The national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein announces the filing of a major race discrimination lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court on behalf of internationally recognized Black pediatric surgical ophthalmologist Dr. Omondi Nyong’o against Sutter Health, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group (collectively, “Sutter”).

The action, filed under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the California Fair Pay Act, the California Health and Safety Code, and the California Unfair Competition Law alleges a pattern of racial discrimination against African American doctors at Sutter, including pay and promotion discrimination, down-leveling, biased reviews, heightened scrutiny and racial harassment, different standards of behavior, and unfair discipline.

Despite spending over a decade as one of Sutter’s most accomplished doctors, and even while Sutter held him up as an example of Sutter’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, Sutter subjected Dr. Nyong’o to racist and discriminatory employment conditions due to a workplace culture that disrespects, undermines, and disciplines African American doctors and staff. As the complaint details, Dr. Nyong’o was subjected to racial bias in promotions, was demoted to appease white leadership, targeted for discipline when he challenged his unfair treatment, underpaid, and retaliated against.

Sutter is one of the largest healthcare systems in the United States. Sutter’s Palo Alto Medical Foundation currently only employs approximately 18 Black doctors out of 1800 physicians.

“Along with other Black doctors, I have repeatedly asked Sutter to treat us fairly, but Sutter has rejected every overture for a more equitable culture, often followed by severe retaliation,” said Plaintiff Dr. Omondi Nyong’o. “I feel compelled to bring this lawsuit, not just for myself, but for the other Black doctors who fear coming forward, and I do so with a singular goal: to be able to provide excellent patient care in an environment where Black doctors do not have to battle leadership for basic fairness and equal opportunity.”

Lieff Cabraser partner Kelly M. Dermody stated, “This case reveals a dirty secret plaguing healthcare practice today: of racial hostility, of the great suffering of outstanding Black professionals working under inequitable systems, and of the loss all of us in society suffer when our most talented people have to spend their precious time on this planet seeking basic fairness.”

Background on Dr. Nyong’o

Plaintiff, Dr. Omondi Nyong’o, is a nationally and internationally recognized Black surgeon who has been employed by Sutter for over 12 years. He completed his undergraduate studies at Brown University, his medical schooling at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, and his ophthalmology residency at the University of Washington Eye Institute in Seattle Washington. Thereafter, Dr. Nyong’o trained as a Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus fellow at the University of Michigan W.K. Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor Michigan. He is Board certified in Ophthalmology. Dr. Nyong’o was the inaugural award recipient of the Jamplis Community Service Award for Sutter Health, and was selected by the allied professional associations of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Orthoptics as one of only 12 national pediatric surgical ophthalmologists to serve on the American Orthoptic Council. He has provided outstanding care to thousands of children in Silicon Valley, and has received teaching awards, quality of care awards, and other awards at Sutter, universities, and other non-profit organizations. He was the first and only Black physician to chair any department within the Palo Alto Medical Foundation region of Sutter Health, ever. Due to his commitment to providing medical services to those most in need, he has been a leader in Sutter’s philanthropic efforts, currently serving as a Medical Director of Philanthropy for the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group. He has received awards for his charitable work providing free eye care to children in East Africa and in San Francisco at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Background on Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP

Lieff Cabraser is one of the country’s largest and most successful firms exclusively representing plaintiffs in civil litigation, having secured verdicts or settlements worth over $124 billion. With over 100 attorneys, the firm has led some of the most significant litigation of the last decade, including the recent CARES Act litigation on behalf of incarcerated individuals and their families resulting in over $1.5 billion in cash benefits (Scholl v. Mnuchin, 4:20-cv-05309-PJH (federal court, San Francisco)); the VW clean diesel emissions case, which resulted in over $15 billion for VW owners (In re: Volkswagen ‘Clean Diesel’ Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2672 (federal court, San Francisco)); and the high-tech cold-calling wage conspiracy case alleging an agreement among prominent technology companies to not poach each other’s employees, with settlements totaling $435 million (In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509-LJK (federal court, San Francisco)).

Lead Attorneys: Lieff Cabraser partner Kelly Dermody is Managing Partner of Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office, and Chair-Elect of the Section of Labor and Employment Law of the American Bar Association. Lieff Cabraser partner Daniel Hutchinson chairs the firm’s Employment Practice Group.

Read a copy of the Complaint in this lawsuit. You can also learn more about Dr. Nyong’o’s case.


Kelly M. Dermody
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
275 Battery Street, 29th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 956-1000, ext. 3333

Daniel M. Hutchinson
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
275 Battery Street, 29th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 956-1000, ext. 2312

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