On appeal from the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, Docket Nos. 2009-840 and 2009-1801.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 25, 2010
Before Judges Lisa and Reisner.
Appellants, Jeffrey Glosson (Jeffrey) and his son, Christopher Glosson (Christopher), were employed as human services assistants at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital. They appeal from the June 25, 2009 final decision of the Civil Service Commission (Commission). That decision adopted the May 20, 2009 initial decision of an administrative law judge (ALJ), which upheld the actions of the Department of Human Services (DHS) ordering appellants removed from their positions at Ancora based upon charges of patient abuse and other infractions. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
On February 28, 2008, both appellants were working the night shift, beginning at 11:30 p.m. Although both were working in the same hall that night, they were assigned to different floors. A patient on Christopher's floor, M.R., did not want to sleep and did not want to go into his room. M.R. had a history of unpredictable behavior. Accordingly, Christopher and another staff member were assigned to a two-on-one observation of M.R. They conducted this activity in the hallway, where M.R. was sitting.
Without dispute, the policies and regulations in effect at Ancora did not require patients to sleep at night. Patients were allowed to have their liberty at night in such situations, subject to appropriate observation and monitoring by hospital personnel. Therefore, M.R. was not required to go to bed in the circumstances existing that night.
Conflicting evidence of the ensuing events was presented to the ALJ. The version that he believed was as follows: Christopher tried to persuade M.R. to go to bed. When M.R. continued to decline to do so, Christopher began to argue with him. Christopher also would not allow M.R. to use the bathroom. The verbal altercation escalated.
Sharon Jones, another human services assistant, came to the scene at the request of another employee to assist in de-escalating the situation. Jones told Christopher to calm down. At about this time, another employee contacted Jeffrey, who came to the scene with another individual.
Appellants then took M.R. into a bedroom where they both hit, punched and kicked M.R., as witnessed by Orlando Askie, the nurse's aide with whom Christopher had been conducting the twoon-one monitoring of M.R. In this bedroom, Jones did not see either appellant strike M.R., but she saw M.R. punch Jeffrey.
At Jones' suggestion, M.R. was taken to the observation room, which contained a restraint chair. Appellants took M.R. into that room. When Jones entered this second room, she saw M.R. on the floor being beaten and kicked by both appellants. An emergency code was then called, other staff responded, and the incident was brought to a conclusion.
In the aftermath of the physical incident, witnesses were required to prepare statements of what they saw. Jeffrey was a shop steward. He attempted to exercise his authority from that position by directing witnesses how to write their statements.
He told witnesses they should indicate that M.R. was assaulting appellants, who were merely trying to defend themselves and appropriately restrain M.R. When Michael Gewurtz, a supervisor of nursing services, instructed Jeffrey to stop attempting to influence witness statements, Jeffrey did not immediately comply. Further, while Gewurtz was holding the written statements, Jeffrey grabbed them from his hands.
Both appellants testified and provided a benign version of the events, which the ALJ rejected. According to them, M.R. became agitated and belligerent without provocation, in response to which they were merely attempting to defend themselves and appropriately restrain him in accordance with all applicable procedures and regulations. Appellants ...