A Montgomery County man is suing the Pennsylvania SPCA for more than $150,000 in
damages over claims that he was fired from his job as a staff veterinarian for discriminatory reasons.
Philadelphia lawyer Kevin I. Lovitz filed suit April 2 at the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on behalf of Lansdale, Pa. resident Ravindra Murarka, who alleges that he was terminated from his job of nearly two decades because of his age and national origin.
The plaintiff, who was hired by the Pennsylvania chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1992, was fired from his job as a doctor of veterinarian medicine on Oct. 26, 2011, supposedly for “inferior work performance” and “inattention to duty,” in connection with a surgical procedure performed on a dog named Lexie, the complaint states.
Following his termination, Murarka met with a human resources representative to challenge his firing, and subsequent to that meeting the plaintiff met with the defendant’s appeal panel to defend the accusations against him and to share his belief that his termination was actually due to discriminatory reasons, the complaint states.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff informed the panel that he believed he experienced disparaging treatment because of his race, and as an example he pointed to the surgery on Lexie, during which the plaintiff discovered that a piece of surgical gauze had been left behind inside the animal after a prior procedure performed by another PSPCA veterinarian.
The gauze actually caused the dog’s tumor to grow at an expedited rate, the suit claims, and while performing a biopsy on Lexie, the plaintiff ended up having to perform an emergency removal of the tumor in order to save the canine’s life.
Murarka informed his superiors what had occurred, but the complaint alleges that the defendant failed to take any action against the other veterinarian, a white male, and instead shifted the blame away from the initial doctor who messed up and further suggested that the plaintiff didn’t have the owner’s consent to perform the necessary surgery on Lexie in the first place, the complaint reads.
The plaintiff, however, claims this was pretextual, and a mere excuse for his firing, since the PSPCA’s policy “clearly indicates that the Plaintiff was authorized to perform surgery in an emergent and medically necessary circumstance,” the suit states.
Prior to Murarka’s dismissal, the suit says, the defendant embarked on a course of action that was “selectively and discriminatorily” directed against the plaintiff, which included write-ups regarding Murarka’s performance and conduct, “which had no basis in fact and were issued for the sole purpose of justifying his otherwise discriminatory dismissal.”
The lawsuit accuses the defendant of violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law.
Murarka seeks job reinstatement as well as compensatory damages, pre-and-post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees and costs.
He is demanding a jury trial.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-01705-TJS.