After more than five years, a Naples, Florida physician who claims she lost her position as an emergency room medical director due to her race and gender will finally get to present her case to a jury. The case-which began in 2012-has the potential to result in an award of millions in compensatory and punitive damages.
On March 7, 2020, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a federal trial judge’s decision to dispose of the physician’s claims without a trial and reinstated her race and gender discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and her discrimination claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
Dr. Pamela Perry, who is African-American, began her position at Naples HMA’s Pine Ridge Hospital during the summer of 2011. She performed extraordinarily well in the position, while a white male counterpart at a Naples HMA sister hospital struggled in the same role and over a similar time period. The other physician received time to improve on the issues affecting his performance. But when white members of the hospital’s nursing staff alleged problems with Dr. Perry’s performance, Dr. Perry did not receive the same treatment, even after she presented evidence that the accusations against her were unfounded. When Dr. Perry told her employer that she believed the nursing staff at the hospital was undermining her authority and discriminating against her in early 2012, due to what she perceived as racial animus, she soon faced removal from her position as medical director and termination from the hospital. Her claims that she had been discriminated against were never investigated and she was terminated.
Dr. Perry filed suit in 2013, alleging that she was fired in retaliation. On October 31, 2014, a federal trial judge ruled that she did not have sufficient evidence of discrimination to warrant a trial. After winning an earlier appeal on a procedural matter in 2018, Perry challenged the trial judge’s decision. This appeal resulted in a three-judge panel unanimously agreeing that the trial judge’s decision should be reversed. Dr. Perry is represented by Glen Waldman and Michael Azre of Waldman Barnett.
Glen Waldman commented: “We couldn’t be more excited that Dr. Perry will finally get her day before a jury to determine her rights and correct this wrong that has gone on for far too long. It was a long time coming but we are more than pleased with the recent appellate ruling.”
In a noteworthy concurrence, United States District Judge Robert Hinkle, sitting on the Eleventh Circuit panel by designation, explained that “[t]he record would support a finding that Dr. Perry would not have lost her job had she been a white man instead of an African-American woman” and the defendants in the case “knew it.” Judge Hinkle added: “These issues must be resolved by a jury.”
Read the Eleventh Circuit opinion here.