Pa. hospital sued over alleged ethnic intimidation and discrimination

By Jon Campisi | Sep 2, 2011

A Lansdale, Pa. woman who alleges she experienced constant harassment at her workplace because of her race, actions which she claims subsequently resulted in her termination, has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against her former employer.

Springhouse, Pa. attorney Kenneth L. Oliver, Jr., of the Oliver Law Firm, filed the complaint Aug. 29 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Chunling Laspina Edwards.

Edwards, who is of Chinese descent, is suing Abington Lansdale Hospital, located at 100 Medical Campus Drive in Lansdale, Montgomery County, for the constant harassment she says she experienced while working at the medical facility as a nurse from January 2008 to January 2010.

The complaint paints a picture of widespread discrimination, from both superiors and fellow coworkers. This included being subject to disparaging remarks about Asians, being assigned more patients than white nurses, having her work performance subject to more scrutiny than her white counterparts, being prohibited from using workplace computers to complete online training despite the fact that white employees were allowed, and being excluded from a work related party.

“As a result of this harassment and discrimination plaintiff suffered severe and pervasive emotional distress including severe depression, stress, loss of appetite and dizzy spells all of which required the treatment of a psychologist,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of this harassment and discrimination, plaintiff also suffered severe and excessive neck and back pain which required medical treatment.”

At one point, the suit claims, Edwards complained of the treatment by her coworkers to a supervisor, who said she was unable to control the activities of the employees involved.

Edwards also complained to the company’s human resources department, which essentially told her she must be “doing something wrong if she was being picked on and to resign if she did not like the work environment,” the lawsuit states.

On Jan. 22, 2010, Edwards suddenly became ill during a shift and ended up fainting while sitting in an empty patient room, the suit states. She was revived 10 minutes after she passed out, with two fellow employees accusing her of sleeping.

The employees, the same two women who had been involved in the alleged constant harassment and intimidation, then reported to management that Edwards was missing from her shift for an extended period of time and had been sleeping on the job. The lawsuit claims that that was entirely false, and that Edwards might have become ill because the two placed a “pharmaceutical product” in a beverage container on Edwards’ work cart.

Nevertheless, Edwards was terminated from her job on Jan. 25, 2010 for allegedly sleeping on the job.

The lawsuit accuses the defendant of violating the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, as well as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Edwards seeks lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and other court relief.

The lawsuit also contains counts of retaliation, as well as racial and national origin harassment.

A jury trial is being sought.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05429-RBS.

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