Healthcare News & Insights

Doc wins $7.6M in discrimination case

A pathologist was awarded $7.6 million from a federal jury in her suit alleging racial and gender discrimination by her employer.

Dr. Vivian Renta was a senior attending physician with the Cook County (Illinois) pathology department in early 2003 when she filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the complaint, she claimed that she had suffered harassment and been paid less than her professional peers. Renta claimed the cause for the treatment was that she was a woman and Puerto Rican.

Three months after she filed the complaint, she was suspended from her job, and in September 2004 she was terminated. She had worked for the county for nine years.

Among other things, Renta claimed she was retaliated against because she tried to expose various incidents of misdiagnosis, negligence and other wrong-doing that put patient care and safety at risk. For its part, the hospital argued that Renta herself had misdiagnosed several patients and had demonstrated a pattern of not following protocols. Renta’s lawyer provided proof that her error rate was actually better than the national average.

The federal jury hearing the case agreed with Renta, and awarded her $4 million for pain and suffering and $3.2 million in lost wages and benefits. The jury specifically requested that the pathology chairman be ordered to pay Renta an additional $400,000. Note: The jury verdict isn’t final. The judge can reduce the award for pain and suffering to just $300,000.

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