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Fired Housemother Argues She Was Good Samaritan To Abuse Victim

November 1, 1988

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A dormitory housemother who opened the door to an alleged victim of wife- beating should not have been fired despite her employer’s rule barring unauthorized visitors, her lawyer said.

Sallyanne Brown said she lost her part-time job at a dormitory for Northeastern Hospital’s women nursing students after she opened the dormitory door late one night last December to a woman who was crying and saying that she had been beaten by her husband and needed the police.

Officials at Northeastern Hospital said Mrs. Brown was fired for violating rules that prohibited her from doing anything that might endanger the safety of the dormitory residents, including allowing unauthorized visitors after curfew.

Mrs. Brown is seeking unspecified damages and back pay from the hospital in a civil lawsuit argued Monday in Common Pleas Court.

Both sides completed their arguments in the first day of trial, but Common Pleas Judge Lawrence Prattis gave Mrs. Brown’s lawyer, Judith Chomsky, until Nov. 30 to cite similar cases.

During the hearing, Prattis said there was no question that public policy encourages giving assistance to victims of abuse, but said that does not mean that it can be used as an exception to every rule established by employers.

When Mrs. Brown was on the stand, Prattis asked her if she would have let in a teen-age boy who came to the door with bruises and said he was abused.

Mrs. Brown said she would, to which Prattis replied, ″I believe you would.″

″And that, Ms. Chomsky, is your problem,″ the judge said to Mrs. Brown’s lawyer.

Mrs. Brown also testified that a hospital security guard who was present on Dec. 13, 1987, when she let the woman in, told her to let the woman in and stayed until police came for the woman.

However, the guard, John DeMasi, who no longer works for the hospital, testified that he told Mrs. Brown not to let the woman in the dorm.

The woman did not testify and was not identified during the hearing.

Dr. Shirley Hickman, the director of nursing education at the hospital, testified that Mrs. Brown would have been disciplined regardless of whether a security guard was present, or whether the woman had been seeking assistance.

Hospital rules, she said, prohibited any unauthorized people, regardless of their condition, from entering the building after curfew.

Ms. Hickman also contended that when Mrs. Brown first related her actions to hospital officials, she did not say the woman had claimed she had been abused.

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