Employees Laid Off By Health Department Considering Lawsuit

Friday, May 18th 2018, 6:00 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

In late 2017 the state department of health said that it was $30 million short, so the legislature gave an emergency appropriation of $30 million and the agency laid off nearly 200 people. But after a six-month investigation, it turns out that money was never missing in the first place.

05/17/2018 Related Story: Grand Jury: Department Of Health Was Mismanaged, Never Had Financial Crisis

Nurse practitioner Theresa Nabors is one of the 198 former departments of health employees affected by what the state attorney general called "devastating and disgraceful" layoffs.

"It was devastation.  Confusion.  Scared.  Not knowing where to turn next. What I was going to do.  And then worrying about the patients," said Nabors. "I never ever dreamed that I would lose my job at the state health department.  And be turned upside down the way that I have been turned upside down."

But even worse for Nabors was finding out the layoffs were totally unnecessary. Nabors was forced to take a job in Tahlequah, almost 3 hours away. Now she and other former employees are considering a class action lawsuit. 

"Each family suffered from this. Patients suffered from this. Taxpayers are suffering and are going to suffer more from this. And there has to be repercussions. There has to be," said Nabors.

Former Department of Labor attorney David Slane says they have a good case after the agency laid them off blaming it on a financial crisis that didn't really exist.

“That may very well not be a good reason and all 198 people potentially have a recourse to either get their back pay or get their jobs back," said Slane.

The state department of health says it's reached out to 43 of the 198 people who have been laid off.  Only two of them have accepted positions again.