Nurse claims he was fired for wearing face mask to treat Okla. hospital patient

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR/CNN) - A registered nurse in Oklahoma is taking legal action after he says he was fired for wearing a face mask at work in an effort to protect himself, his family and his patient amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Kevin Readel, who worked as a registered nurse for five years at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital, claims he was fired for wearing a droplet isolation mask while treating a patient. (Source: KFOR/Tribune/CNN)

Confused and disheartened, Kevin Readel is trying to put together the pieces after he was fired Wednesday from the Oklahoma Heart Hospital after working there as an RN for five years in the cardiac care unit.

He says he was fired for wearing a droplet isolation mask while treating a patient.

“I was trying to maintain some level of barrier,” Readel said. “It was to protect myself, to protect the patient and to protect my family.”

Readel says he was wearing the mask Monday while putting an IV in a patient. His supervisor allegedly told him to take it off, saying it could cause fear and panic.

"I questioned that," Readel said.

Readel says the supervisor sent him home. He says he did not put the mask back on when he was told to take it off.

Later, he got a call from his supervisor telling him to report to the human resources office Wednesday. At the meeting, Readel gave human resources a written statement voicing his concern about being asked not to wear the mask. He says he was fired on the spot.

"I was told that also, by the way, kind of like a caveat to the whole thing, was that your health insurance will be terminated by midnight that same day,” he said.

Mark Hammons, Readel’s attorney, says the incident comes at a crucial time for healthcare in the nation and state.

"Absolutely the worst thing that any employer can do at this time," he said.

The Oklahoma Heart Hospital says it can’t comment on Readel’s situation, but it is “following CDC guidelines on infection prevention and infection control including the proper use of face masks and personal protective equipment.”

Readel responded with Integris Health’s adopted policy based on CDC guidelines released Monday. Integris Health is Oklahoma's largest hospital network, according to its website. The policy allows their employees to wear the masks that Readel was sent home for.

Readel is seeking $75,000 in damages.

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