Sacramento nurse laid off after waiting 19 days for coronavirus test results

Nurse says employer let her go after requesting remote work

Ashton Byers

On March 2, Staci Moore, a nurse at LifeSTEPS in Sacramento, said she developed a fever at work that sent her home early. 

Three days later she got tested for the coronavirus at Sutter Health Medical facility in Roseville.

“My fever went up to 103.5 and I felt delirious,” Moore said. “I couldn’t focus, I was horrendously fatigued, I had a runny nose, it hurt to cough and I felt like there was a belt around my chest.” 

She self-quarantined with her 14-year-old daughter, Isabelle Moore, and waited 19 days for her test results: negative for the virus.

Moore was running a pilot program for the elderly at LifeSTEPS. The company provides social services such as after-school programs, resident wellness services, eviction protection and immigration services to affordable housing communities in Northern California, according to its website.

On a normal day, Moore was responsible for providing group education classes, daily group exercises, healthy cooking and blood pressure clinics for three affordable housing communities for the elderly in the Sacramento area. The COVID-19 pandemic halted some everyday activities. 

After receiving clearance to return to work April 7, Moore said she requested telework when possible to limit her exposure at her doctor’s orders. She said the program she was running was cut in response.

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Moore’s termination left her Sacramento State student intern, Calynn Gedde, worried that she no longer had a job secured after she graduated in the spring. 

“I won’t be able to (work at LifeSTEPS) due to LifeSTEPS’ circumstances,” Gedde said. “My next step is getting a full time job hopefully within the gerontology field.”

Gedde’s internship is for one year and, although the program was cut, she is still able to work remotely. 

Before the pandemic her role consisted of shadowing Moore in her everyday activities, which included providing food, medication and health literacy classes to the residents. As an intern, she can’t be on location anymore and now has to resort to helping patients over the phone. 

As of the time of publication, LifeSTEPS still advertises Moore as its registered nurse on its website.

Moore has since drafted a letter with her lawyer and intends to sue LifeSTEPS under The Americans with Disabilities Act.  

According to Moore, the layoff was short notice and unexpected. Moore received news of being laid off after recovering from what she thought was COVID-19.

“In a pandemic, it’s really telling when you lay off the only nurse who works for you,” Moore said. She said she worked at LifeSTEPS for nearly two years.

Jody McKay, LifeSTEPS’ chief financial adviser, declined to comment on Moore’s firing, citing privacy issues. McKay said LifeSTEPS is facing economic hardships.

“During these challenging times we are doing our very best every day to make the right decisions to meet the needs of our residents and to respond to the economic hardships the organization is facing,” McKay said via email.

Moore said she didn’t have access to adequate personal protective equipment and resorted to reusing and creating her own. According to Moore, she received two boxes of gloves, hand sanitizer, five single use masks with three covers and relied on Folsom Mask Makers to provide her with cloth masks.

“It’s like you need to go to war but you have no weapons and no armor, but good luck,” Moore said. 

Moore said the lack of PPE led to her request to work from home, after consulting with her doctor. According to Moore, LifeSTEPS was already in the process of allowing employees to work from home during the pandemic. 

Moore took what was left of the supplies she was given on her way out.

“When I was laid off, we cleaned out my old office of rubber gloves and giant 2-liter bottles of Purell,” Moore said. “I’m over here like, this is COVID-19 gold, bitches.”

Moore said she has since accepted a 13-week position with Seton Medical Center in the Bay Area. 

She said she will be making twice as much as her former job at LifeSTEPS.