On March 23, 2020, Lauri Mazurkiewicz, an Illinois nurse, filed a lawsuit against Northwestern Memorial Hospital. According to the complaint, the nurse claims that she was fired for informing coworkers that the Particulate Respirator N95 masks are more effective for preventing healthcare workers from contracting COVID-19 than the facemasks provided by the hospital.
The complaint indicates that the nurse worked at the hospital in March 2020 and was exposed to individuals who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. According to the lawsuit, the hospital did not give Particulate Respirator N95 facemasks to its staff and/or employees. The complaint alleges that the hospital gave its employees “less-effective facemasks.” The suit also states that the hospital did not allow its staff/employees to wear N95 masks while working at the hospital.
According to the complaint, on March 18, “for the purpose of promoting public health,” the nurse sent an email to her coworkers warning them that N95 masks are safer. And, the nurse elected to wear her own personal N95 mask while working at the hospital on March 19. The nurse was fired on the same day.
It is widely reported that nurses and other healthcare professionals across the country who are on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 are extremely concerned for their own health as well the health of their family members. The scarcity of personal protective equipment – widely known as PPE- is reportedly at a critical stage. If a trend of firing healthcare workers for wearing or questioning the need for N95 masks ensues, lawsuits similar to this one will likely become commonplace.
Hahnah Williams is an attorney, registered nurse, and advocate who represents healthcare professionals in professional license, criminal, and business matters at Hahnah Williams, Attorney at Law, P.C.