. She said that if I left, it would be patient abandonment. I said it couldn’t be because it wasn’t my patient and I wasn’t currently in a case. She said if I left, it would be counted against me. I didn’t know if that mean’t a write-up or being fired or what. but I told her I really had to leave and just left. The next day I went to our VP and told him what happened and he said from what I told him, I did nothing wrong. Then I started my shift and had fellow co-workers tell me that my boss had been telling them and other employees that I had abandoned my patient and that she was going to address the situation with me that day. She never said anything to me, yet kept telling other employees about it. The next day, my bosses boss came in and they had a meeting so I was waiting to get called into their office. I called our HR and told them the situation and that I felt threatened and asked if they did call me into the office, could I have

someone present in the room as a witness, and they said that if I was called in, to give them a call and we would go from there. They never called me in to talk. However, I have a feeling it’s not over and things aren’t going to blow over. I’m at a loss for what to do. Is my boss not slandering my name and defamation of character? Can she threaten me with patient abandonment? That could cost me my career. Do I have any moves here? I’ve never been in this kind of situation before, so any help and advice is greatly appreciated

Asked on August 12, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, your boss determines when you have to work to--your boss can make you stay after your shift normally ends, for example--and who your patients are--so your boss can make "John Doe" your patient and then determine that you abandoned your patient if you don't stay to help. The boss does not need to take your prior engagements into account. So you can be disciplined or written up or even terminated over this, and there is no limitation on the law on *when* the employer must do this--i.e. they can legally take action after the fact.
The exception to the above would be if you have a written employment contract which contractually guaranties your shifts and provides some mechanism or process for assigning patients to you...if so, the employer must honor the terms of the contract and, if they don't, you could sue for breach of contract.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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