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Former patient advocate files lawsuit accusing Duke of employment discrimination

A former patient advocate at Duke Health is suing Duke for employment discrimination due to disability, under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The plaintiff, Jon Davidson, filed the suit against Duke Nov. 12. Davidson, who requested a trial by jury, formerly worked for Duke as a patient advocate and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease while working in 2015, according to the filing. 

Davidson’s complaint accuses Duke of discriminating on the basis of Davidson’s disability when it terminated him in 2019.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email that Duke does not comment on pending litigation and “will respond through the courts.” 

The complaint states that in 2018, Davidson notified Duke that he would need an accommodation for his “limited ability to keep track of deadlines and remember projects” resulting from his disability. 

He requested that Duke modify his case management system—on Excel—“to account for his memory issues.” Duke allegedly rejected this accommodation as “unreasonable” but provided him with a one-day Excel class.

Davidson’s complaint also states that he requested that his supervisor, Sanne Henninger, currently director of patient experience at Duke’s Private Diagnostic Clinic, send all deadlines by calendar invite on Outlook, which Duke agreed to. 

According to his complaint, Davidson then informed Duke multiple times since then that the provided accommodations were insufficient and that he needed “more assistance meeting his deadlines due to his disability.” He also told Duke that Henninger was “inconsistent about sending reminders.”

Henninger did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article. 

Davidson claims that Duke “did not provide or propose any additional accommodations to address the job-related limitation caused by [Davidson’s] disability.” These additional accommodations could have included additional time to complete lower-priority projects, according to the complaint.

Duke terminated Davidson “on or about” Feb. 8, 2019. The complaint claims that the reason for his termination—as allegedly told to Davison by Henninger—was that he “forgot to update a patient call log after agreeing to do so.” Davidson asserts that he had done so.

Duke then replaced Davidson with an employee without a disability in violation of the ADA, the complaint alleges. It adds that the circumstances of Davidson’s termination show that Duke’s adverse action “was discrimination on the basis of [Davidson’s] disability.” 

His complaint requests that the court find Duke, who is subject to the requirements of the ADA, in violation of Davidson’s rights set forth in the ADA.

It also asks the court to grant Davidson, who was a qualified employee with a disability under the ADA, full back pay plus interest, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, reasonable attorney fees, and costs in accordance with the ADA.

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