Thursday, June 14, 2001

Queen’s hit with
retaliation lawsuit

The EEOC claims the hospital
tried to get a fired physician
deported after he alleged bias

By Lyn Danninger

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission has filed suit in federal District Court against Queen's Medical Center, alleging it retaliated against a foreign medical researcher who complained about discrimination.

The physician, Dr. Shyamal Premaratne, is a native of Sri Lanka but has legal permanent residency in the United States. Premaratne was employed as a researcher through the Hawaii Medical Residency Program at Queen's.

Premaratne was fired by Queen's in 1996. According to EEOC attorney Elizabeth Fujiwara, the reason for the firing was unclear. When Premaratne alleged the firing was based on discrimination based on his national origin, Queen's wrote to the Immigration and Naturalization Service retracting their support for Premaratne's application for a permanent visa, Fujiwara said. The letter also claimed earlier support of Premaratne's permanent visa application was fraudulent, according to the EEOC.

As a result of the Queen's letter, the INS sought to revoke Premaratne's visa and initiate deportation proceedings.

Queen's did not return phone calls regarding the lawsuit.

Fujiwara said the case has taken this long to progress to federal court primarily because of the length of the INS proceedings and the depth of EEOC's investigation before taking up the case.

"They've thoroughly investigated the case, done on-site investigations and reviewed to see that is valid," she said. "The EEOC does not sue every day."

Fujiwara said a status conference has been scheduled in court has been scheduled for September.

Premaratne is now employed in Virginia as a researcher and does not face deportation, Fujiwara said.

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