§ 74.34.180. Retaliation against whistleblowers and residents -- Remedies -- Rules
(1) An employee or contractor who is a whistleblower and who as a result of being a whistleblower has been subjected to workplace reprisal or retaliatory action, has the remedies provided under chapter 49.60 RCW. RCW 4.24.500 through 4.24.520, providing certain protection to persons who communicate to government agencies, apply to complaints made under this section. The identity of a whistleblower who complains, in good faith, to the department or the department of health about suspected abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect by any person in a facility, licensed or required to be licensed, or care provided in a facility or in a home setting, by any person associated with a hospice, home care, or home health agency licensed under chapter 70.127 RCW or other in-home provider, may remain confidential if requested. The identity of the whistleblower shall subsequently remain confidential unless the department determines that the complaint was not made in good faith.
(2)(a) An attempt to expel a resident from a facility, or any type of discriminatory treatment of a resident who is a consumer of hospice, home health, home care services, or other in-home services by whom, or upon whose behalf, a complaint substantiated by the department or the department of health has been submitted to the department or the department of health or any proceeding instituted under or related to this chapter within one year of the filing of the complaint or the institution of the action, raises a rebuttable presumption that the action was in retaliation for the filing of the complaint.
(b) The presumption is rebutted by credible evidence establishing the alleged retaliatory action was initiated prior to the complaint.
(c) The presumption is rebutted by a review conducted by the department that shows that the resident or consumer's needs cannot be met by the reasonable accommodations of the facility due to the increased needs of the resident.
(3) For the purposes of this section:
(a) "Whistleblower" means a resident or a person with a mandatory duty to report under this chapter, or any person licensed under Title 18 RCW, who in good faith reports alleged abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect to the department, or the department of health, or to a law enforcement agency;
(b) "Workplace reprisal or retaliatory action" means, but is not limited to: Denial of adequate staff to perform duties; frequent staff changes; frequent and undesirable office changes; refusal to assign meaningful work; unwarranted and unsubstantiated report of misconduct under Title 18 RCW; letters of reprimand or unsatisfactory performance evaluations; demotion; denial of employment; or a supervisor or superior encouraging coworkers to behave in a hostile manner toward the whistleblower. The protections provided to whistleblowers under this chapter shall not prevent a facility or an agency licensed under chapter 70.127 RCW from: (i) Terminating, suspending, or disciplining a whistleblower for other lawful purposes; or (ii) for facilities licensed under chapter 70.128 RCW, reducing the hours of employment or terminating employment as a result of the demonstrated inability to meet payroll requirements. The department shall determine if the facility cannot meet payroll in cases in which a whistleblower has been terminated or had hours of employment reduced because of the inability of a facility to meet payroll; and
(c) "Reasonable accommodation" by a facility to the needs of a prospective or current resident has the meaning given to this term under the federal Americans with disabilities act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq. and other applicable federal or state antidiscrimination laws and regulations.
(4) This section does not prohibit a facility or an agency licensed under chapter 70.127 RCW from exercising its authority to terminate, suspend, or discipline any employee who engages in workplace reprisal or retaliatory action against a whistleblower.
(5) The department shall adopt rules to implement procedures for filing, investigation, and resolution of whistleblower complaints that are integrated with complaint procedures under this chapter.
(6)(a) Any vulnerable adult who relies upon and is being provided spiritual treatment in lieu of medical treatment in accordance with the tenets and practices of a well-recognized religious denomination may not for that reason alone be considered abandoned, abused, or neglected.
(b) Any vulnerable adult may not be considered abandoned, abused, or neglected under this chapter by any health care provider, facility, facility employee, agency, agency employee, or individual provider who participates in good faith in the withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment from a vulnerable adult under chapter 70.122 RCW, or who acts in accordance with chapter 7.70 RCW or other state laws to withhold or withdraw treatment, goods, or services.
(7) The department, and the department of health for facilities, agencies, or individuals it regulates, shall adopt rules designed to discourage whistleblower complaints made in bad faith or for retaliatory purposes.
[1999 c 176 § 14; 1997 c 392 § 202.]
Findings -- Purpose -- Severability -- Conflict with federal requirements -- 1999 c 176: See notes following RCW 74.34.005.
Short title -- Findings -- Construction -- Conflict with federal requirements -- Part headings and captions not law -- 1997 c 392: See notes following RCW 74.39A.009.
Last modified: April 7, 2009