Vanderbilt job cuts could lead to discrimination lawsuit - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Vanderbilt job cuts could lead to discrimination lawsuit

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is trying to cut costs by eliminating jobs, but how officials determined who to cut could soon lead to a lawsuit.

Vanderbilt was recently named the No. 1 hospital in the country by a leading magazine, but leaders there say the healthcare industry is becoming tougher and some staff has to be let go.

The medical center blames its cost-cutting plan on lower reimbursements from its three biggest sources of money: Medicare, Medicaid and the National Institute for Health.

Now, attorneys are making some troubling accusations about how top leaders made the hard decisions.

After close to 20 years as a technician in a Vanderbilt lab, Roger Sparks no longer has a job.

"I thought, 'Well, what did I do wrong? Did I do something wrong?'" Sparks said.

A letter slipped across a conference room table sealed his fate.

"And I thought it maybe had something to do with my age and how much I was making," Sparks said.

That led him to two attorneys, George Barrett and Jerry Martin, now working several cases and contemplating a lawsuit.

"We're looking at the demographics of the affected employees, including their ages, race and whether they've recently taken leave under the Family Medical Leave Act," Martin said.

The attorneys also said they hope to investigate the medical center's accounting practices, namely a decision to stop hourly workers from banking vacation time in the months before the job cuts began.

"What was it about the vacation time that caused Vanderbilt to not allow employees to accrue more time?" Martin asked.

Vanderbilt has not said. It also has not revealed how many workers could ultimately lose their jobs.

It did say most would be in support roles, not patient care, in a push to cut a quarter of a billion dollars in about two years.

Now, it seems clear their decisions could wind up front and center in a court of law.

"I just feel bad for myself," Sparks said. "But I really feel bad for those people who are maybe younger than I am and have kids at home who are depending on that money to support their kids, you know."

Channel 4 News invited Vanderbilt to respond and address the accusations, the concern about vacation time and the possibility of a lawsuit.

A spokesman declined an interview, referring us instead to a statement issued to employees on Monday. Read more about that memo here: http://www.wsmv.com/story/22846542/vanderbilt-addresses-concerns-over-medical-center-job-cuts.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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