LOS ANGELES – A Black former office manager for TV Urologist Dr. Jennifer Berman is suing the physician for wrongful termination, alleging she was discriminated against due to her race, and fired an hour after filing an internal complaint.
Synyahn Johnson’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also alleges retaliation, hostile work environment, failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Johnson seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“(Johnson) considered the work environment to be hostile, intimidating, offensive, oppressive or abusive since she was harassed by Berman under Berman’s direct supervision,” the suit states.
A representative for Johnson — a sexual health expert, urologist and female sexual medicine specialist and a former co-host on “The Doctors” — could not be immediately reached for comment on the lawsuit brought Tuesday.
Johnson was hired last Dec. 22 and, unlike non-Black prospective employees, was not paid for her “working interview” held before her first day on the job, the suit states. When she asked why she was treated different, she was “immediately met with hostility and was accused of being ungrateful,” the suit states.
“This made plaintiff extremely uncomfortable and feel she was not valued like non-African-American employees,” according to the suit.
Johnson was also met with “aggression, hostility and condescension when she asked why on one occasion she was paid later than non-Black workers, the suit states.
Berman scolded Johnson, saying, “I told you four times, it will go out Monday. What don’t you understand?” according to the suit.
Johnson believes Berman’s office hired her “to keep away suspicion that she did not want to hire African-Americans,” the suit states.
Berman’s office soon began “stripping away many of (Johnson’s) job duties and her position as office manager was undermined,” the suit states.
Johnson also was threatened with being transferred from a full-time to a part-time employee and told she had to take less money if she wanted to keep her job, a dilemma not facing other employees, the suit states.
Berman once used the word “slave” when talking to Johnson about another employee, but the urologist did not make similar racially charged remarks while speaking with anyone else in the office, Johnson alleges, leading the plaintiff to believe Berman “liked to taunt her by making these triggering statements to plaintiff as an African-American.”
The alleged workplace mistreatment of Johnson caused her to become ill and so she took a day off to recuperate mentally and physically, but Berman sent intimidating and harassing text messages stating the plaintiff “would no longer have employment if she did not show up the following day,” according to the suit.
Johnson filed a formal complaint with Berman’s office on March 9, requesting that management investigate her complaints and stop treating her differently because of her race, the suit states.
About an hour later, Berman accused Johnson of being a “threat,” ordered her to leave the premises and “indicated that her employment was being terminated,” the suit states.
When Johnson asked for a formal notice of termination, Berman wrote on a piece of paper, “Due to your threatening and toxic attitude and behavior, and insubordination and verbal insults in the past, I do not feel this is a good fit for either party. Please consider this (today) your final work day to be concluded now,” the suit states.
Johnson continues to suffer from emotional distress as well as financial losses, the suit states.
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