Oregon Surgical Tech Sues Providence, Alleging Discrimination, Retaliation

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A Black surgical technologist is suing Providence Health & Services, alleging the hospital system at which he worked for 33 years illegally retaliated and racially discriminated against him when it fired him in 2019.

Reginald Daniels is suing Providence in Multnomah County Circuit Court, seeking $700,000 in damages and other compensation.

Providence has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit and declined comment to The Lund Report.

Daniels’ Sept. 27 PDF iconlawsuit follows on the heels of three other recent lawsuits brought by former Providence workers, two in Oregon federal court and one in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Those lawsuits allege Providence violated laws intended to protect disabled workers and prevent workplace harassment.

Providence, headquartered in Renton, Washington, operates eight hospitals in Oregon where it employs more than 17,000 people.

In his lawsuit, Daniels is described as a “mature 57-year-old African American man with a resonant voice.” He was hired by Providence in 1986 as a food service worker, then trained as a surgical technologist and began working in that capacity at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Southwest Portland in 1998. He worked in that job until Providence fired him in 2019, according to the lawsuit.

Daniels regularly earned performance ratings of “exceeding expectations” or “far exceeding expectations,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit listed a number of incidents as examples of alleged management harassment and discrimination, and said Daniels “was subjected to micromanagement and criticism not directed at his white colleagues, which resulted in him receiving repeated disparate disciplinary action.” Those management actions in turn prevented him from transferring to better-paying jobs at Providence, the lawsuit said.

In one instance, Daniels was disciplined for using a “profane word” against a co-worker. Due to his seniority, Daniels had become exempt in 2018 from working “call shifts,” according to the lawsuit. Call shifts are on-call shifts that a worker must take on short notice. Less-senior co-workers “regularly hassled” Daniels to try to get him to take call shifts, even though they knew he did not have to, the lawsuit said. “On about June 13, 2019, a coworker began badgering (Daniels) about taking call, and (Daniels) used a profane word describing his exhaustion with having the settled issue raised again,” the lawsuit said. Management issued Daniels a written warning for using “profanity in a raised voice to another caregiver,” the lawsuit said.

Daniels objected, saying the warning didn’t follow progressive discipline protocol and that many employees at the hospital used profanities, the lawsuit said.

On Oct. 1, 2019, during a surgery at the hospital, Daniels told a less-senior surgical technologist that she was wasting medical supplies and mixing a surgical product in a way contrary to recent training, the lawsuit said. The female employee met with Daniels after the surgery and “yelled at (Daniels) that he should not have pointed out her errors in front of others,” the lawsuit said. That employee later complained to management that Daniels had “bullied” her during the surgery, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said the advice Daniels had given that employee was “accurate and not disrespectful.”

Management put Daniels on “administrative leave” following the employee’s complaint, the lawsuit said.

Daniels asked that the complaint be removed from his personnel file, but Providence refused, the lawsuit said.

On Oct. 29, 2019, Providence told Daniels he was being fired effective Nov. 1. In the termination letter, Providence said the firing was “due to behavior and conduct that does not consistently meet” the standards set out by Providence.

Other workers at the cardiovascular operating room department where Daniels worked “had regularly used profanity or raised voices without consequence,” the lawsuit said.

In disciplining him, Providence was “portraying him as a stereotypical ‘angry Black man’ despite his stellar work,” the lawsuit said.

Providence discriminated against him by using “disparate treatment” against him because of his race, and engaged in race discrimination and retaliation by terminating him, the lawsuit said.

Meanwhile the three other lawsuits by former employees are in their early stages.

Providence has not yet filed response the lawsuit by Richard Horn, who alleged he faced discrimination and a hostile work environment over his age and military veteran’s status while working as a security guard at Providence’s hospitals in Portland and Oregon City. Nor has it yet filed a response to a lawsuit by Evan Santos in Multnomah County Circuit Court alleging Providence failed to accommodate the pain and fatigue caused by her multiple sclerosis and then fired her.

Providence is seeking dismissal of the lawsuit filed in federal court by Chantelle Watson, who alleges she faced discrimination because of her race and mental illness while working in food service at Providence St. Vincent. Providence broadly denied most of Watson’s allegations and said she is not entitled to any damages or other payment. Watson alleges she was physically assaulted by a white coworker who was not disciplined. Watson also alleges her supervisors told her not to wear a brooch, a decorative piece of jewelry attached to garments. Providence admits it told her to stop wearing the brooch because it violated Providence’s policies. But other employees violated the dress policy, Watson alleged.

You can reach Christian Wihtol at [email protected].

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