Optometrist sues former employer for gender discrimination, retaliation

Optometrist Alana Curatola, OD, has filed a gender discrimination and workplace retaliation lawsuit against Sequim, Wash.-based Northwest Eye Surgeons alleging she was fired the day after returning back to work from parental leave, according to an April 1 report from Medscape.

Dr. Curatola claims she was fired for taking time off to have a baby and asking for flexibility upon returning to work. 

Dr. Curatola has been with the multiclinic practice for five years and has always received positive performance reviews, the lawsuit claims. She was never given any performance warnings aside from a 2019 written reminder to "work on interpersonal communication with staff," according to the lawsuit, filed March 12. 

In 2022, Dr. Curatola led a push for a new wage scale for optometrists at the practice and pushed for fair and equitable compensation. The same year, she took 18 weeks of unpaid maternity leave to have a baby. 

Upon her return to work, she asked for breast-pumping breaks, one day a week off for two months via accrued time off, and a reduced patient load for one week.

On the day of her return, she was called to a meeting about "overpayment of salary" during her leave and was fired. 

The practice claims it fired Dr. Curatola due to her mistreatment of coworkers. The National Labor Relations Board "found merit to the allegation that Sight Partner[s] fired Alana Curatola in retaliation for her protected, concerted activity."

The lawsuit doesn't provide direct evidence of discrimination or retaliation by the eye surgery practice, according to the report. 

Dr. Curatola took a new job as an optometrist with Kaiser Permanente in 2023. Her lawsuit is scheduled to go to court in 2025. 

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