Hospital loses age discrimination lawsuit

The big guys don't always win. In a rare case, University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio must pay $900,000 in an age discrimination lawsuit it lost to a medical assistant, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Gloria Parks, 56, was unfairly blamed and fired for a patient mix-up, while her younger coworkers never were disciplined for the incident, the jury ruled.

The award was based on Parks' earning potential for the time since she was fired. Punitive damages were not part of the award.

According to Parks, her supervisor, Steve Diltz was just waiting for a chance to fire her so he could "change the face of the department."

In July 2008, two people with the same name came to her pre-admission testing department. One Charles Reed was due for blood work in another department. The other was also scheduled for blood tests prior to liver surgery.

Because an intake medical assitant did not follow hospital policy and use two kinds of ID to verify the patient's identity, a patient mix-up occurred. And one Reed ended up going where the other was expected. As a result, Parks drew nine vials of blood and performed an EKG on the wrong man. Upon learning about the mistake, Parks escorted the right Reed to the right department and made sure the charts were not affected by the mix-up.

A few days later, Parks learned from her boss that the patient had complained. Without speaking to the patient, reviewing the medical chart or interviewing the two others involved, he fired Parks from the job she held for 30 years, her complaint says.

"If supervisors are left on their own completely and there's no process to check what they're doing, they can discriminate with impunity," said Ellen Simon, Parks' lawyer with McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffmann.

A hospital spokesman said the hospital will likely appeal the verdict and defended its decision.

To learn more:
- read the Cleveland Plain Dealer article