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Nurse Who Stole Opioids Wins Job Back After Her Addiction Ruled A Disease

Nurse who stole opioids wins job back after her addiction ruled a disease

A nurse who stole opioids for personal use has won her job back after a court ruled her addiction is a disease.

The court ordered her employer to reinstate her, in addition to paying her compensation for unfairly dismissing her.

The decision has subsequently sparked debate over whether addiction is a medical disease, or just ‘a nasty habit’.

Nurse who stole opioids wins job back

The nurse worked at a long-term care home in Ontario Canada.

During a shift in 2016, a co-workers opened the door to a toilet cubicle and found the nurse with an ampoule of the painkiller Hydromorphone sideways in her mouth.

The co-worker assumed the nurse had just injected herself.

An investigation found the nurse had stolen opioids for her own use over the previous two years, in addition to falsifying records to conceal the thefts.

Furthermore, the nurse kept unused portions of narcotics prescribed to patients, rather than discarding them.

Confronted by management, the nurse initially denied, then admitted to her actions.

She disclosed her addition to painkillers which began years before when she suffered a kidney condition.

As a result, she became heavily addicted.

Despite her situation, the care home sacked her for gross misconduct and theft.

Nurse appeals decision

The nurse, with the help of her union, lodged an appeal against the decision.

She pointed out that she had not used narcotics since 2016 when she entered rehab.

The health department suspended her licence for nine months, however, it has since reinstated it with conditions.

For example, that she has no access to controlled substances and be supervised at all times.

However, lawyers for the care home argued the nurse should not be allowed to return to work.

They said the special conditions will impose “undue hardship” on the care home.

Furthermore, the lawyers argued nurses need to work independently, and not be constantly supervised.

The care home also argued it did not fire the nurse because of her addition.

Instead, it said it fired her for theft and record falsification, abuse of residents and breach of trust.

What the workplace arbitrator concluded

Despite this, workplace arbitrator Larry Steinberg did not agree with the care home.

He said the nurse’s actions were symptoms of the disease of addiction, and it was therefore discriminatory to sack her because of that disease.

He said:

“To view addictions as bad habits stigmatises these conditions and makes it harder for people to get help.”

Additionally, Steinberg said the care home had a duty to accommodate the nurse’s diagnosis of severe opioid use disorder.

The disease left her with “a complete inability or a diminished capacity” to resist the urge to feed her addition, he concluded.

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