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Redundant job position cut due to budget, defense argued

Type:

Verdict-Defendant

State:

Massachusetts

Venue:

Federal

Court:

U.S. District Court for District of Massachusetts

Injury Type(s):

mental/psychological-emotional distress

Case Type:

Workplace; Civil Rights; Discrimination - Race; Civil Rights - 42 USC 1981; Employment - Race Discrimination, Wrongful Termination; Discrimination - Nationality or National Origin

Case Name:

Jennifer Furlonge v. Boston Medical Center, Alistair Bell and Walter Dabek, No. 1:14-cv-10389

Date:

November 8, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Jennifer Furlonge (Female, 60s)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Stephen Schultz; Engel & Schultz, PC; Boston, MA, for Jennifer Furlonge

Defendant(s):

Walter Dabek, 

Alistair Bell, 

Boston Medical Center

Defense Attorney(s):

James W. Bucking; Foley Hoag LLP; Boston, MA, for Walter Dabek, Alistair Bell, Boston Medical Center ■ Kristyn DeFilipp; Foley Hoag LLP; Boston, MA, for Walter Dabek, Alistair Bell, Boston Medical Center

Facts:

On Oct. 25, 2013, plaintiff Jennifer Furlonge, 61, an administrative director at Boston Medical Center, was informed that her position was terminated due to budgeting requirements, following 26 years of employment. Furlonge, a black woman of West Indian and Caribbean ancestry, claimed that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race and natural origin, in that her position was filled by a white woman, and other duties she performed were consolidated into a newly created position that was given to a Caucasian woman. Furlonge sued Boston Medical Center; the hospital's Vice President for Strategy Dr. Alastair Bell; and the hospital's call center Administrative Director Walter Dabek. Furlonge alleged that the defendants violated her civil rights under 42 USC 1981. The claim against Bell was discontinued prior to trial. Furlonge claimed that in November 2011, she was asked if she would oversee a project described by her superiors as "temporary" in nature. The job was to establish an ambulatory call center in Boston which would take over for a system by which the hospital outsourced this service. Furlonge agreed to oversee the project full-time, and claimed that she was promised either a return to her post as administrative director of the adult primary care practice, or to a lateral or upward placement when the temporary project was complete. Furlonge claimed that the temporary project was completed in March 2012, and that she continued in that role to assist Dabek, who had been hired to head a demonstration project, establishing a call center for other departments within the hospital. Furlonge claimed that she was never told she would be reporting to Dabek, and that in 2013, their relationship began became uncomfortable. On Feb. 20, 2013, budgeting for the entire Patient Support Center at BMC was transferred to Dabek, and Furlonge claimed that Dabek became resistant to her advice. Furlonge further claimed that during a meeting attended by her and another BMC employee of West Indian Caribbean descent, Dabek spoke in an accent that mocked Furlonge and the other employee's accents. Furlonge alleged that in August and September 2013, Dabek and Bell decided to fill Furlonge's old position of Administrative Director of the Adult Primary Care Ambulatory Clinic, which she claimed she was promised she could have back when the temporary project ended. The position was filled by a 31-year-old white woman. She alleged that the defendants also decided to create a manager of quality control position and merge that call centers headed by Furlonge and Dabek, thus requiring the elimination of Furlonge's position. The position of manager of quality control was given to a Caucasian woman. Furlonge alleged that on Oct. 28, 2013, she printed out a copy of her personal profile, which showed she reported to three individuals that had nothing to do with the decision to eliminate her position. She claimed that she printed out her personal profile again on Nov. 8, 2013, at which time it listed Dabek as an individual that she reported to. She claimed that BMC wrongfully changed her personal profile to the purpose of concealing the fact that she was terminated by an individual without authority to do so. The defense contended that Dabek did not make fun of the plaintiff or any other employee's accent. The defense further claimed that the plaintiff's position became redundant, and therefore, it was necessary to eliminate her position for budgetary reasons.

Injury:

Furlonge claimed emotional distress. She sought recovery of damages for past and future lost wages and benefits and emotional distress. She also sought punitive damages.

Result:

The jury rendered a defense verdict, finding that the hospital did not discriminate against Furlonge on the basis of race.

Trial Information:

Judge:

F. Dennis Saylor IV

Trial Length:

6  days

Trial Deliberations:

1  hours

Editor's Comment:

This report was written with information that was gleaned from court documents and information that was provided by defense counsel. Plaintiff's counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.