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Breast Cancer Patient And Decorated Veteran Files Suit Claiming She Was Fired By Former Sentara Medical Center Because Of Her Illness

Claimant says dismissal illustrates astonishing hypocrisy by a health care provider

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Jan. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Vivienne Parra, a decorated U.S. Army veteran and former employee of Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center (formerly Potomac Hospital), has filed a civil complaint against Sentara alleging retaliation and violations of her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, located in Woodbridge, Virginia, specializes in cancer treatment, and is being accused by Parra who suffered multiple bouts with breast cancer at work, while her decorated Marine Corps husband served in war zones as a sergeant. Former U.S. Army Medical Specialist Parra is also a decorated veteran, receiving the Army Achievement Medal for exceptionally meritorious service in Somalia in 2003.   


Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center characterizes itself as a cancer treatment facility that features "commitment to providing a patient-centered approach to treating breast cancer." The lawsuit charges Sentara completely failed to live up to that commitment in Specialist Parra's case.

Parra served as an employee at Sentara starting in August 2006 until her termination in 2009. She worked as a registrar for a year before her promotion to an insurance verification specialist. While six weeks pregnant with her second child in April 2008, Parra was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Parra took leave under FMLA to undergo a radical mastectomy and chemotherapy, all while managing her high-risk pregnancy. In November 2008, Parra took leave to give birth to her child and resume chemotherapy. Parra attempted to return to work in January 2009 but Sentara allegedly failed to accommodate her disability and retaliated against her use of FMLA leave.

Despite glowing performance evaluations and support from co-workers, Sentara proceeded to demote Parra, even though her workload was increasing heavily. Sentara then relocated her after she contested such treatment as a violation of the law. While still working in July 2009 through ongoing chemotherapy, Parra discovered she required a second radical mastectomy. Parra requested FMLA leave for the second mastectomy but was denied by a Sentara supervisor who said she was "no different than anyone else" and "for a cancer patient, you [Parra] don't look sick." Sentara did permit Parra to take FMLA leave five days later. In September 2009, Parra contacted Sentara informing them she was ready to return to work only to receive a phone call stating that she was fired. The suit states that a letter from Sentara listed false reasons for Parra's firing, alleging she "no longer desired employment."

"Sentara acted with disregard for the law, ethics and in the most hypocritical and uncompassionate way," stated R. Scott Oswald, managing principal, The Employment Law Group® law firm.  "I expect that as a decorated veteran herself and a mother, Mrs. Parra will be compensated by Sentara and the outcome will send a message to all health care providers to treat their employees as well as their patients."

Based on the suit, Parra could be awarded compensation for lost wages, benefits, emotional distress, and loss of reputation.

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