§16-5C-8. Investigation of complaints.

(a)  The secretary shall establish rules for prompt investigation of all complaints of alleged violations by nursing homes of applicable requirements of state law or rules, except for such complaints that the secretary determines are willfully intended to harass a licensee or are without any reasonable basis. Such procedures shall include provisions for ensuring the confidentiality of the complainant and for promptly informing the complaint and the nursing home involved of the results of the investigation.

(b)  If, after its investigation, the secretary determines that the complaint has merit, the secretary shall take appropriate disciplinary action and shall advise any injured party of the possibility of a civil remedy.

(1)  A nursing home or licensee adversely affected by an order or citation of a deficient practice issued pursuant to this section may request the independent informal dispute resolution process contained in §16-5C-12a of this code.

(2)  No later than 20 working days following the last day of a complaint investigation, the secretary shall transmit to the nursing home a statement of deficiencies committed by the facility. Notification of the availability of the independent informal dispute resolution process and an explanation of the independent informal dispute resolution process shall be included in the transmittal.

(c)  No nursing home may discharge or in any manner discriminate against any resident, legal representative, or employee for the reason that the resident, legal representative, or employee has filed a complaint or participated in any proceeding specified in this article. Violation of this prohibition by any nursing home constitutes ground for the suspension or revocation of the license of the nursing home as provided in §16-5C-11 and §16-5C-12 of this code. Any type of discriminatory treatment of a resident, legal representative, or employee by whom, or upon whose behalf, a complaint has been submitted to the secretary, or any proceeding instituted under this article, within 120 days of the filing of the complaint or the institution of such action, shall raise a rebuttable presumption that such action was taken by the nursing home in retaliation for such complaint or action.