Our client was a talented OB-GYN who not only cared for her patients but also served her country as a 24-year member of the military, including her recent post as a Major in the Michigan Air National Guard. For her service and being Black, she was wrongfully terminated and discriminated against by the private medical practice that employed her.
That was the arbitrator’s conclusion in awarding the client over $719,000 in damages after a hearing in which she was represented by Sommers Schwartz attorneys Tad Roumayah and Matthew Turner. Specifically, the arbitrator found that the doctor’s former employer, Women’s OB-GYN of Saginaw, Michigan (WOB), violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) when it terminated her and also engaged in race-based employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
In October 2019, the client advised WOB she would be deployed on a six-week mission with the Air National Guard beginning in January 2020. Her two-year employment contract was set to expire in the middle of that deployment. In January 2020, a member of WOB’s Board of Directors advised the client that the Board voted not to renew her contract and sever their employment relationship. She was shocked and surprised by the decision as it came seemingly out of the blue.
After reviewing all the evidence and testimony, the arbitrator found that the client’s military service and upcoming deployment were motivating factors for her termination, rather than the employer’s claimed reason of an alleged disagreement between the doctor and another physician that took place six months prior. As such, the termination violated the USERRA, which prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against servicemembers due to their military obligations.
The arbitrator also found it was undisputed that the client was a good physician, received good feedback about her skills, and was never formally written up or disciplined by WOB before it terminated her and replaced her with a Caucasian doctor.
Because the client was a member of a protected class who was qualified for her job, suffered an adverse employment action despite her qualifications and performance, and was replaced by a person outside of a protected class, she proved her prima facie case of racial discrimination in violation of Title VII and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. As the arbitrator found that the given reasons for the client’s termination “were pre-textual in that they seem on the whole to have no basis in fact, did not actually motivate the termination and were insufficient to motivate her termination,” she ruled in the client’s favor on her racial discrimination claims.
The total award of $719,444.86 secured for the client by attorneys Roumayah and Turner included $217,000 in lost wages, $217,000 in liquidated damages, $142,500 for mental and emotional distress, and $143,444.86 in statutory attorney’s fees.
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