FT. WALTON BEACH, FL. (Feb. 26, 2018). A former childcare worker testified in her deposition today that she was fired within 48 hours after she called the Florida Abuse Hotline to report several incidents she witnessed. I represent the woman in a current whistleblower lawsuit against the daycare center.
The incidents she reported included an occasion where she photographed a coworker using her foot and leg to forcibly hold a two-year old in a horizontal position for a prolonged time even as the child screamed and cried. In a second incident, she heard coworkers mocking a six year old with Downs Syndrome by calling him “retard,” by mocking what they called his “freaking eyes,” and by threatening to soak him with water for tearfully asking to call his father. In a third incident she reported, a three-year old came back to school with welts and bruises the day after the school gave her father an incident report informing that she’d wet her pants. My client testified that she was told not to report the welts and bruises because the parents were “good people” who wouldn’t have done such a thing. The three-year old told my client her parents had in fact inflicted the marks.
My client called the hotline on her own and reported all these incidents. She was swiftly fired. Unfortunately, the employees engaging in this terrible conduct were not fired immediately. Most still work there. One received only written discipline, and, shamefully, was only later fired after the Florida Department of Children and Families issued a final report harshly criticizing the agency for not firing her.
I sued the childcare center under two Florida laws. One law forbids retaliation against anyone who works in a childcare center and who reports suspected abuse. The other law provides similar whistleblower protection for employees terminated after reporting violations of the law.
My client testified that she remained unemployed for more than a year because she was afraid to put her own toddlers in a childcare center after what she witnessed. Her fears are justified. I have many childcare and nursing home aides and nurses coming to me after witnessing horrific abuse toward vulnerable children and adults. In one nursing home case, my client, an LPN, saw a male aide using a handheld showerhead to spray hot water on an elderly woman who he disliked, and saw the same aide rake a metal hairbrush across the woman’s head to further punish her.
Many such child and elderly care facilities have policies that purport to protect employees who come forward with reports of abuse. But in my experience, the opposite is true. It is the employee who speaks up who get punished. This case is a perfect example.
The case is in progress and the court has not yet made any rulings on the case. More depositions – where lawyers question witnesses about the events – will take place soon.