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Hershey Med responds to retaliation charges

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

The Penn State Hershey Medical Center has denied any wrongdoing in the case of a cancer doctor who sued, alleging he was fired in retaliation for defending the rights of his secretary, who was fighting breast cancer.

The doctor claims the hospital violated the FMLA, ADA and other employment laws when handling the secretary’s requests for time off. (See “Cancer doc says he was fired for FMLA advocacy.”)

The hospital claims it warned the doctor that his “confrontational and unprofessional conduct” when discussing “unfounded complaints” was “contrary … to expectations for collegial conduct among members of the department.” He was told his conduct could “jeopardize his role in the department.”

The doctor maintains that hospital administrators sought to “undermine him” after he complained about the treatment his secretary received. The hospital countered that his “lapses in his oversight responsibilities” led to them denying his requests for a post-doctoral fellowship and a training grant in the run-up to his dismissal.

Note: Employment disputes often come down to who said what. The hospital’s use of code words such as “collegiality” and “professionalism” may be red flags that the doctor’s attorney will say proves an illegal stifling of dissent.

Employers that seek to quash dissent run the risk of violating the National Labor Relations Act, plus federal and state whistle-blower protection laws.

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