WHISTLEBLOWER’S RESPONSE. This photo taken on March 27, 2020
and provided by Dr. Ming Lin depicts him at his home in
Bellingham, Washington. Lin, who was fired from his position as
an emergency room physician at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical
Center in Bellingham after he publicly criticized the hospital’s
leadership in responding to COVID-19, sued for wrongful
termination on May 28, 2020. (Ming Lin via AP)
From The Asian Reporter, V30, #07 (June 1, 2020), page
Doctor fired after blasting COVID preparations
By Gene Johnson
The Associated Press
SEATTLE — An emergency room doctor who was fired after he
publicly criticized the coronavirus preparations at his hospital
in Washington state is suing for wrongful termination.
Dr. Ming Lin worked at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center
in Bellingham for 17 years before he was fired in late March. He
had been criticizing the hospital’s leadership on his Facebook
page and in media interviews, saying they had been slow to
screen visitors for symptoms and to obtain protection equipment
or take other precautions for staff.
PeaceHealth’s chief operating officer, Richard DeCarlo, in
April said Lin had been removed from his position for creating a
"toxic work environment."
But amid the pandemic, the U.S. Labor Department has issued
reminders to employers that it is illegal to retaliate against
employees who report unsafe working conditions.
Lin’s attorneys with the Seattle firm of Schroeter Goldmark
and Bender and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington
filed the lawsuit in Whatcom County Superior Court in
Bellingham. The complaint noted that neither PeaceHealth nor
TeamHealth, the company that handles physician staffing at the
hospital, had policies preventing his use of Facebook or
speaking to reporters.
"Hopefully my actions will bring some publicity to the fact
that healthcare workers for a long time have been repressed and
they’re not allowed to speak up for safety because they fear
termination and being reprimanded," Lin said in a phone
interview from a hospital on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in
South Dakota, where he frequently works weeklong rotations.
PeaceHealth did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking
comment. In an e-mailed statement, TeamHealth said Lin remains a
paid contract physician. Both are named as defendants.
"TeamHealth values the hard work of our doctors, who are
doing heroic work on the frontlines of the pandemic," the
St. Joe’s adopted several of the recommendations Lin had made
on his Facebook page, Lin noted, including finding a different
lab that could provide quicker COVID-19 test results, providing
scrubs for ER nurses, and requiring face masks.
The lawsuit alleges that PeaceHealth offered Lin a chance to
take a job at a hospital in Oregon or other, part-time positions
at a lower pay within 50 miles of his home in Bellingham.
"While we believe your actions and comments both inside and
outside of work were intended to be constructive and a catalyst
for change, unfortunately it is not possible for you to return
to PeaceHealth," TeamHealth official Dr. Robert Frantz wrote
him, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit seeks Lin’s reinstatement at St. Joe’s as well as
back pay, damages, and legal fees.