SANTA FE – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of a deaf woman that alleges disability discrimination by Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe.
The lawsuit claims that Asheley Coriz, who was hired in February 2018 as a histology technician to process pathology specimens at the hospital’s laboratory, was terminated two months later after complaining about harassment by her supervisor.
The suit also states that the hospital failed to accommodate her appeal to install video relay service equipment — a specialized video-type telephone — that Coriz would provide at no cost to the hospital and other requests she made “so she could do her job the way CSV wanted it done.”
A hospital spokesman provided the Journal with a statement that says Christus St. Vincent “adheres to the Americans with Disabilities Act and is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.”
The statement says that the hospital takes all claims of discrimination seriously. “While we cannot comment directly on any specific details of the complaint, we are fully committed to being an equal opportunity employer,” it says.
Mary Jo O’Neill, attorney for the EEOC’s regional office in Phoenix, said in a phone interview that the lawsuit was filed after a conciliation agreement acceptable to the EEOC could not be reached.
She said that it’s not common, but also not unusual, for the agency to file lawsuits on behalf of employees. “When we see a case like this where we think there was egregious violations of antidiscrimination laws, we sue in the public interest,” she said.
According to the lawsuit, Coriz was granted a request to use an American Sign Language interpreter during her job orientation session. But weeks later, after she complained about harassment, a meeting with supervisors to review a work success plan was cancelled because she requested that an interpreter be present. Four days later, she was fired.
The lawsuit says Coriz’s immediate supervisor was well aware she was deaf but failed to accommodate her repeated requests for him to turn toward her when speaking, provide her with written instructions for procedures, or allow her to watch him perform the tasks she was assigned so she could learn protocols and procedures.
The complaint states that her supervisor would yell at her for not knowing how to do the job and in one instance yelled, “didn’t you f***ing hear me, I’m tired of telling you the same thing.”
When she complained about her treatment, a meeting was scheduled but was cancelled “based on Coriz’s request for an ASL interpreter to be present.”
EEOC attorney O’Neill said that it’sironic that a hospital charged with taking care of people would violate laws aimed at protecting people with physical disabilities, but added: “We see a pattern of health care providers engaging in discriminatory violations, and that they are some of worst violators of ADA.”