Employer of visiting nurse who was killed didn't protect her and should be fined, safety agency says

HARTFORD, Conn. — A home health care company failed to protect a visiting nurse who was killed during an appointment with a convicted rapist at a Connecticut halfway house and should be fined about $161,000, federal workplace safety officials said Wednesday.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released the results of its investigation into Elara Caring and the Oct. 28 death of Joyce Grayson, a 63-year-old mother of six and nurse for 36 years. The Dallas, Texas-based company, which provides home care for more than 60,000 patients in 17 states, said it disputes OSHA’s findings and plans to contest them.

OSHA determined the company “exposed home healthcare employees to workplace violence from patients who exhibited aggressive behavior and were known to pose a risk to others,” the agency said in a statement.

“Elara Caring failed its legal duty to protect employees from workplace injury by not having effective measures in place to protect employees against a known hazard and it cost a worker her life,” Charles McGrevy, an OSHA area director in Hartford, Connecticut, said in the statement.

OSHA said the company could have reduced the risk of workplace violence in a number of ways including providing its health care providers with comprehensive background information on patients, giving them panic alert buttons and developing procedures for using safety escorts with certain patients.

The agency said Elara Caring must develop and implement required safeguards including a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program. OSHA cited Elara and two subsidiaries, Jordan Health Services and New England Home Care.

Elara Caring said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press that “the citation that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued to the company is unwarranted, and we intend to contest it vigorously.”

The company said Connecticut officials determined the convicted rapist accused of killing Grayson, Michael Reese, was not a danger to the community. Reese, 39, was on probation and living in a halfway house in Willimantic after serving more than 14 years in prison for stabbing and sexually assaulting a woman in 2006 in New Haven.

“Post-release, state authorities were responsible for monitoring and managing the patient’s activities,” the company said. “The death of Joyce Grayson was a tragedy, and we continue to grieve with the family.”

The company has previously said it had safeguards in place to protect workers and was reviewing them in response to Grayson’s death.

The state court system, which oversees probation, says it does not comment on cases involving potential litigation.

An informal meeting between OSHA and Elara Caring was set for Thursday, an OSHA spokesperson said. The company has until May 17 to respond to the OSHA citation, including complying with the agency’s directives or challenging them.

Grayson’s death spurred a call for greater protections for home health care workers in Connecticut and across the country. Connecticut lawmakers are now considering a bill that would improve safety for health care workers.

On the day she was killed, Grayson had a morning appointment at Reese’s halfway house to administer his medication. After she missed subsequent appointments, her daughter called police to request a well-being check.

Grayson was found strangled in the basement of the halfway house, police and the medical examiner’s office said. She also had blunt-force injuries to her head, torso and extremities, an arrest warrant for Reese said.

Reese is charged with murder, attempted first-degree sexual assault and other crimes in connection to Grayson’s death. He has not entered pleas, and his public defender has not returned messages seeking comment including an email sent Wednesday.

Kelly Reardon, a lawyer for Grayson’s family, said the family hopes the OSHA findings will prompt safety changes in the home health care industry.

“OSHA has recognized what the Grayson family has known since Joyce was murdered on October 28, 2023 — that Elara Caring willfully placed her in harm’s way by repeatedly ignoring employees complaints about aggressive and violent patients they were required to treat,” Reardon said in an email to the AP.

OSHA also cited Elara Caring for a less serious alleged violation — not providing work-related injury and illness records to OSHA within the required four business hours — and proposed an additional fine of $2,300.

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