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Whelan v. Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

July 15, 2013

Colleen M. Whelan, Appellant,
v.
Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc., a/k/a Hennepin County Medical Center, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-12-2074

Bruce P. Grostephan, Peterson, Engberg & Peterson, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Martin D. Munic, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Hooten, Judge; and Willis, Judge. [*]

HOOTEN, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's conclusion that respondent did not violate the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) or the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) and that respondent was entitled to summary judgment on appellant's claim of defamation. We affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Colleen Whelan was employed as a registered nurse by respondent Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) from 1981 until she retired in May 2010. In February 2011, appellant began working for HCMC again as a casual nurse in the emergency department (ED). By definition, a casual nurse is one who has "no regular appointed scheduled hours" but must be available for at least two shifts per four-week scheduling period. Pursuant to this definition, appellant understood a casual nurse to be someone "who works 14 hours a week or less." As a casual nurse, appellant receives shifts by signing up, calling in, or responding to a "red alert." The red alert is a system used by the ED to alert available nurses when it is short-staffed. After becoming a casual nurse, appellant experienced difficulties with the red-alert system and was not alerted to available shifts through the system on multiple occasions.

On April 22, 2011, appellant called in to the ED to inquire whether there were any available shifts and was told there were not. Later that day, appellant's friend and fellow nurse, D.S., called appellant to inform her that the ED had sent out a red alert. Upon learning that a red alert had been sent out and that she had not received it, appellant became frustrated because she wanted the hours.

Later that day, appellant called D.S. back at HCMC to thank her for thinking of appellant in regards to the shift. Pursuant to HCMC policy, which appellant had given signed consent to, HCMC records all phone calls. According to the consent form, the purpose of recording telephone calls includes, but is not limited to: "quality assurance, training and productivity values, assisting non-medical event and other legal investigations, and in areas that offer medical advice or counsel." A recording of the second phone call between appellant and D.S. reveals the following conversation, in which appellant vented her frustration regarding the system using expletives:

Appellant: F---ing A, wouldn't you know someone snapped it up already.
Appellant: I'm not getting those f---ing red alerts that I'm supposed to be getting. Tell who ever is in charge of that f---ing red ...

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