Bend’s St. Charles Health System is being sued by its former chief medical officer for $2 million for allegedly firing her due to “medical impairments” that inhibited her ability to communicate with others.
Dr. Laura Pennavaria was employed as St. Charles’ chief medical officer from April 2017 to August 2019, when she was terminated, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Deschutes County Circuit Court. She earned $315,000 per year, in addition to benefits valued at $200,000 per year.
St. Charles released a statement Monday acknowledging the lawsuit.
“St. Charles is committed to not only providing superior patient care but supporting a work environment that treats every caregiver with respect. We believe the lawsuit is without merit and will vigorously defend against the allegations.”
The lawsuit states that Pennavaria suffered from “impairments” that affected her work, including her ability to interact with others, regulate emotional responses and handle stress.
The suit doesn’t elaborate on Pennavaria’s condition except to say she went to the St. Charles human resources department and requested accommodation for the difficulty she was having at work maintaining relationships with colleagues, interacting with others and dealing with stressors.
On. Aug. 15, Pennavaria was terminated “without warning,” according to the lawsuit.
“Despite being advised of Dr. Pennavaria’s impairments and her request for reasonable accommodation, St. Charles ignored her concerns and her request … and instead terminated her employment because of her impairments and/or because (St. Charles) perceived (Pennavaria) to be a disabled person due to her medical condition.”
Pennavaria filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging unlawful discriminatory employment practices. In November, the EEOC sent her a “right to sue” letter, meaning the agency believes she has grounds to sue.