Usha Avva, Nina Gold, and Kathleen Reichard are all board-certified pediatricians who worked tirelessly in the Emergency Department at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital through the worst days of the pandemic. But this past February the three, all in their 50s, received notice that they were being terminated while younger, less experienced, less credentialed pediatricians were allowed to stay. They have filed an age discrimination against Hackensack Meridian Health.
Though the three women’s employer, Hackensack Meridian Health, is one of the largest hospital-and-healthcare organizations in the state and despite having received $98 million in pandemic relief to offset financial losses, executives claimed that cost cutting was required due to lower patient volumes. But the women say that patient volume was already rising, and that five other pediatric emergency room physicians who had only been hired in the last few years were retained. None of those five are board certified and all are under the age of 40.
The three veteran pediatricians got word of their terminations last February. In citing revised operational needs, executives justified their selection with an assessment that did not consider their elevated credentials, their years of experience, or the teaching and mentoring duties they all had assumed. Though the hospital is still paying their health benefits and compensated them with three months of severance, the cost-cutting excuse is belied by the fact that they retained part-time physicians who are earning more per-hour than full time doctors.
Speaking on their behalf, a representative called the hospital’s actions “brazen age discrimination,” and called them “frontline healthcare heroes” who had given decades of service to the healthcare system. “In the end they were escorted from the property by security, unable to say goodbye to their colleagues, and told they were terminated because of a reduction in force necessitated by ‘business needs’. That is unbelievable considering the hospital had recently hired five younger PEM physicians and patient volume had already begun rising in the wake of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
If you have been terminated, demoted, or passed over for a job or promotion as a result of your age, you may have the right to pursue legal action under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. For more information, contact our employment discrimination law firm today to set up a consultation.