Healthcare Provider Sued Over Alleged Discriminatory Reassignments, Termination

A former employee filed suit against Mercy Health Physicians Youngstown, LLC (Mercy Health) in the Northern District of Ohio Western Division last Friday over allegations of race and color discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliatory discrimination. Mercy Health is a health care company that operates in Ohio.

The complaint outlines that the plaintiff is biracial, both African American and Native American. He also has Crohn’s disease, meaning he “occasionally experiences debilitating pain and severe nausea and requires regular access to a restroom.” He maintains that despite the disease affecting areas of his life in major ways, he is still capable of performing the “essential functions of his job.”

Due to his diagnosis with Crohn’s, the plaintiff said he is classified as disabled under the terms of the American Disability Act (ADA). He is permitted Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, which he began using when it was granted by the defendant.

In October 2020, the complaint said, the plaintiff was transferred to the endocrinology department of Mercy Health. While they provided him with basic training, the complaint explains that the defendant “provided Caucasian employees additional training in excess of the Video Training [which was all they had given to the plaintiff].” Mercy Health also provided the additional training to non-disabled employees and those who did not use FMLA leave.

The plaintiff said he was reassigned from the endocrinology department to the COVID-19 vaccine clinic, considered a less desirable position. Employees who were Caucasian, non-disabled, and did not take FMLA leave were not reassigned, per the plaintiff’s allegations.

Following this reassignment, the plaintiff said he informed his boss of his high susceptibility of contracting COVID-19 due to Crohn’s and asked the relocation to be reconsidered. This request, the complaint said, was denied, and he was told that if he did not accept the position, he would be terminated. Despite the risk, he began showing up and working at the COVID vaccine clinic.

The plaintiff once again took FMLA leave in February 2021. During this time, the defendant hired and trained a new Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). The LPN, who was Caucasian and non-disabled, was provided with the excess training that the plaintiff had been seeking.

In March 2021, the plaintiff was reassigned again to a float position due to overstaffing, meaning he had to engage in “excess travel and variable hours.” When inquiring as to why he was reassigned to this position, the plaintiff said he was told it was because “he did not have the same training,” as the newer LPN and that she did not have “all that medical stuff [a reference to his Crohn’s].”

After filing a discrimination complaint, the plaintiff said he was fired in April.

The complaint charges the defendant with multiple violations of the FMLA, disability discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliatory discrimination. The employee is seeking compensatory, monetary, and punitive damages, for his personal file to be expunged of all negative documentation, and to be restored to one of the positions “to which he was entitled by virtue of his application and qualifications.”

The plaintiff is represented by Spitz Law.