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Santa Fe hospital to pay former employee $98,000 in discrimination settlement

SANTA FE, N.M. — Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe will pay $98,000 in back pay and compensatory damages as part of a settlement agreement with a former employee.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit in state district court last year on behalf of Asheley Coriz, who is deaf. The lawsuit alleged that Coriz, a histology technician, was wrongfully fired after being subjected to a hostile work environment because of her disability and that the hospital failed to provide reasonable accommodations.

Coriz was hired in February 2018, according to the lawsuit, and was initially provided with an American Sign Language interpreter during her job orientation. But after that, Coriz had to learn her new job without the benefit of a translator, which led to difficulties. Despite asking to observe and record procedures for examining tissue slides under a microscope and other job functions, the lawsuit alleges, she was berated by her supervisor, who swore at her and yelled, “I’m tired of telling you the same thing.”

After Coriz complained about her supervisor’s behavior, she was assigned to another position and ultimately fired for poor performance after two months.

As part of the agreement, the supervisor who allegedly discriminated against Coriz is ineligible for rehire at the hospital.

In a news release Wednesday, Mary Jo O’Neill, an attorney with the EEOC’s Phoenix district office, said, “Employers are responsible for preventing and remedying harassment of employees, including harassment because of an employee’s disability. Employers will be held responsible when they retaliate against employees because they complain of discrimination or make accommodation requests.”

The settlement also requires that Coriz’s personnel records be expunged. She is also to receive a letter from hospital management expressing regret that she did not feel supported. The hospital also agreed to revise over the next three years its equal employment opportunity and reasonable accommodation policies, and provide annual training to all employees about how to report disability discrimination complaints.

Sandra Dominguez, vice president for human resources at Christus St. Vincent, said in a statement to the Journal that the hospital would comply.

“Christus St. Vincent supports all legal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” she said. “Cases such as this serve as a reminder of the importance of ensuring that our everyday practices adhere to all legal requirements.”

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