Schenectady

Ex-employee sues Ellis Hospital over firing, alleges human rights violation amid pandemic

A file image of Ellis Hospital in Schenectady.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
A file image of Ellis Hospital in Schenectady.

SCHENECTADY — A woman who worked at Ellis Hospital for 30 years has sued the hospital, saying she was fired for voicing concerns about her safety at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Terry Brino is seeking $2 million in damages for her ouster, alleging discrimination and retaliation based on her disability, in violation of state Human Rights Law.

Ellis Medicine, which operates the hospital, did not return messages seeking comment for this story.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in state Supreme Court, Schenectady County, by attorneys with Whiteman Osterman & Hanna in Albany. It contains the following statements and allegations:

  • Ellis Hospital hired Brino in 1990; most recently, she worked in the admitting department.
  • Throughout her entire tenure, Brino suffered medical conditions including fibromyalgia, hypertension and diabetes.
  • Ellis itself and Brino’s supervisor were aware of this, as she was treated at the hospital’s infusion center every three weeks and received annual health assessments there for 30 years.
  • Brino’s workstation was less than six feet from the hospital entrance; when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, Ellis provided face coverings to an assortment of employees it stationed at the front door to intercept arriving patients and visitors.
  • Brino asked for a face covering, due to her frequent close contact with visitors and patients and due to her high-risk medical conditions; her supervisor and manager refused her request.
  • Brino discussed her concerns with an Ellis vice president on March 18; the same day, because it had an adequate supply, Ellis provided Brino and other patient access representatives with face masks.
  • Brino’s supervisor, upon seeing her wearing a face covering, became visibly upset; she verbally confronted Brino, screaming at her in front of co-workers and patients.
  • At the end of the shift, the supervisor, the manager and a human resources representative met with Brino and told her she was being fired for gross misconduct.
  • As a result, she has suffered loss of income and employment benefits as well as distress, humiliation and damage to her reputation.
  • A prior incident factors into the complaint: Ellis Hospital had denied her request for a handicapped parking space.
  • This string of events presents two causes of action under state Human Rights Law: unlawful firing and unlawful retaliation.

Brino seeks $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages in each of the two causes of action, plus legal costs.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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