Ex-employee sues Ellis Hospital over firing, alleges human rights violation amid pandemic

SCHENECTADY – A woman who worked at Ellis Hospital for 30 years has sued the hospital saying she was discharged for raising concerns about her safety at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Terry Brino is seeking $ 2 million in damages for her fall for alleging discrimination and retaliation for her disability in violation of state human rights law.

Ellis Medicine, which operates the hospital, has not returned any messages asking for comment on this story.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the Schenectady County Supreme Court by lawyers from Whiteman Osterman & Hanna in Albany. It contains the following statements and allegations:

  • Ellis Hospital hired Brino in 1990. Most recently she worked in the admissions department.
  • Throughout her tenure, Brino suffered from conditions including fibromyalgia, high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Ellis herself and Brino’s supervisor were aware of this, as she was treated every three weeks at the hospital’s infusion center and received annual health checkups for 30 years.
  • Brino’s workplace was less than two meters from the hospital entrance. When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, Ellis provided a number of staff stationed at the front door with face covers to intercept incoming patients and visitors.
  • Brino asked for face-covering because of her frequent close contact with visitors and patients and because of her high-risk illnesses; Her supervisor and manager declined her request.
  • Brino discussed her concerns with an Ellis vice president on March 18. On the same day, Ellis Brino and other representatives of the patient access provided face masks because the care was sufficient.
  • When Brino’s supervisor saw that she was wearing a face covering, he was visibly annoyed. She verbally confronted Brino and yelled at her in front of staff and patients.
  • At the end of the shift, the supervisor, manager, and a staff representative met with Brino and told her that she had been fired for gross misconduct.
  • As a result, she has suffered loss of income and employment, as well as distress, humiliation and reputational damage.
  • A previous incident influenced the complaint: Ellis Hospital had denied her request for a disabled parking space.
  • This series of events represents two reasons for action under state human rights law: unlawful dismissal and unlawful retaliation.

Brino is seeking $ 500,000 in damages and $ 500,000 in punitive damages for each of the two causes plus legal costs.

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