Home E-Weekly June 3, 2014

Was Anesthesiologist's Firing Racially Motivated?

Published: June 2, 2014

A Florida anesthesiologist who accused his employer and supervisors of discrimination and retaliation was fired because he abandoned his job, not because he was black, a federal court has ruled.

Dwain A. Hamilton, MD, sued Sheridan Healthcare and 2 of his supervisors at the company after he was fired in July 2012, but the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed the case this week, citing a lack of evidence that the dismissal was racially motivated.

After numerous serious complaints about his performance and his tardiness as head anesthesiologist on the night shift at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., Dr. Hamilton was transferred in late April 2012 to the day shift and told that his future performance would be monitored. He then requested and was given more than 3 weeks off before the switch was to take place.

Before returning, he requested and was granted FMLA leave for another month, ending on June 21. But on June 19, his wife told the hospital that he wouldn't be able to return until June 25. He eventually agreed to return to work on July 2, but didn't show up for work either that day or the next, and was terminated on July 3.

Dr. Hamilton's claim that the actions were racially motivated relied on two statements allegedly made by the supervisors. At the meeting where he was told that he was being moved to the day shift, one said, "I don't have confidence that you can be the face of the department at night." On another occasion, 2 or 3 years earlier, "somebody said," according to Dr. Hamilton, that the other supervisor had said, "the Obamas are coming in," referring to Dr. Hamilton and his paired CRNA, a black woman.

The court wasn't swayed. The first statement might have been interpreted in any number of ways, it said. The second lacked any apparent connection to the actions that took place years later. Instead, said the court, it was clear that Dr. Hamilton had been fired because he abandoned his job, and that abandonment is a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for discharge.

Calls to Dr. Hamilton and his attorney requesting comment were not returned.

Jim Burger

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