A psychologist from Golden Valley, Minnesota recently made the news in connection with an Oregon case involving a surgeon who was terminated and is now suing his former employer for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The surgeon, Dr. John Blizzard, was reportedly the only full-time cardiothoracic surgeon for the hospital at the time of his sudden termination last November.
In his lawsuit, the surgeon seeks over $14.5 million for the hospital’s failure to accommodate a disability and for discriminating against him and illegally requiring him to submit to psychological testing. According to the Minnesota psychologist who evaluated Blizzard, he is said to have mental impairments which made it difficult for him to interact and maintain relationships with others, as well as regulate emotional responses and deal with stress.
The psychologist’s report recommended, apparently, that the hospital provide a behavioral coach to help the surgeon deal with some of his limitations and that the health system routinely evaluate his performance in these areas. According to the surgeon, the hospital not only failed to implement those recommendations, but also failed to relieve him from work pressures and to follow its own internal procedures for providing notice of noncompliance with rules. The hospital was also allegedly aware of the surgeon’s disability and its impact on the hospital’s concerns with his behavior.
The case is an interesting one as we tend not to think of professionals like physicians as having disabilities that could impact their behavior and dealings with others, nor as requiring serious defense under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Physicians and other high-level professionals with disabilities still have rights under federal law, though.
In our next post, we’ll look a bit more at this issue.