A Black, gay doctor is suing a Rock Springs hospital, claiming he was fired for his social status after nurses spread rumors about him.
Dr. Lex Auguiste, OB/GYN, filed a Civil Rights Act lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming against Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County and one of its nurses, Megan Jacobson.
He’s asking for a jury trial in the hopes of winning damages for alleged emotional and mental pain, lost wages and benefits, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees.
Auguiste also is asking for punitive and exemplary damages from the hospital; that is, a monetary award that will punish the hospital and make an example of it.
The hospital declined Thursday to comment to Cowboy State Daily about the lawsuit, citing its policy against commenting on both litigation and previous employees.
Auguiste started working for the hospital Sept. 1, 2020. The hospital knew Auguiste was married to a man, according to his lawsuit complaint.
He had a three-year contract with the hospital that would let either party discontinue his employment as long as 90 days’ notice was given.
Auguiste found his work “rewarding and stimulating” and believed he was having a positive impact on Sweetwater County residents, his complaint says. He hoped to work there until he retired.
Heterosexual Doctors, Though
Auguiste’s complaint says his work was “exemplary,” but that some nurses were negative and resistant when he’d make simple requests or issue standard orders.
“He noticed a stark difference in the attitudes of staff when taking directions from other nonblack, heterosexual physicians and superiors,” says the complaint.
The nurses’ criticism and second-guessing was irritating at first, says the complaint. It became frustrating and “an unnecessary distraction to his work.”
“The nursing staff began making unfounded or petty complaints against (Auguiste),” reads the complaint, which later says he believes Jacobson led these complaints.
The document says management called Auguiste to a special meeting, reprimanded him and recorded the reprimand in his file.
The nurses, for example, said Auguiste was not placing orders, says the complaint, which doesn’t describe the orders it is referencing. One nurse said Augusite gave instructions orally instead of in writing.
A Termination Letter
Auguiste emailed a formal complaint to his employer asking the hospital to investigate the matter on Sept. 17, 2021, roughly one year after he joined the hospital.
The hospital allegedly didn’t give an “immediate response” to this.
On Dec. 9, 2021, Auguiste’s employer gave him a termination letter, firing him without cause and immediately, the complaint says.
The contract required 90 days’ notice, so the termination letter contained a waiver indicating Auguiste would not get money owed to him unless he signed a waiver agreeing not to sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or certain state law claims, and not to disparage the hospital, the complaint says.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids employers from firing people for being gay or transgender.
Auguiste’s legal counsel contacted the hospital, and the hospital “ameliorated” its position on the waiver, paying Auguiste’s owed money, the complaint says.
Auguiste’s complaint levels 10 claims against the hospital and/or Jacobson: discrimination, retaliation, keeping a hostile work environment, negligence, tortious interference with contract, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and egregious conduct meriting enhanced damages.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.