Queen’s doctor settle lawsuit

Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Queen’s Medical Center yesterday reached a $150,000 settlement with a former University of Hawai’i medical researcher who had claimed the hospital violated his civil rights.

The settlement between the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Hawai’i’s largest private hospital does not admit any wrongdoing on the part of the hospital but was done to avoid further court expenses, the commission said.

Dr. Shyamal Premaratne, a legal resident of Sri Lanka who was never employed by Queen’s, had told the commission that he was being discriminated against. Premaratne worked on a UH lab at Queen’s and said he was not allowed to continue working at the lab because of his national origin.

When he complained, a Queen’s attorney contacted the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services in June 1996 to withdraw its support for a permanent visa application.

In a statement released yesterday, the hospital said the first letter was written on Queen’s letterhead without its knowledge and by a person not employed by Queen’s. The hospital also said that it felt it “necessary and proper” to write to the INS to clarify the situation.

“To date, court litigation has not found enough evidence to support or deny the retaliation claim,” the hospital stated. “However, due to the lengthy passage of time, loss of critical witnesses and the continued cost of litigation, The Queen’s Medical Center has settled the claim.”

The 1996 letter prompted INS deportation hearings, said EEOC trial attorney Elizabeth Jubin Fujiwara. Premaratne was not deported, but Fujiwara said he was shut out by the Hawai’i medical community.

“He was forced to move to the Mainland because he couldn’t get work here,” she said.

The 44-year-old Premaratne now works in Richmond, Va. He is in the midst of applying for U.S. citizenship, Fujiwara said.

Premaratne also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against UH. His attorney, Susan Ichinose, could not be reached for comment but Fujiwara said an out of court settlement is close to being signed.

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