Albany Medical Center fired worker over activism, lawsuit alleges

Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center is accused of violating state law by firing a new employee, along with two executives who helped hire her, over concerns about her political views and activism work, according to the Times Union.

The allegations are in a lawsuit filed May 23 in state Supreme Court in Albany. 

The plaintiffs are Laura Liebman, the hospital's former assistant vice president of advancement, and Jamaica Miles, a Schenectady, N.Y.-based activist who was hired early this year as director of community engagement at the hospital. In addition to Albany Medical Center, the lawsuit lists Dennis McKenna, MD, president and CEO of Albany Medical Center, and Vincent Verdile, MD, dean emeritus of Albany Medical College, as defendants.

In March, Ms. Miles was told she was being fired because of her "extreme political views" and that an internal candidate was replacing her, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit also contends Ms. Liebman was fired in March for associating with Ms. Miles.

Hospital leaders indicated their support for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, but "made remarks indicative of racial bias, applied a double standard to white employees that was not applied to similarly situated African-Americans, and had a history of being dismissive of African-American employees," the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit also alleges that Charles Day, the hospital's vice president of public safety, who participated in the hiring process for Ms. Miles, complained about a "lack of diversity among the candidates (although the leading candidate was of South American descent) and that he hoped ... Liebman would move community engagement in new directions, reaching communities of color and marginalized populations."

Additionally, Mr. Day, a former State Police major who is Black, also told Ms. Miles during a diversity, equity and inclusion workshop "that white supremacy existed at AMC," according to the lawsuit. 

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Liebman made clear to Ms. Miles that the job for which she was being considered was not an activist position. At least seven Albany Medical Center employees interviewed for the job, and none objected to hiring her, the lawsuit said.

In a statement shared with Becker's, Albany Medical Center said the hospital "recently made personnel changes in its development department that had nothing at all to do with race or any of the reasons cited in the complaint." 

"For more than 180 years, Albany Medical Center has brought our community together, providing healthcare for all and employing people of every background, always with a commitment to fair treatment, respect and equality," the statement said. "We are proud of our diverse workforce, which is reflective of the community we serve. In reference to one particular comment, Mr. Day assures us he never said that there is white supremacy at Albany Med."

James Kellerhouse, the hospital's vice president for philanthropy and chief development officer, also was fired in the wake of Ms. Miles' hiring, the Times Union said. He is not named in the lawsuit, however.

The lawsuit alleges the hospital violated the state's human rights and labor laws by Ms. Liebman and Ms. Miles. The plaintiffs seek back pay and damages.

To read the full lawsuit, click here

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