After two years of litigation in federal court, Beranbaum Menken partner Bruce Menken and associate Grace Cretcher recently settled Dr. Doe’s case against the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation for $559,000. Dr. Doe, who had worked first as a dentist at Riker’s Island treating jail inmates and then at a HHC affiliated clinic treating the community population in Northern Manhattan, had asymptomatic hepatitis C (HCV) for over 15 years and continued to do his job successfully and without incident. HHC knew that Dr. Doe had HCV for all of this time and sensibly permitted him to continue to treat patients as long as he took the necessary precautions, identified by his supervisor.
Unfortunately, HHC changed its protocol for employees with HCV in August 2012 and soon thereafter terminated Dr. Doe’s employment because his viral load was too high. However, as all medical practitioners know, most people with HCV frequently have high viral loads but this does not mean they are more contagious and likely to spread their virus.
Nonetheless, HHC regarded or perceived Dr. Doe as disabled, based on terrible stereotypes (i.e., “he has a virus, he must be sick and should not be able to work”) and first suspended and then terminated his employment after nearly 29 years on the job.
Mr. Menken and Ms. Cretcher aggressively litigated Dr. Doe’s case, conducted many depositions and won part of the case on summary judgment. Approximately two weeks before a trial was scheduled to start in Manhattan Federal Court, the case settled before a United States Magistrate Judge for $559,000.
By representing and defending Dr. Doe, Beranbaum Menken set an important precedent for both healthcare practitioners and patients who suffer from viruses like HCV or HIV. If HHC would have been able to terminate a dentist like Dr. Doe with impunity because he had HCV, HHC or any other healthcare provider could refuse to treat patients who have HCV, HIV or other communicable viruses.
Feel free to contact any of the Beranbaum Menken attorneys if you believe you have been discriminated against on the job because of a disability, either documented or regarded as.