Surgical Assistant with Hand Tremors Fired, Sues for Disability Discrimination

Pennsylvania Hospital, which is affiliated with Penn Medicine, is being sued by a former contract employee who claims she was let go, not because of purported performance issues, but because of her disability, in violation of the ADA.

Nellie Logan was hired as a contract employee by Pennsylvania Hospital on January 4, 2017 to work as a surgical technologist assisting neurosurgery doctors in the operating room (OR), according to the complaint. She claims she performed her “job satisfactorily, receiving praise for her work and no significant discipline.”

Logan received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2009 and suffers from slight tremors in her hands. Her treating physician, who knew what her job duties included, never suggested any work limitations because of the MS diagnosis. Therefore, Logan claims she did not require any workplace accommodations.

Logan also claims that at no time during her employment with Penn did her condition affect her ability to do her work.

In an attempt to seek a “second opinion” regarding her MS, Logan asked a doctor she was working with in the OR if she could “ask a personal question.” The doctor responded by asking Logan if the question was about her MS. Logan claims she never told him about her condition.

Following the conversation, Logan claims there was a marked change in how she was treated. For instance, while complying with a doctor’s request for sutures, Logan began the process of loading the sutures in a needle, as was the proper practice, but was yelled at and told to provide the sutures without a need, which Logan had never seen done before.

Another time, Logan was asked to perform a procedure she had never done before. She asked for a brief tutorial, received it, and performed the procedure without incident or complaint.

In January 2017 Logan claims she was called into a meeting with nursing supervisors to discuss “concerns and issues.” At that time she was accused of dropping a suture during a procedure, which she claims was untrue. She was also reprimanded for not having knowledge of the procedure for which she received a quick lesson and performed successfully.

Two weeks after the conversation with the supervisors, Logan was informed that she would no longer be working at Penn; no explanation was given.

Logan “believes and avers that the performance based reasons provided for termination were pretextual and that [Penn] terminated her on account of her actual and/or perceived disabilities in violation of the ADA.”

The case was brought in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Michael Murphy of Philadelphia.