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West Park Hospital Dist. v. West Park Hospital Dist.

May 27, 2010

WEST PARK HOSPITAL DISTRICT, IN RE: RECOMMENDED TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT OF GLENDA R. REYNOLDS: GLENDA R. REYNOLDS, APPELLANT (PETITIONER),
v.
WEST PARK HOSPITAL DISTRICT, APPELLEE (RESPONDENT).



Appeal from the District Court of Park County The Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, Chief Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] Glenda Reynolds (Reynolds) appeals the West Park Hospital District's Board of Trustees' (Hospital District) decision to terminate her employment. Finding no error in the Hospital District's decision, we will affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Reynolds raises three issues on appeal. We have rephrased those issues as follows for clarity's sake:

1. Was the Hospital District's decision to terminate Reynolds arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law because it applied the wrong personnel handbook?

2. Was the Hospital District's decision to terminate Reynolds arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law because it followed a discipline procedure that did not exist in the handbook?

3. Was the Hospital District's decision to terminate Reynolds a breach of its duty of good faith and fair dealing?

FACTS

[¶3] Reynolds began working for the Hospital District in 1984. On September 29, 2003, Reynolds entered into a Separation and Non-Disclosure Agreement (Agreement) with the Hospital District. By the terms of the Agreement, Reynolds voluntarily resigned her employment and released any claims she may have had against the Hospital District. The Agreement provided that Reynolds' resignation would be retroactive, effective at the close of business on September 24, 2003. In consideration for Reynolds' resignation and waiver of potential claims, the Hospital District paid Reynolds twelve weeks pay and continued providing her with health coverage. At about the same time, however, a different position was found for Reynolds, and she returned to work for the Hospital District.

[¶4] In 2002, the Hospital District had adopted a new employee handbook which generally provided that employees hired after January 1, 2002, would be "at-will" employees and could be terminated for any reason or no reason. The 2002 handbook also provided a step discipline procedure that applied to "for cause" employees who had been hired prior to 2002. The adoption of the 2002 handbook will be discussed further below.

[¶5] After Reynolds began her new position in 2003, there were several incidents wherein she received some form of discipline. The discipline occurred primarily as a result of Reynolds falling asleep during her work shift, beginning in June of 2003.*fn1

There were seven documented occurrences of Reynolds falling asleep during her shift. Following each incident, the Hospital District disciplined Reynolds by verbally warning her that she must remain awake during her shift and that such conduct could result in her being terminated, providing her with written warnings relating to the offenses, suspending her on one occasion, and having an employee conference with her. Reynolds was also verbally warned on August 14, 2007, about having excessive absences from work. On September 13, 2007, following the seventh time that Reynolds was found sleeping on the job, she received notification that the Chief Executive Officer for the Hospital District and the Cedar Mountain Center Director recommended to the Hospital District that her employment be terminated. Reynolds requested, and was granted, a hearing on the termination recommendation before the Hospital District. Following the hearing, the Hospital District accepted the termination recommendation and entered an order to that effect. Reynolds timely filed an appeal to the district court. The district court affirmed the Hospital District's decision. This appeal by Reynolds followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶6]The Hospital District is a Wyoming Governmental Entity organized pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 35-2-401 through 35-2-404 (LexisNexis 2009). The Hospital District is an "agency" as defined by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-101(b)(i) (LexisNexis 2009). Accordingly, we will review the Hospital ...


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