New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Former employee suing NYU Langone for disability discrimination

The employee said she was fired after requesting leave due to a breast cancer diagnosis.
Kevin Wu
File Photo: NYU Langone’s campus on First Avenue. (Kevin Wu for WSN)

A former NYU Langone Health employee is suing the medical center for disability discrimination, alleging she was “abruptly terminated” after asking for time off due to a breast cancer diagnosis.

Marijeanne Liederbach, who worked at NYU Langone’s Harkness Center for Dance Injuries for almost 30 years, is arguing that the medical center violated state and federal disability rights laws and “engaged in unlawful retaliation” by firing her.

In the complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Feb. 1, Liederbach said her termination caused her to lose her health insurance 12 days ahead of her breast cancer surgery, in addition to her income. She is demanding a trial by jury, and is asking for at least $75,000 worth of compensatory and punitive damages.

“Dr. Liederbach has suffered and continues to suffer damages, including lost earnings, lost benefits, other financial loss and emotional distress, a known aggravating factor to the condition of cancer,” the complaint reads. “Accordingly, Defendants retaliated against Dr. Liederbach in violation of her statutory rights.”

When Liederbach received her diagnosis in April 2022, she began working remotely “several days” per week, the lawsuit states. In May, Liederbach informed administration at the medical center — including NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital director of human resources Jose LaBarca and Langone Orthopedic Center director Gail Chorney — that she would be taking a leave of absence as allowed by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. 

Liederbach is alleging that later that month, LaBarca and Chorney accused her of not working during the days she was remote, and said she would be suspended for the duration of an investigation into her activity. Liederbach denied the accusations in the lawsuit.

The complaint states that two days after the start of the investigation, LaBarca and Chorney invited Liederbach to an online meeting to discuss their findings. Neither joined the meeting, leaving Liederbach to wait “for 15 minutes alone” until she allegedly received a letter of termination signed by Chorney. 

An NYU Langone spokesperson declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation. In its March 28 response to the complaint, the medical center denied Liederbach’s allegations of “unlawful retaliation,” but did not provide an alternative explanation for her termination.

“Just as Dr. Liederbach was attempting to cope with the news of her breast cancer diagnosis and rearrange her work and personal life to prepare for cancer treatment and surgery, her termination based upon a false accusation of ‘theft of services’ traumatized her,” Liederbach’s complaint reads. 

NYU Langone has faced several disability discrimination lawsuits in recent years. In June, a former patient sued the medical center after it allegedly failed to accommodate her with an American Sign Language interpreter while she was in labor. In a separate lawsuit last January, a former physician accused NYU Langone of firing her for requesting accommodations after she had undergone hip reconstruction surgery. Both cases are still pending.

Liederbach and her attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Contact Yezen Saadah at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Yezen Saadah
Yezen Saadah, Editor-in-Chief
Yezen Saadah is a junior studying cinema studies, journalism and Middle Eastern studies. He's a lover of cinema, history, art and literature, and he enjoys writing about pretty much anything. If he isn't in the newsroom or at the movies, he's probably just trying to enjoy his day off. Contact him on Instagram @yezen.saadah or send tips to [email protected]
Kevin Wu
Kevin Wu, Digital Director
Kaiyu (Kevin) Wu is a senior double-majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication and Journalism. He directs everything digital at WSN. You can directly reach him digitally at [email protected].

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