Reporting Elder Abuse and Employee Protection
The Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) is a Pennsylvania Law that mandates that older adults who lack the capacity to protect themselves and are at imminent risk of being abused, neglected, exploited or abandoned must have access to and be provided with services necessary to protect their health, safety and welfare. These protective services must safeguard the rights of older adults while protecting them from abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment. The law requires employees of facilities that care for older adults such as health care facilities, home health care agencies, and long term nursing facilities, to report abuse when they have “reasonable cause” to suspect that an older adult is being abused. Under the law those reports are to be made to the local Area Agency on Aging.
Employees, including nurses and nursing assistants, are often put in the difficult position of having to decide between reporting suspected abuse and risking their job security because of possible retaliation by an employer. However, under the OAPSA employees are provided with whistleblower protection. In particular the regulations state the following:
- 15.22. Safeguards for those who make or receive reports.
(a) Protection from retaliation. Under the act, a person or entity who takes discriminatory, retaliatory or disciplinary action against an employee or other person who makes a report, against a person who cooperates with the agency or the Department to provide testimony or other information about a report, or against a victim of abuse, commits a violation of the act. The person who takes the discriminatory, retaliatory or disciplinary action is subject to a civil lawsuit by the person who made the report, the victim of abuse named in the report, or the person who cooperated with the agency or the Department. If the court which hears the lawsuit decides in favor of the plaintiff, the plaintiff shall recover triple compensatory damages, compensatory and punitive damages or $5,000, whichever is greater, from the person or entity which committed the violation.
If an employee who has reported abuse is retaliated against for reporting that abuse, it is important that they speak with an experienced Pennsylvania Employment attorney to figure out their options.