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No Temporary Restraining Order for Hospital Trying to Stop Employees from Leaving

ThedaCare, a hospital located in Appleton, Wisconsin, petitioned for a temporary restraining order to stop seven of its healthcare workers from accepting new positions at another hospital. ThedaCare is suing its competitor, Ascension, alleging it inappropriately recruited these employees as a group.

A Wisconsin state judge originally granted the temporary restraining order because of the gravity of ThedaCare’s situation. To grant the restraining order, the judge considered the weight of any adverse impact on public safety. The seven workers are part of an 11-person team that provided “vital care for critically ill patients.” In its lawsuit, the hospital asked the court for an order directing Ascension to either lend one of its radiology technicians and one nurse to ThedaCare each day or pause its hiring until ThedaCare can replace those employees. As a Level II trauma center, ThedaCare must be able to perform certain procedures 24 hours a day, which the hospital stated would be impossible if the employees left. Critically ill patients would need to be transported to another region, which could significantly impact that patient’s ability to receive timely care. According to the leaving staff, a team member received an offer from Ascension for a better work/life balance and better pay. After other employees received similar offers, they approached the management at ThedaCare. One employee said a supervisor told him the “long-term expense to ThedaCare was not worth the short-term cost and that no counteroffer would be made.” The evidence provided during the hearing did not support the allegation that Ascension hired the employees as a group; it looked like a typical hiring process.

The court removed the temporary restraining order, stating that the hospital could rely on other means to staff its hospital, including cross-training current employees. The leaving employees may move on to their new positions. ThedaCare said its goal was to create a short-term orderly transition and not to force its employees to continue working for it.