Providence hospital settles allegations it failed to accommodate injured worker

Providence Centralia (Wash.) Hospital, part of Renton, Wash.-based Providence, has agreed to settle a lawsuit with a former employee who alleged the hospital refused to accommodate limitations caused by an on-the-job injury, The Chronicle reported Oct. 12.

Lisa Gonia, a former pharmacy technician who worked at the hospital for four years, filed the lawsuit alleging wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, disability discrimination, and failure to accommodate.

A trial in the case was scheduled to begin Oct. 3 in Lewis County Superior Court. However, a settlement was reached under the "Silenced No More Act" in Washington state, which allows public discussion about a worker's settlement with an employer, including claims of discrimination, according to information provided to Becker's by her legal representation, Bloom Law PLLC. The law limits disclosure of the settlement amount.

According to information from the law firm, Ms. Gonia got hurt at work on March 1, 2018, after an IV fluid bag box fell, and medical records showed an upper back contusion.

She said she emailed her managers on April 12, 2018, to request light duty work, but that request was rejected. Later that month, she began medical leave. She took this leave after she had previously taken needed time off from work for major surgery and caring for her ill mother before her death, according to information from Bloom Law.

The Chronicle, which also cited information from Bloom Law, reported that Ms. Gonia again requested light duty work in July 2018, which was denied. Ms. Gonia said her formal medical leave also expired in July 2018, and the hospital went on to fill her position after placing her on an unpaid "medical leave of absence," according to the report.

Ms. Gonia alleges hospital managers "viewed her leave as an inconvenience, and when she took leave for the final time, they dismissed her workplace injury as fake, filled her position, and rejected giving her light duty work." Once physicians cleared Ms. Gonia to return to work in early 2019 without restrictions, she applied for several positions as a pharmacy tech but was denied the job each time. The hospital is accused of ordering surveillance on her, “playing keep away” by coming up with reasons to avoid bringing her back on as promised, coming up with a plan to get her fired and accusing her of dishonesty. Ms. Gonia was officially terminated later in 2019.

The recent settlement resolves these allegations.

"It is so important to stand up for what you believe in. I am glad that I stood up for myself and for other employees who are injured on the job or need to take medical leave. We need to be able to rely on our employers to support our families and communities when times get tough," Ms. Gonia said in a statement provided to Becker's.

Providence Centralia Hospital provided the following statement to Becker's: "Providence Centralia Hospital is grateful for Lisa Gonia's service as a caregiver during her tenure with our organization. We take seriously the need to provide accommodations for those injured at work or who may otherwise need an adjustment to their work environment. Providence chose to resolve Ms. Gonia's claims as part of a confidential settlement agreement. While we cannot speak to any of the particular terms, we can say that we have respectfully but firmly denied all of her claims. Further, there has been no finding of any kind that her claims have merit or that Providence failed to provide her with all of the benefits to which she was entitled while employed."

Read The Chronicle's full report here

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