Sutter Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Lieff Cabraser represents Dr. Omondi Nyong’o in a race discrimination lawsuit against Sutter Health, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group (collectively “Sutter”) for multiple violations of California law arising from a racially toxic workplace. Dr. Nyong’o is a nationally and internationally recognized Black surgeon who has been employed by Sutter for over 12 years. Dr. Nyong’o is Board-certified in Ophthalmology, was the inaugural recipient of the Jamplis Community Service Award for Sutter Health, and was selected 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.

Dr. Omondi Nyong'o
Dr. Omondi Nyong’o

As alleged in the complaint in the lawsuit, despite his impeccable qualifications and years of dedicated service, Dr. Nyong’o has been subject to a pattern of racial discrimination, including pay and promotion discrimination, down-leveling, biased reviews, heightened scrutiny and racial harassment, different standards of behavior, and unfair discipline. As the complaint further alleges, notwithstanding Sutter’s willingness to exploit Dr. Nyong’o’s considerable medical skills, patient service, and contributions to the Sutter community in order to advance its own corporate reputation in the areas of philanthropy and diversity and inclusion, Sutter has subjected Dr. Nyong’o to racial trauma arising from racist and discriminatory employment decisions against Dr. Nyong’o and due to a workplace culture which generally disrespects, undermines, and disciplines African American staff and doctors, including Dr. Nyong’o, due to racial bias.

The complaint further notes that the racist environment that permeates Sutter also “limits opportunities for other Black doctors, impairs their ability to achieve their potential professionally and financially, and subjects them to racial trauma at work. Dr. Nyong’o’s Black colleagues have worked extraordinarily hard over the course of their medical careers only to find their accomplishments are devalued and there is a glass ceiling for Black doctors at Sutter. The Black doctors at Sutter support one another, but remain demoralized by the lack of respect, heightened scrutiny, and toxicity directed at them by Sutter leadership.” As detailed in the complaint, “In order to survive at Sutter, Black doctors report that they are advised to keep their head down and remain unseen.”

Dr. Nyong’o’s complaint alleges violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov’t Code section 12940, et seq. (“FEHA”); the California Fair Pay Act, Cal. Lab. Code section 1197.5, et seq., (“CFPA”); California Health and Safety Code section 1278.5(b); the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200, et seq.; breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit seeks declaratory and monetary relief.

CONTACT US

If you are a past or current physician at Sutter and have experienced discrimination, we urge you to contact an employment lawyer at Lieff Cabraser today using the form on this page. There is no cost or obligation for our review of your case, and the information you provide will be held in the strictest confidence. You may also call us toll-free at 1 800 541-7358 and ask to speak to Lieff Cabraser attorney Kelly M. Dermody.

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