BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Dr. Brenda Pereda has filed in the First Judicial District Court an amended complaint for damages for violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act, interference with contractual relations and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Dr. Justin Green.
Dr. Pereda joined Los Alamos Physician Practices (LAPP) in 2020 as an obstetrician/gynecologist and had privileges at Los Alamos Medical Center. Her mission was to develop and sustain a women’s health program at Los Alamos Medical Center. Dr. Green was also employed at LAPP. Pereda was assured that she would be provided with surgical backup for her patients and the complaint notes that Green was assigned to provide that backup.
“…Dr. Green failed or refused to provide Dr. Pereda with appropriate support for her patients, behaving in a rude, intimidating and discriminatory fashion towards Dr. Pereda and other staff. Dr. Green’s resentment and hostility towards Dr. Pereda was also evident when he refused to allow her to ‘bump’ elective surgeries he was performing when she had obstetrical emergencies, including miscarriages and C-Sections, which could not be scheduled. Dr. Green’s attitudes not only undermined patient safety, but also interfered with Dr. Pereda’s ability to care for the women of Los Alamos and surrounding communities and created a hostile work environment for Dr. Pereda and others,” the complaint reads.
It goes on to say that, “In addition to bullying and treating Dr. Pereda and her staff in a disrespectful manner over surgical scheduling and ‘bumping’ practices, Dr. Green also treated Dr. Pereda like a pariah, ignoring her in the doctor’s lounge, refusing to greet her, and mocking her by referring to her publicly as an “abortionist.”
Dr. Pereda also learned from staff, the complaint states, that Dr. Green said that she should “go back to Mexico” and that there was a dart board containing a photograph of Dr. Pereda’s face, at which he was throwing darts.
“Although Dr. Pereda reported Dr. Green’s conduct towards her and patients to administrators at LAPP over the course of more than a year, even after Dr. Pereda formally complained, Dr. Green’s behaviors went unchecked, allowing him to continue and escalate his behavior towards Dr. Pereda in retaliation for her lawful complaints,” the complaint reads. “Ultimately, on March 9, 2022, Dr. Pereda met with Chief of Staff, Dr. Alan Heilpern to discuss her complaints against Dr. Green. During that meeting, Dr. Heilpern expressed empathy towards Dr. Pereda, but stated: ‘in the interest of full disclosure, I have spoken to Dr. Green about his behavior towards you and he doesn’t think he can change at 65-plus years old’.”
The complaint states that because Dr. Heilpern expressed that he did not see a solution to the issues that Dr. Pereda was raising, Dr. Pereda “felt forced to resign and was constructively discharged from her employment, because no reasonable person could be expected to continue to endure such treatment”.
Thereafter, the complaint says Dr. Pereda provided LAPP with the contractually-required notice that she would leave her employment in June 2022, so that she could ensure an orderly transition for patients.
“Within a few weeks of tendering her resignation, however, LAPP abruptly terminated Dr. Pereda’s contract. In the course of bringing forward her own claims about Dr. Green’s bullying, discriminatory and retaliatory behavior, Dr. Pereda has also received information that Dr. Green has engaged in systematic discrimination against people of color, resulting in his refusing to treat individuals in the Espanola Valley on various occasions, including in the emergency room at LAMC,” the complaint states.
The complaint alleges that many staff and physicians associated with LAMC have expressed fear about coming forward with information they have regarding Dr. Green’s behavior but that others have been forthcoming.
“For example, in April 2022, Monica Snowden, M.D., a rheumatologist who had been associated with LAMC, reported that Dr. Green had been engaging in rude and dismissive behaviors towards her and other women for some time, which were ongoing and had been ignored by administration. Following a discussion and disagreement with Dr. Green at a Medical Executive Committee, Dr. Snowden was dismissed from the Committee. This lawsuit is brought, in part, to bring awareness to the Los Alamos and surrounding communities about Dr. Green’s intolerant, bullying and discriminatory behavior towards women and people of color,” the complaint alleges.
These alleged behaviors by Dr. Green’s behaviors towards Dr. Pereda, resulted in “a hostile work environment for Dr. Pereda on the basis of her sex, race and/or national origin, caused or contributed towards her constructive discharge and termination, and constitute unlawful discriminatory practices within the meaning of NMSA 1978, Section 28-7-1(A) and Section 28-7- 1(I), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of Dr. Pereda’s opposition to unlawful discriminatory practices”, the complaint states.
Dr. Pereda claims that all this caused her to lose compensation and the benefits of her contract with LAPP, including back pay and front pay, as well as damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of professional reputation, all in an amount to be proved at trial. She is also seeking punitive damages based on Dr. Green’s conduct, which the complaint states was ‘willful, wanton, malicious and/or in reckless disregard of Dr. Pereda’s rights”.
The case is assigned to Judge Jason Lidyard. The Reporter will cover the response when it is filed with the Court.