Denied the right to talk publicly, male execs allege discrimination in firing a colleague

(Left to right) Matthew Lauran, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer of Centennial Medical Center, says he wasn’t fired over his gender, as his former employer Novant Health previously contended. Lauran says…

Denied the right to talk publicly, male execs allege discrimination in firing a colleague

(Left to right) Matthew Lauran, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer of Centennial Medical Center, says he wasn’t fired over his gender, as his former employer Novant Health previously contended. Lauran says Novant held him to a different standard than women with similar positions at other hospitals. Lauran, on the left, is pictured with Tammy Brown, president and CEO of Centennial Medical Center. | Sklar Smith via AP

Novant Health fired male senior vice president Matthew Lauran on June 5 for allegedly having a drinking problem. Now, Lauran is lashing out at Novant, arguing that the hospital chain mishandled the termination and could have resolved the matter differently.

Novant fired Lauran after an investigation by the employee-run Secret Room, a forum that does not require employers to keep quiet about disciplinary actions. Secret Room members posted on the Facebook page that Lauran was fired on May 30 for “subsequent non-cooperation with the Secret Room and citing three sources of underage drinking at the hospital” and two additional drunk driving incidents.

But Novant fired Lauran for claiming that Secret Room members were set up by anonymous Facebook messages that circulated days before the Secret Room post. A source close to the case says Novant had enough evidence to definitively prove the employees were not being set up.

“This is just pure nonsense, and it’s clear from all the evidence that has been released that that’s what they did,” the source close to the case told The Washington Post. “I mean, whoever released this is in for serious trouble, because they’re a real red herring.”

That source has a clearer view of Lauran’s dismissal than the public does, since Novant requires employees who get fired not only to reveal more details about their termination than Secret Room members can but also to be present at the time the Secret Room posts occur. In this case, Lauran did not attend Secret Room, and because he was staying at a business hotel that night, the Secret Room members couldn’t do anything.

The public Facebook post has sparked criticism, including by women in similarly powerful positions. But Lauran says the Secret Room post was damaging because it undermined his leadership and potentially jeopardized his standing at his new job, teaching and treating at the University of Colorado Hospital.

“Because a fired female executive posted that evening on a Facebook group, Novant made it seem like they do not prioritize equal treatment for males. Because, look, they fired me based on that accusation,” Lauran told The Post. “People are making judgments about that, but those views are biased and don’t reflect the truth.”

November’s statement made no mention of Secret Room, nor did Novant’s statement to News 4 about how Lauran’s dismissal unfolded. Novant’s corporate communications office didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

Lauran joined the Centennial Medical Center in Denver in 2012 as senior vice president of Cardiovascular Care, a division focused on treating heart disease. In January, Novant Health named Lauran senior vice president and chief medical officer at Centennial, a position he held until his dismissal.

Lauran’s lawyer Mary Bergmann said Novant selectively identified Lauran’s alleged alcohol abuse and then fired him based on that information. Lauran has not been charged with a crime.

“When Novant fired him it did not inform him of the specifics, and he had no choice but to sue because they did not inform him of the specifics and I’m not sure why,” Bergmann said.

Lauran maintains that his drinking problems have been treated fairly during his tenure at Novant, an allegation the hospital is disputing.

“In the past, and the only reason I’m discussing this, is that my vision, my promises to the patients and the community of Centennial Medical Center, have not been met, and that the reputation of Centennial Medical Center and Novant Health has not been commensurate with my abilities. It’s absolutely true,” Lauran said.

Lauran’s lawyer says she will appeal Novant’s decision to terminate Lauran, which will be determined in court. She hopes to bring a wrongful termination case and not a discrimination case against Novant because employees outside the hospital are protected from discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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