An experienced nurse practitioner who was fired from her position at a clinic in Camden County, New Jersey has filed suit against Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central, and Southern New Jersey. She has charged the organization with race discrimination and wrongful termination.

Both the state of New Jersey and the federal government prohibit workplace discrimination based on race, gender, nationality, and other protected classes, and as a result of lawsuits and complaints, many organizations have taken action to address signs of systemic racism and equity problems. Planned Parenthood Federation of America responded to numerous employee discrimination complaints by investing in diversity training for their entire staff across 49 affiliates, “from the boardroom to the exam room.” Unfortunately, despite this training and the creation of new diversity, equity, and inclusion standards for its locations nationwide, the problems continued, including at the New Jersey affiliate.

According to Michelle Fisher’s recent deposition, she was laid off in spring of 2021 after she’d filed multiple discrimination complaints to human resources. In May of 2022 she filed her lawsuit, citing numerous examples of discriminatory behavior, pointing to a spotless performance record, and accusing the organization of retaliation. Among the incidents Ms. Fisher refers to was a urine test that she had requested being thrown at her and a supervisor punctuating directions with a whip-cracking sound, a flick of a fisted hand, and a command to “get back to work.”

Ms. Fisher, who is a Black and Jamaican-American woman, worked as a nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood for almost three years and calls the work her “dream job,” noting that she had resigned from a job and took a pay cut in order to work for the organization. But she began experiencing harassment and intimidation almost immediately from the woman who managed the center at the time. When she and other employees who were racial minorities complained to management no action was taken, but a subsequent complaint by a white employee resulted in the manager’s immediate dismissal.

Under a new manager, she was subjected to the whip-cracking behavior and other incidents, and also required to travel to distant work sites and change her hours while less tenured white employees were not asked to do so. When she inquired about the difference in treatment she was told that it was because she was more ‘seasoned” than the white employee, but she notes that the newer employee was paid the same salary that she was despite having fewer responsibilities and less experience. She was placed on administrative leave by the clinic on grounds of having “gossiped” about a patient, but the nurse practitioner, who has 16 years of experience, denies this assertion. She explains that the conversation had been a discussion with the affiliate’s lead clinician about the disposition of a patient’s care.

Despite this and having no notifications of deficiency in her performance, she was informed ten days later that she was being terminated effective immediately due to issues with her performance. Ms. Fisher filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging racial discrimination based on her age and national origin, as well as with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The EEOC issued her a Notice of Rights in February of 2022, and she subsequently filed her lawsuit, which notes multiple examples of different rules being applied to white employees than to non-whites, as well as differences in how they were disciplined for the same behaviors. She also notes that when she asked questions about medical protocol or complained about the way she was being treated, she was called a “pain in the ass.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central, and Southern New Jersey, Inc. has denied Ms. Fisher’s allegations and the case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. She is seeking both compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees and costs of filing the suit.

Discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace based upon membership in a protected class are violations of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. If you believe that your rights have been violated, contact us today for guidance about your best next steps.