ST. LOUIS — An appeals court has reinstated a nurse's wrongful termination case against Rancho Manor Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Florissant.

In a ruling issued June 20, a three-judge panel vacated a ruling by St. Louis County Circuit Judge Ellen Levy Siwak. Siwak had sided with the nursing home and against nurse Latoya Ballard, who sued after she was fired for refusing to withdraw an order of protection in place against her supervisor.

Ballard had had a romantic relationship with Jason Henderson, also a nurse at Rancho Manor, between 2008 and June 2014, and they had two children together, according to background information in the ruling.

On Oct. 11, 2014, Henderson allegedly assaulted Ballard in her home and caused injuries to her and one of the children, the ruling states.

Henderson was arrested, and Ballard was granted an order of protection.

Meanwhile, Henderson was promoted to assistant director of nursing, a supervisory position over all nurses including Ballard, the ruling states. 

On Oct. 23, 2014, a court entered a full one-year order of protection against Henderson, which prohibited him from entering Ballard's workplace while she was present.

The order states that Ballard called in sick to Henderson on Dec. 19, 2014, and after he was "verbally abusive," he threatened to file a complaint against her nursing license if she did not report to work.

She went to work that day and was later reprimanded for entering work premises while Henderson was present, according to the ruling. Several days later, the nursing home's compliance nurse allegedly asked Ballard to withdraw her full order of protection, saying that if she did not she would not be placed on the work schedule.

Ballard left her position and filed suit.

At the trial court, Siwak held that Ballard failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Specifically, she held that the Missouri Adult Abuse Act (MAAA), under which Ballard filed suit, does not provide a "clear mandate of public policy necessary to give rise to a public policy discharge claim."

The nursing home had argued that the MAAA does not explicitly prohibit an employer from terminating an employee for obtaining an order of protection. 

The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District disagreed.

"While this Court is cognizant that employers often confront challenging situations in our modern workforce, employers must not demand as a condition of continued employment that an employee act contrary to her physical safety by withdrawing and terminating a valid full order of protection granted her by a trial court," the ruling states.

The three-judge appeals panel included Judges Gary Gaertner Jr., Lawrence Mooney and Angela Quigless.

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