Fired OHSU hospital administrator alleges discrimination

A Black woman who worked for Oregon Health & Science University's Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland has filed a lawsuit alleging she was discriminated against and stereotyped before her firing, according to The Oregonian.

The lawsuit cited by the publication was filed Sept. 8 in Multnomah County Circuit Court, on behalf of Rhonda Foster. Defendants in the lawsuit are OHSU, Ms. Foster's former manager and the employment placement agency Ms. Foster was recruited through.

Ms. Foster's lawsuit alleges she raised concerns to management about incidents that she considered below care standards, including one in which a minor patient escaped the hospital and another in which a minor patient received a transplant to an incorrect body part.

Ms. Foster began working at the children's hospital in 2018 as its interim CNO. She said her manager was "unreceptive" to her concerns, which represented "a substandard of care, and a willingness to ignore patient safety in order to protect the hospital."

During a  lunch meeting with her manager, Ms. Foster alleges she was told she should straighten her hair when interviewing for the permanent CNO position. In other meetings, Ms. Foster said her manager  accused her of making another leader cry when Ms. Foster asked about patient health and safety issues.

The manager "was relating what she and other employees perceived to be the stereotypical 'angry Black woman,'" Ms. Foster stated in her lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges OHSU called the employment placement agency, First String Healthcare, Nov. 30, 2018, and directed the agency to terminate Ms. Foster, but the agency did not seek to review her patient safety concerns or interview any OHSU employee about the reason for  firing.

The $110,000 lawsuit alleges unlawful race, gender and whistleblowing discrimination in employment as well as breach of contract and final wages violation.

In response to the lawsuit, OHSU spokeswoman Tamara Hargens-Bradley told Becker's Hospital Review the hospital cannot comment on the allegations due to employee confidentiality.

"OHSU takes seriously and investigates all allegations of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, in accordance with our policies, procedures and Code of Conduct. Such behavior is subject to discipline, up to and including termination," Ms. Hargens-Bradley said in an email Sept. 9. "OHSU embraces a culture of inclusion and encourages employees, learners, patients and visitors who witness harassment or discrimination at OHSU to report it to public safety, affirmative action and equal opportunity or human resources."

Access the full lawsuit via The Oregonian's report


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