Former nurse with hearing disability sues UPMC

By Jon Campisi | Nov 29, 2013

A Pennsylvania woman who formerly worked as a nurse for a University of

Pittsburgh Medical Center healthcare facility is suing over the loss of her job, a termination she alleges was discriminatory in nature.

Lynn Malaspina filed suit on Nov. 27 at the Western District of Pennsylvania against UPMC Community Medicine Inc., which does business as UPMC Burrell Medical Center, over her firing earlier this year.

The plaintiff claims she was discharged from her professional staff nurse position on Feb. 1 and demoted to a position that pays $1,000 less per month and requires “significant additional travel and inconvenience,” all because she was “no longer able to … engage in effective verbal communication with patients, coworkers, and providers,” reads the lawsuit, which was filed by Pittsburgh attorney Samuel J. Cordes.

Malaspina, who resides in New Kensington, Pa., says she suffers from an ailment called upward sloping sensorineural hearing loss bilaterally, which greatly limits her hearing.

Throughout her employment as a nurse for the defendant, Malaspina was often subjected to unwanted and offensive comments regarding his disability, according to her civil complaint.

A supervisor identified as Pam Newell, who is not named as a defendant in the litigation, ridiculed the plaintiff for her hearing loss and her difficulty hearing colleagues, the suit states, with Newell once allegedly exclaiming, “Oh My God!” when the plaintiff requested that Newell repeat a set of instructions.

Newell also told Malaspina that the plaintiff was a “liability just waiting to happen,” the lawsuit states.

The woman claims in her suit that in the fall of 2012, the defendant determined that she could no longer have any contact with patients due to her hearing disability.

Malaspina requested that she be given a new telephone that captions all conversations as an accommodation for her disability, the suit says, but the defendant refused to consider the accommodation, instead informing the plaintiff that she would be removed from her position as a registered nurse.

The defendant also allegedly denied Malaspina’s request to be moved to an available “quiet office” so that distractions would not affect her hearing while she was talking on the phone.

When the plaintiff informed the defendant that she used to work for some of the best physicians at UPMC, the complaint states, her supervisor sarcastically said, “THAT was when you could hear!”

The complaint accuses the defendant of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit contains counts of failure to accommodate and retaliation.

Malaspina seeks lost wages and benefits, in addition to damages for emotional distress, anxiety, humiliation and inconvenience.

She also seeks interest and attorney’s fees.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-01695-AJS. 

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