Schenectady County faces wrongful termination lawsuit – The Daily Gazette
Former director of clinical services at Glendale Home is suing Schenectady County, alleging she was discriminated against for having a lung condition and fired last year in retaliation after raising concerns about a economy implemented by the nursing home which reduced the number of antidepressants and vitamins for residents.
Kathryn Valley, in a lawsuit filed March 7 in Schenectady County Supreme Court, claims that administrators of the county-owned Glendale Home have repeatedly refused to make “reasonable accommodations” for her medical condition. at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and eventually fired her last year due to her disability.
The lawsuit claims Valley was demoted to nurse practitioner in August 2020 after repeated requests to work in a separate office due to increased risk of contracting COVID-19 from a lung condition.
She filed an incident report regarding the demotion with Joseph McQueen, the County Human Resources Manager, and County Executive Rory Fluman on August 18, 2020.
On the same day, she also filed a report on the nursing home’s policy to reduce the number of antidepressants and vitamins for residents, a cost-saving measure implemented by the nursing home’s medical director. , Ali Mirza, who she says was also considered on March 12. 2021 termination, according to the lawsuit.
“Dr. Mirza retaliated against the Plaintiff when he demoted and terminated her employment due to the filing of an incident report documenting her policy to reduce residents’ antidepressants and vitamins,” the statement reads. trial.
County Attorney Chris Gardner said Thursday that the lawsuit’s allegations were false and that the county planned to “rigorously defend” the lawsuit.
He said the county responded to Valley’s medical requests, although he acknowledged that the request may not have been met as quickly as she would have liked. He also said Valley was never demoted – which would have included a pay cut – but was given the different job title of nurse practitioner as part of the ongoing restructuring of the nursing home .
The decision to cut back on antidepressants for residents was a difference in medical philosophy between Valley and Mirza, Gardner said.
“I think if you look at the literature on antidepressants, there’s literature that suggests that over-prescription of them can lead to elderly patients falling and fracturing hips and things like that,” he said. he declared. “As far as that goes, I think they had a different philosophy and different medical determinations on those issues.”
Valley was hired by the county in March 2018 and was diagnosed with a lung condition in November, which required her to undergo extensive lung surgery in October 2019 and required the use of a nebulizer, according to the lawsuit. , who notes that the county was aware of his condition.
At the start of the pandemic, Valley requested and received a 30-day request to work remotely using the county’s COVID patient bank. A later request for remote work was denied because Valley was deemed an essential employee, the lawsuit says.
Upon returning to the office, Valley had to share an office with a nurse practitioner on contract with the care home.
In June 2020, Valley contacted Lori Tambasco, administrator of Glendale Home, about having a separate office, but was told that Mirza wanted to keep all the nurses on the same floor and that no additional office space was available, according to the trial.
Valley then submitted a formal request for a separate office in July 2020, citing concerns about increased risk of contracting COVID-19, but was again denied for the same reasons.
“The plaintiff explained to Tambasco that wearing multiple masks at the same time exacerbated her respiratory issues and that she was concerned about having to share the space with the OPTUM nurse due to potential exposure to COVID-19,” says the trial.
On Aug. 13, 2020, Valley submitted a letter from her pulmonologist detailing her need for a separate workspace in Tambasco, “who appeared frustrated and annoyed with the request for reasonable accommodation,” according to the lawsuit.
Valley was given a “small storage space without a desk” to work in, requiring her to bring a desk from her home to work, according to the lawsuit.
A few days later, on August 17, 2020, Valley was informed that she was being demoted to nurse practitioner during a meeting with Tambasco and Mirza.
“Plaintiff was never given a reason for the demotion, but based on information and belief, the demotion was based on the Plaintiff’s request for reasonable accommodation,” the lawsuit states.
A day later, Valley filed an incident report with county administrators about the demotion and raised concerns about a cost-saving measure reducing the number of antidepressants and vitamins for residents of the homes. retirement,” according to the lawsuit.
On March 5, 2021, Mirza accused Valley of making a hospice recommendation that she did not, according to the lawsuit.
About a week later, Valley received a termination letter.
“The termination letter stated that Schenectady County was terminating plaintiff based on the recommendation of Tambasco and Dr. Mirza,” the lawsuit states.
Valley suffered “significant financial loss, extreme emotional distress, and was prescribed medication to deal with the emotional distress”, and seeks damages to be determined by a jury, as well as legal fees.
Contact journalist Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.
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