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New Mexico’s Expanded Employment Protections: The Safe Harbor for Nurses Act

In recent months, the New Mexico legislature enacted legislation expanding employment protections for nurses. The Safe Harbor for Nurses Act allows registered and licensed practical nurses to refuse assignments under certain conditions without fear of retaliation or other adverse action by their employers.

In January 2019, the New Mexico legislature passed bipartisan Senate Bill (SB) 82, titled the Safe Harbor for Nurses Act. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 82 into law on March 14, 2019. It requires healthcare facilities (e.g., “an entity licensed by the department of health that provides health care on its premises”) to implement procedures that allow licensed nurses (e.g., registered nurses or licensed practical nurses employed or contracted by the healthcare facility) to reject assignments under certain circumstances without fear of reprisal from their healthcare facility employers.

Specifically, under SB 82, a registered and licensed practical nurse may reject an assignment when he or she has a good faith belief that he or she “lacks the basic knowledge, skills or abilities necessary to deliver [safe and effective nursing care] to such an extent that accepting the assignment would expose one or more patients to an unjustifiable risk of harm or would constitute a violation of the New Mexico Nursing Practice Act or board of nursing rules.” Nurses may also reject assignments when the nurse “questions the medical reasonableness of another health care provider’s order that the nurse is required to execute.”

All healthcare facilities are required to create, implement, and educate nurses about the safe harbor process. The process must include: “(1) notification to all nurses on staff as to how the safe harbor may be invoked; (2) notification by the nurse to the nurse’s supervisor that the nurse is invoking the safe harbor; (3) written documentation with the date, time and location of the invocation of the safe harbor and the reason for the invocation, signed by supervisor and the nurse; and (4) documentation of the resolution of the matter in which safe harbor was invoked.”

Healthcare facilities are prohibited from retaliating against, demoting, suspending, terminating, disciplining, or discriminating against any nurse who “makes a good faith request for safe harbor.”

In light of SB 82, New Mexico healthcare facilities may want to carefully review the law and evaluate any steps necessary to implement the required safe harbor procedures for nurses, including training nurses and their supervisors on the safe harbor process. Additionally, healthcare facilities may want to train supervisors and managers of nurses on the anti-retaliation provisions of the Safe Harbor for Nurses Act.

© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.


About this Author

Nonnie Shivers, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, Employment Litigation Attorney

Nonnie partners with employers and managers in three primary ways: litigation avoidance through proactive counseling and training; investigations and resolutions when pre-litigation concerns arise; and litigating legally complex and factually challenging cases to defend employer’s actions.  

Nonnie advises and counsels private and public employers in all aspects of employment law. Nonnie regularly partners with clients to plan and implement reductions in force, severance plans and agreements, and pre-litigation disciplinary matters. Nonnie...

Trey Lynn Labor and Employment Attorney

Trey Lynn represents employers in matters involving a wide range of labor and employment issues, including:

  • Discrimination and harassment
  • Wrongful termination
  • Retaliation
  • Wage and hour class and collective actions
  • Trade secrets and non-compete agreements
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Breach of employment contracts

Trey focuses his practice on litigation and has represented clients in various matters state and federal court, as well as in arbitration proceedings. He regularly represents employers in lawsuits and collective actions arising out of the Fair Labor Standards Act. He assists clients in matters involving claims of unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, and misclassification of employees. He has defended small local employers and large corporations involved in class and collective actions.

Trey also represents clients in litigation involving all forms of discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment and discrimination based on sex, religion, national origin, and race. He handles actions arising out of claims for retaliation, wrongful termination, and breach of employment contracts. He strives to vigorously represent his clients’ interests while also assisting clients with making beneficial business decisions.

Additionally, Trey represents employers and business in actions involving the Americans with Disabilities Act. These include actions involving discrimination against individuals with disabilities and actions involving disability access to places of public accommodation under the ADA. He assists businesses with ensuring that they are in compliance with applicable ADA requirements.

Trey also counsels employers on a wide range of employment issues, including updating personnel policies and employee handbooks and providing opinions on proposed policies. He seeks to tailor employment policies to comply with relevant federal, state, and local laws while also promoting his client’s business needs. With a background in business and finance, Trey is able to understand clients’ business goals and assist them with implementing employment policies to help meet those goals.

During law school, Trey served as judicial extern to the Honorable Cindy K. Jorgensen of the U.S. District Court, and as an intern with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Pima County Attorney’s Office. He was a member of the school’s ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition Moot Court Team and received the school’s award for best appellate brief and awards for outstanding advocacy and outstanding performance in brief writing.