A Deer Isle nursing home is requiring employees to not disparage the home if they want retention bonuses ahead of a planned late-October closure and rejected strategies from the state on ways to stay open.
The Island Nursing Home was the first of three facilities to announce they would be closing by the end of October after the COVID-19 pandemic put additional strain on a workforce that has long struggled with low wages and staff retention. The abrupt closing rocked and upset a remote community reliant on it as one of just three remaining nursing homes in Hancock County.
Facilities usually offer retention bonuses to higher-paid staff to keep them on, said David Webbert, an employment lawyer and managing partner at the firm Johnson, Webbert & Garvan, who said it was unusual for them to be offered to rank-and-file staff. He said the agreement should be modified to include a good-faith criticism clause, otherwise workers could be discouraged from coming forward for fear of retribution.
“Things can happen between now and [the closing],” he said. “The non-disparagement agreement does not take into account the importance of employees offering feedback.”
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