- Chronic Pain & Wellness
- Chronic Pain & Wellness
Woman sues Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, claiming it discriminated against her because of a disability
A physician diagnosed with fibromyalgia has sued Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs claiming a doctor discriminated against her because of her disability.
The civil rights lawsuit was filed in Denver U.S. District Court on Thursday on behalf of Dr. Elena Sumler by Arvada attorney Ralph Lamar. She is seeking back pay, including lost fringe benefits, compensatory damages, future lost wages and attorneys fees.
“Providing the very best patient care is the top priority at Memorial Hospital and throughout the UCHealth system of hospitals. We cannot comment on potential litigation,” hospital spokesman Dan Weaver said in a statement on Friday.
According to the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia is a disorder “characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.”
Sumler filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Dec. 31, 2014, and received a “right to sue” letter on Sept. 29, the lawsuit says.
Sumler was trained as a pediatrician and gastroenterologist in Russia and met her husband when he was stationed in Korea. They married and she became a U.S. citizen in 2005 and moved to Colorado in 2010, according to the lawsuit.
A.S.A.P. Laboratories hired her as an emergency on-call sonographer in 2013. She was laid off in September 2014 when the company lost its contract.
Memorial Hospital offered her a position as an ultrasound technician the following month. The offer was contingent on her answering a health questionnaire.
“(She) did so even though it was clearly unlawful in that it asked questions about her health that were not pertinent to her ability to perform in the position,” the lawsuit says.
She disclosed in the questionnaire that she suffered from fibromyalgia and took prescription medications for the disorder, the lawsuit says.
It was explained to her that she would then need to speak with Dr. Henry Roth. He told her on Oct. 30, 2014 that “because you use narcotics you can’t work in the hospital.” Roth did not examine Sumler or ask her how she moved or felt, the lawsuit says. Roth said he would consult with an attorney.
Sumler explained that she takes medications prescribed by her doctor, had no adverse side effects that would impair her ability to work and that she had worked the past 18 months without any problems, the lawsuit says.
Roth conferred with Sumler’s physician, Dr. Joseph Brooks, who told Roth that Sumler “was in good shape, active and had no physical limitations that would interfere with her ability to perform the job of ultrasound technician,” the lawsuit says.
She was examined and given a drug test by the Occupational Health Clinic on Nov. 5, 2014. The next day, Roth told Sumler once again that she couldn’t work at the hospital because of the narcotics she took.
He refused to answer any further questions, including whether he had consulted with an attorney, the lawsuit says.
“Dr. Roth got angry and said it was not his responsibility to do so and would not continue the conversation,” the lawsuit says.
Sumler then received Roth’s medical report indicating several functional restrictions and range of motion limitations, even though he had never read her medical records and had not done an actual physical examination, the lawsuit argues.
Roth had never told her about the limitations so there had never been any type of “reasonable accommodation” for her disability discussed, the suit says. He conducted no tests to see what she could actually lift or move as a result of a “functional capacity evaluation.”
“Dr. Roth’s ‘visual examination’ of plaintiff and the concomitant physical restrictions he issued was a sham,” the lawsuit says. “Dr. Roth’s contention that he has the ability to note plaintiff’s functional limitations without even asking her to undergo a range of motion exam, or to otherwise physically examine her, is without any scientific support.”
She called an official in the hospital’s human resources office and a week later was told her job offer “had been rescinded,” the lawsuit says. She called the hospital recruiter back and was told her health screen was unsuccessful.
Updated Oct. 14, 2016, at 9:14 a.m. This story has been updated to correct that the hospital being sued is the Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs.
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