D-H Disputes Chaplain’s Discrimination Accusation

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/13/2018 12:17:25 AM
Modified: 6/13/2018 9:12:03 AM

Lebanon — Dartmouth-Hitchcock denies discriminating against a former Nigerian-born chaplain who has sued the health system, according to a court document filed last week.

D-H filed the document in U.S. District Court in Concord last Friday in response to a lawsuit the Rev. John Nwagbaraocha filed in April.

In his lawsuit, the 64-year-old priest and Enfield resident alleged that D-H and his direct supervisor, Frank Macht, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s director of chaplaincy, discriminated against him based on his national origin, race, religion and age.

But the hospital system, in the filing, said it denies “that the plaintiff was subjected to any form of discrimination during his employment as a chaplain.”

D-H denies the allegations of discrimination because “no similarly-situated employees” of a different national origin, race, religion or age were treated differently than Nwagbaraocha.

Nwagbaraocha was born in Abia State, Nigeria, according to the April 17 lawsuit. In Nigeria, he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1980. He later moved to the United States and became a U.S. citizen.

He worked as a hospital chaplain in Nigeria, Louisiana and Vermont before coming to work at DHMC in February 2014. He was 63 years old in November, when he alleges D-H wrongfully terminated him.

Nwagbaraocha’s lawsuit alleged that the discrimination included requiring him to work more hours than non-Catholic members of the department, Macht’s refusal to meet with him to discuss these hours, and criticism of his communication style — which the lawsuit described as his “accented speech and Nigerian manner of communicating.”

Through these actions, the lawsuit alleged that D-H violated the Civil Rights Act, a state law against discriminatory practices and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

But in its response D-H said it cannot be held liable under the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act or state law “because all actions taken by defendants with regard to plaintiff were legitimate and non-discriminatory.”

It also said that Nwagbaraocha’s claims are barred “whole or in part” because he failed to exhaust administrative remedies.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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