In a recent decision made by the State of Colorado, the case of a former Denver Health employee has been deemed not eligible for punitive damages, according to the 2-1 vote made on April 4. Denver Health is in the clear from being held responsible to any violation of anti-discrimination protections that currently stand for specific governmental and state employees in the case of Houchin v Denver Health.
In the lawsuit filed in June of 2017, Mr. Houchin alleged he was terminated from a human resources position by an interim manager on the basis of being gay. Denver Health, however, claims that the firing was due to a two-part HIPPA violation wherein Houchin was investigating an employee that had medical services rendered by the care facility while off the clock.
While Denver Health is adamant that it fired Houchin for two patient-privacy violations within six months, the hospital is also taking the stand that even if Houchin was fired because he was gay, the hospital can’t be liable for monetary damages via a civil suit.
The recent decision ruled this case not subject to violation of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) or the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA) and will now be escalated by Houchin’s legal team to the Colorado Supreme Court. When CADA was passed alongside HB13-1136 in 2013, the general assembly mentioned only certain employees of the state were under the umbrella of governmental immunity, while omitting reference to special districts, school districts, municipalities, and county governments.
Allegations by Houchin’s team state this omission signals the Legislature’s intent that only LGBT employees working for the State of Colorado should be covered, while LGBT employees working in numerous political subdivisions should be denied equal treatment under CADA.
“Given the truly harmful impact of this decision on LGBT public servants all over Colorado, we’re joining forces with advocacy groups to seek Supreme Court review,” said Merrily Archer, Esq., M.S.W. of EEO Legal Solutions. “I wholeheartedly reject the idea that the Legislature intended to create discrete ‘protected’ and ‘unprotected’ classes of public workers.”
Denver Health has been recognized for years, on numerous occasions and through a variety of platforms, for their innovative and inclusive LGBTQ healthcare practices. Having narrowly focused on the LGBTQ community, this stance of refusal of retributions based on potential internal discrimination has caused several to question, not only the healthcare facility but the existing legal protections themselves.
In a statement to Westword in March of 2018, Denver Health claimed that they value diversity in the community and will continue to defend themselves and protect their reputation within the LGBTQ community.
So, while Denver Health has been deemed not in violation of CADA or CGIA, it brings to question: what kind of protections and monetary compensatory regulations do exist for individuals outside of these specific anti-discrimination acts, and what further legislation needs to be enacted?