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D-H, fired Nigerian-born chaplain reach settlement on lawsuit

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/17/2020 9:53:26 PM
Modified: 2/17/2020 9:53:22 PM

CONCORD — Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a Nigerian-born chaplain, who alleged that he lost his job at the Lebanon hospital because of employment discrimination, including criticism from his boss, a fellow clergyman, about his accent and demeanor.

The Rev. John Nwagbaraocha, who is also known as Father John, first filed suit in U.S. District Court in Concord in April 2018, alleging that D-H and his direct supervisor Frank Macht, DHMC’s director of chaplaincy, discriminated against him based on his national origin, race, religion and age. Nwagbaraocha, a Roman Catholic priest and a U.S. citizen who is originally from Nigeria, was employed by DHMC from February of 2014 until his firing in November of 2017 at the age of 63.

D-H, Macht and Nwagbaraocha filed a “joint notice of settlement” with the court on Feb. 11.

The notice said the parties are “finalizing the settlement documents,” which they expect to be signed soon.

The parties said in the filing they expect to submit a notice of dismissal to all claims in the case within 60 days.

Nwagbaraocha, his Norwich-based attorney Geoffrey Vitt and D-H spokespeople did not return messages seeking comment Monday. An automated reply email from Macht said he is out of the office until next week.

D-H, in court filings, disputed Nwagbaraocha’s claims, saying he was fired due to “performance issues,” including a lack of clarity in his speech and writing, his tendency to “initiate and invite hugs” and complaints from D-H staff members about “judgmental” comments he made and his failure to listen appropriately to staff who were “emotionally distressed.”

After news of Nwagbaraocha’s firing and lawsuit first broke, a number of community members and patients he worked with expressed public support for him.

Last October, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Landya McCafferty allowed most of Nwagbaraocha’s claims to proceed, saying in her Oct. 28 order that “there is sufficient evidence in the record” to support his claims on eight counts related to D-H’s discrimination against him based on his national origin, race, religion and age. McCafferty dismissed two other claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

McCafferty also allowed four counts against Macht to proceed, including allegations that Macht discriminated against Nwagbaraocha based on his national origin, race, religion and age in violation of a New Hampshire statute related to equal employment opportunity. She dismissed four other counts against Macht.

The case was slated to go to trial next month.

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




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