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Complaint Alleges OhioHealth Discriminated against African-American Female Physician

COLUMBUS, OH –Racism is a public health crisis, and the killing of George Floyd has brought diversity and inclusion in the workplace back as a primary topic; so much so that major corporations have tweeted their intentions to fight racial disparities.

But what are companies doing to assist its African American health care workers? Black, Hispanic, and Native American physicians remain underrepresented in medicine despite efforts to increase diversity. Although these three racial/ethnic groups compose one-third of the US population, black, Hispanic, and Native American physicians constitute only 9% of practicing physicians. Moreover, the proportions of black, Hispanic, and Native American physicians have not changed substantially in the last 30 years.  

Minority physicians that participated in a recent study described three recurring scenarios in residency training. “First, minority residents routinely experience racial/ethnic bias at work and are reluctant to report it to their programs. Second, residency programs lack institutionalized systems to promote diversity and rely on minority residents to fulfill these tasks. Third, minority residents encounter challenges balancing professional and personal identity.”  

In 2016, our client Dr. Loliya Idoniboye, an African American female, started her first year at OhioHealth as a resident physician in the OBGYN Residency program. Dr. Idoniboye was the only African American physician at O’Bleness, thus the only African American resident in the O’Bleness OBGYN program. She was terminated after completing nearly two years of the program. As a result, Dr. Idoniboye filed a lawsuit against OhioHealth and program director, Dr. James Perez. Dr. Idoniboye’s complaint alleges that she was subjected to systematic racism and gender discrimination while working as a resident physician.   

The complaint notes that Dr. Iboniboye received positive reviews and comments during the early part of her residency. However, in February 2017, Dr. Idoniboye found out she was pregnant and would also be assigned to a new program director, Dr. Perez. Dr. Perez expressed to Dr. Idoniboye that Affirmative Action prevented some of his colleagues from getting into medical programs. On one occasion, Dr. Perez informed Dr. Idoniboye that her test scores were too low for OhioHealth O’Bleness. This was found to be false. Dr. Idoniboye became pregnant and gave birth during her residency. After her pregnancy, she was subjected to differing terms than other residents and was given less opportunity for growth in the residency program. As a result, she had less hours in the operating room than her counterparts. She was subjected to microaggressions, bias and retaliation that the complaint alleges resulted in her termination.  

Studies show that African American resident students have a markedly lower matriculation rates than their White, Asian and Latinx colleagues. Many contribute the low rates to the systemic barriers African American residents experience. In Dr. Idoniboye’s case, she received no assessment review and no opportunities to review her assessments/deficiencies with the opportunity to correct them as was required by resident program guidelines. She notes,  

“I filed this lawsuit because I want to tell my story about my difficult journey as an African American female physician. I didn’t want to  send the message that someone can take something that they do not have the right take. You never know whose life you are destined to help, change, or inspire. I am reclaiming my voice and my power. This is bigger than just me. It’s for all of us.”  

Dr. Idoniboye’s legal claims against OhioHealth and Dr. Perez include (1) racially discriminating against her in the terms and conditions of her employment, (2) discriminating against her due to her pregnancy, childbirth, and related complications, (3) retaliating against her for raising concern of unfair treatment between her and her other non-minority and non-pregnant colleagues, and (4) creating a hostile work environment and assist in making it difficult for Dr. Idoniboye to perform her job duties without fear and anxiety.

The lawsuit, captioned Idoniboye, D.O. v. OhioHealth Corp. et al., No. 2:20-cv-2166, was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. 

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Walton + Brown, LLP takes pride in having a successful serious personal injury and civil rights practice, unafraid to step into a courtroom and litigate cases to the fullest extent necessary. With over 450 lawsuits filed and over $18 million in settlements or verdicts won for our clients, Sean and Chanda bring a record of success. Sean and Chanda have been awarded Top 100 and Top 40 Under 40 designations as trial attorneys.