Judge rules lawsuit against Crow Reservation nursing home can proceed

A federal judge is allowing a woman to proceed with a lawsuit that claims the Crow tribe's nursing home leaders conspired to fire her for reporting that a patient had been molested.

Tammy Wilhite is a former nurse at Awe Kualawaache Care Center, a tribe-owned nursing home in Crow Agency. She says the nursing home's administrator and board of directors fired her March 29 on the pretext that she had a gun in her car.

Wilhite claims that the real reason she was fired was because she told state health officials that a patient had been molested by a nursing home worker who was transporting him.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters on Wednesday denied the nursing home's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that the federal court has no jurisdiction over Wilhite's claims.

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A nurse files suit in federal court after claiming she was fired from her job after reporting a sexual assault.

Tammy Wilhite filed the complaint earlier this month against her former employer on Crow Reservation. Wilhite contends in the complaint that a patient notified her that he had been molested while being transported. 

Wilhite says in the complaint she reported the incident to her immediate supervisor. She says she took the complaint to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services when she felt the medical facility wasn't acting on the incident. The complaint states the Montana state agency investigated and were able to substantiate the claim.

Wilhite claims that after the investigation, her employer denied her access to her apartment by informing her landlord to lock her out of the residence. The medical facility was able to do this because the apartment was provided to Wilhite as a benefit of employment.

Wilhite says she wasn't officially notified of her termination until a week later. She says she was informed that her terminated because she had a gun in her car. Wilhite contends that there is no policy that states she is not allowed a gun in her vehicle, and she contends no gun was actually found.

Wilhite believes she was terminated for reported the molestation to the State of Montana. She is requesting a trial by jury and is seeking monetary damages.

We reached out to the health care facility today and they tell us the Board of Directors are aware of concerns raised in the complaint and that they take these matters seriously, however they will not comment on the specifics of the complaint as this is a private civil matter.

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