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                           The Legal Expert
                                                            Highest court: Facilities fair
                          John Durso, Esq.
                          Ungaretti & Harris LLP
                                                            game for civil rights suits
                                                            By James M. Berklan
        My boss is leaning on me to                         The U.S. Supreme Court
        contribute my time or money                         has let stand a federal appeal
        (or both) to his favorite charity.                  court’s ruling that nursing
        Is this legal?                                      homes can be named in private
                                                            civil rights lawsuits alleging
        Generally, a boss’s request for chari-              inadequate care.

                                                                                                                                                                         Photo: SCOTUS
        table donations is not improper or ille-               The decision directly applies
        gal unless he or she uses intimidation              to county- and state-run nurs-
        tactics, threats, coercion or discrimina-           ing facilities but also could have   The U.S. Supreme Court has decided a lower court’s ruling that poten-
        tion to obtain the donation. Asking for             some impact on cases against         tially exposes nursing homes to more lawsuits is sufficient.
        charitable donations is not illegal as              private facilities, according to     review the lower court’s ruling.    a facility on behalf of a resident
        long as nobody is forced to contribute.             Eric Carlson of the National         “Shocking” is how the Ameri-        in the event of inadequate care
            However, if you were going to take              Senior Citizens Law Center.          can Health Care Association         and wrongful death.
        action against an employer for trying                  At the heart of the ruling        once described the lower               At the time of the decision,
        to force you to donate, you would have              is the opinion that the Nurs-        court’s decision in the case.       an attorney for AHCA com-
        to prove that coercion of some sort                 ing Home Reform Law can                 In John J. Kane Regional         plained that the FNHRA had
        actually took place. Unfortunately for              be enforced through a federal        Centers-Glen Hazel v. Gram-         never been used to allow such
        employees, proof of coercion may be                 provision that prohibits local       mer, the U.S. Court of Appeals      a private right of action since
        difficult to produce, especially if the              governments from depriving           for the Third Circuit ruled         their passage in 1987.
        coercion took place during an informal,             an individual of his or her fed-     that the Federal Nursing               The FNHRA were passed
        closed-door conversation.                           eral rights, Carlson noted.          Home Reform Amendments              in order to provide more over-
            If your boss’s favorite charity hap-               The two biggest nursing           (FNHRA) guarantee a nursing         sight of the quality of care and
        pens to be a certain political campaign,            home associations and at least       home resident’s civil rights. It    residents’ rights standards for
        you may have a remedy under the                     14 states signed a petition, urg-    held that a private civil rights    nursing homes that participate
        Federal Election Campaign Act or other              ing Supreme Court justices to        lawsuit may be brought against      in Medicare and Medicaid. ■
        federal laws.
            Also, if your boss asks you to volun-
        teer your time, wage and hour laws may
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