Employees file racial and discrimination lawsuits against Capital Health Medical Center

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Original article available at The Trentonian Lawsuits.


TRENTON >> Three hospital employees have filed lawsuits accusing supervisors at Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton of mistreating them based on race and disability.

The lawsuits, filed June 2 in Mercer County civil court, allege racial and employment discrimination and retaliation. The women were allegedly retaliated against after voicing concerns regarding their supervisors’ discriminatory actions.

One of the lawsuits say a hospital supervisor referred to black employees as “dark ones” and repeatedly used the term “n****r-rich.”

Two supervisors, Heather Serdikoff and Shelly Iezzo, who were allegedly responsible for discrimination are named in the lawsuits.

The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuits are Kathleen Menold, a disabled woman from Florence who worked as a nurse practitioner; Krystine Agtuca, a Philippine woman from Hamilton who worked as a registered nurse; and Gabriella Bryson, a black woman from Willingboro who worked at the hospital as a medical assistant.

Each woman has asked for jury trials, hoping to win their jobs back as well as lost pay, damages and attorney fees.

The women are represented by attorney Mark Laderman of the firm Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson.

Laderman did not respond to phone calls requesting comment after hours.

Officials from Capital Health also did not respond to phone calls requesting comment.

The lawsuits say upper management at the hospital was “willfully indifferent to the discriminatory conduct.”

“Defendants and their agents by their discrimination have caused plaintiff[s] lost pay and benefits, physical injury, mental anguish, embarrassment and humiliation,” according to the lawsuits.

Menold began working as a nurse at the hospital in September 2013. She contends she became disabled, suffering head, back and neck injuries after a car crash in March 2015.

She asked the hospital to “reasonably” accommodate her disability so she could continue working. But, according to court documents, her supervisors refused to provide her with reasonable accommodations, and fired her as a result of her disability.

The lawsuit also says Menold refused to prescribe medication to patients who she believed were abusing prescriptions, and that she wouldn’t “participate in activities she reasonably believed were in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,” known as HIPAA, a law that maintains the confidentiality of patients’ hospital records.

Menold was fired from the hospital about two months after the disabling car crash.

Bryson was hired as a medical assistant in 2006, and alleges that she was fired so a white employee could be hired.

One of her supervisors, identified as Serdikoff, allegedly created a hostile work environment for African-American employees by using the term “n****r-rich” on several occasions. Documents allege that she also told employees “I wouldn’t leave your bag out … you know, we have a few dark ones here.”

Another supervisor, identified as Iezzo, allegedly told employees “If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have black patients.” Documents allege she has also said, “I am Italian, we do not like blacks. I was raised to stay away from them and to never trust them;” and “I don’t even bother talking to black employees about their laziness.”

Bryson lost pay and benefits, and suffered physical injury, mental anguish, embarrassment and humiliation as a result of the actions of her supervisors, the lawsuit says.

Agtuca worked at the hospital as a registered nurse starting in October 2013.

She was fired June 5, 2015, and filed a lawsuit nearly a year later, claiming the reasons for her termination “were insufficient to terminate the employment of white employees who allegedly performed the same actions.”

Agtuca contends she was replaced by a white employee, the lawsuit says.

She alleged that her treatment was part of rampant harassment of “Filipina employees [who] were often denigrated by their supervisors and co-workers” because of their accents.

Her lawsuit says unnamed supervisors at the hospital “repeatedly laughed at and imitated” the accents.

The lawsuit further alleges upper management treated white employees better.

The woman contends she was reprimanded for being late while “white employees were chronically late and received no discipline.”

— Trentonian staff writer Isaac Avilucea contributed to this report