MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Cliff Willmeng, a former nurse at United Hospital, has filed a lawsuit against Allina alleging violations of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act.

In May, Willmeng was worried about keeping his patients and family safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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At the time, nurses in the emergency room had started wearing surgical scrubs, which were normally reserved for doctors and physicians’ assistants. These scrubs were left with the hospital to be professionally cleaned, unlike the normal personal scrubs nurses usually wore.

Willmeng said he started wearing surgical scrubs because he was worried about taking his personal scrubs home and potentially exposing his family to COVID-19.

However, he was violating Allina’s “dress code,” risking termination.

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He spoke with WCCO multiple times about the nurses and their fight to increase workplace safety. Willmeng also filed three OSHA complaints. But after he filed his first one, he said he was pulled into formal disciplinary proceedings.

He was then terminated on May 8.

Willmeng alleges Allina violated the state’s whisteblower and occupational safety laws, which prohibit employers from discharging or discriminating against employees who report violations of the law. He also says he was discriminated against for asserting his rights under the state’s occupational health and safety laws and for speaking out on behalf of other employees.

He is seeking compensation and damages including reinstatement at his job at United Hospital’s Emergency Department.

“There is no excuse for Allina’s treatment of me and my coworkers as we attempt to protect our patients, our families, and the health of the St. Paul Community,” Willmeng said. “Instead of working with us, Allina focused on whether wearing scrubs violated the ‘dress code.'”

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