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Affinity Medical Center, a Community Health Systems hospital in Massillon, Ohio, was recently ordered to pay nearly $2 million for defamation and punitive damages.

Ann Wayt is a registered nurse who worked at Affinity Medical Center for more than 24 years.  While employed by the hospital, Ms. Wayt received the Affinity Medical Center Nurse Excellence Award.

After Ms. Wayt became a union support and organizer who encouraged registered nurses at the hospital to vote for union representation, the hospital’s attitude toward Ms. Wayt changed dramatically.  The day before a union election was to take place, Ms. Wayt was accused of inadequate patient care and of falsifying patient records.  Ms. Wayt was then fired by Community Health Systems and turned over to the Ohio Board of Nursing for disciplinary action.

At an administrative hearing, a NLRB attorney argued that Ms. Wayt’s termination of employment and nursing board disciplinary action were retaliatory actions taken for the purpose of discouraging the hospital’s registered nurses from voting for a union.

In January 2014, a federal judge ordered Affinity Medical Center to immediately reinstate Ms. Wayt and further ordered that the hospital recognize the Ohio National Nurses Organizing Committee as the hospital’s nurses’ representative. In addition, the hospital was ordered to retract the report it made to the Ohio Board of Nursing and to expunge from her personnel file any reference to that disciplinary action.

Nurses at Affinity Medical Center applauded that ruling.  “CHS may think they are above the law, but this order sends a clear message.  We look forward to having our sister Ann back and moving forward to contract negotiations that will improve patient care conditions at Affinity,” said one registered nurse at the hospital.

Ms. Wayt filed a civil suit for defamation of her character after defamatory activity against her by the CHS hospital continued.  Last month, Affinity was ordered to pay Ms. Wayt $800,000 for defamation, $750,000 in punitive damages and Wayt’s attorney fees.