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Fired St. Vincent physician suing hospital for discrimination

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An Indian-born physician fired by St. Vincent Health is suing the hospital network in federal court on charges of discrimination and harassment.

Seema Nayak filed her lawsuit on Wednesday and is seeking past and future pay, in addition to other damages for the hospital’s “malicious and/or reckless conduct."

St. Vincent officials were not immediately available to comment.

Nayak’s suit follows a complaint she filed in October 2010 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which granted her the right to sue in March. Her employment contract was not renewed by the hospital in June 2010.

She began her first-year residency program at St. Vincent in July 2007, in the obstetrics and gynecology department.

Though Nayak exceeded performance standards during her first- and second-year residencies, according to the suit, she became the target of discrimination from other residents due to her accent and Indian origin.

Nayak reported the harassment to the director of the hospital’s OB/GYN residency program, who advised her to accept more work to win the favor of other residents, the suit said.

The hospital also required Nayak to work with a cultural coach, who, after a few sessions, indicated that further coaching was unnecessary, the complaint said.

In the meantime, Nayak began experiencing physical impairments related to her pregnancy, which led to negative work evaluations. In May 2009, she was placed on complete bed rest. Three months later, one of her unborn twins died, according to the suit.

While in the hospital, Nayak said she was pressured to return to work as soon as possible and was granted six weeks' leave instead of the hospital’s customary eight-week maternity leave. St. Vincent, however, ultimately granted her the eight weeks on the insistence of Nayak’s physician, the complaint said.

Nayak returned to work in December 2009 and was immediately placed on a difficult residency rotation and placed under the supervision of a physician with whom she had previous conflicts, according to court documents.

In January 2010, Nayak was placed on probation and she was terminated the following May.

Nayak appealed to the hospital’s residency education committee and narrowly lost due to what she believes was a manipulation of the voting process in which her supporters were underrepresented.

“St. Vincent made it impossible for Dr. Nayak to perform her job to St. Vincent’s satisfaction because it refused to reasonably accommodate her disability and instead imposed unrealistic conditions upon her employment,” her suit said.

Nayak also is suing St. Vincent for retaliation.

She is represented by lawyers at the local firm of Betz+Blevins.

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  • Bigoted St V's
    St V's will only treat you with dignity and respect if you are white and hetrosexual popping out babies in an over-populated planet. Don't go there if your not white unless you want to be ignored or end up pushing a broom for a living.
  • lets hear the other side of the story
    I would appreciated knowing the other side of the story which is, does she have an Indian accent which is difficult to understand, is she an H1B Visa or Green Card holder or actual U.S. citizen for this position, and did she adjust to the culture of the majority of the other Physicians or try to superimpose an Indian culture within her work. In America, she cannot use Indian cultural standards as the norm, but must adjust to meet our culture, not her Indian heritage culture, especially in the workplace/hospital and not with mostly U.S./American patients.
  • Only the Parties Involved Know What Happened, and They Only Know What They Saw or Heard
    I just think it is best to wait and let the process unfold.

    Her legal complaint by its very nature is written by her attorney to present the most favorable alleged facts in the most favorable light to support her suit.

    Similarly, the hospital's response will contain the most favorable alleged facts presented in the most favorable manner to support their position.

    Only a judge or jury (or in some situations a third-party arbiter) who gets to see all the evidence presented, including hearing the witnesses, etc, would be any position to make a valid determination about the merits of the case.

    Everyone else is speculating based on on a few paragraphs reported second-hand in a news article (which itself has been edited and drafted to present just a quick overview of what is alleged).
  • seriously
    Either Joyce and Kellie are not actually women or just ignorant. Any woman who has had pregnancy complications knows how dabilitating those complcations can be. And it was the cultural coach who said she did not need any more lessons, she did not give herself the OK. And what type of cultural lessons would she need anyway in regards to having a strong accent- maybe more english practice but it doesn't appear they fired her for being insensitive to patients.
    • I doubt it!
      It sounds to me that the hospital was only acting on issues that may have come up in regards to her continuing to be coached, just because she feels as if she doesn't need it doesn't mean she don't. I was just recently a patient at St. Vincent and I was treated with such care and respect, not just in the emergency room but even over the phone when I called the nurse helpline, this is a hospital that puts its patients first and as for her being asked to work a certain shift that she claimed to be "difficult" for her sounds to me like she just wants things her way. In today's world, women want to be in the workforce just like the men but then they want to turn around and ask for special treatment if they decide to start a family...look ladies, you can not have your cake and eat it too, and I don't think that I would want her as my doctor at all.
    • pregnancy
      The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment. (http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/pregnancy.cfm)

    • Suit
      Pregnancy is a disability?

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