Dentist must pay $770K in gender discrimination suit

2020 03 04 22 13 2425 Gavel Money 400

A Washington jury ordered a dentist and his practice manager to pay about $770,000 to a former dental assistant who filed a suit claiming she was wrongfully fired for being a woman, according to a news article published on October 14 in the Daily News.

Dr. Sam Wise and his clinic manager and wife Rima Wise must pay Darci Cooper because the jury found that the couple discriminated against her, creating a hostile work environment, according to the story. Cooper filed a lawsuit against her employer in 2020.

For almost three years, Wise operated Lower Columbia Oral Health in Washington until he was evicted in February 2022, according to the story. Currently, he is practicing in Texas.

Capping a four-day trial, the jury found that Wise breached contracts with Cooper by failing to give her bonuses during certain pay periods, as well as denying compensation for working during lunches. Additionally, the jury agreed that the dental assistant's reporting of Wise's conduct to the state employment department was a major factor in the dentist's decision to fire her.

Court records revealed text messages from the dentist that stated women who didn't want to work at places where they were referred to as "sexy" or "hot" should leave. Also, a 2020 work policy from the practice included rules stating that women were required to wear makeup and perfume and would be provided if female employees were unable to pay for these items, according to the story.

Furthermore, it stated that employees were not to consider the dentist's statements as harassment or inappropriate or offensive, and employees were mandated to post positive reviews and 'like' all pages related to the business, according to the story.

Additionally, witnesses testified at the trial that the dentist regularly discussed the weight and physical looks of female patients and employees. During the trial, Sam Wise admitted to laying dental instruments on the chests of female patients rather than putting them on trays, according to the story.

Enforcement action is pending against Wise, according to the Washington State Department of Health. The department is reviewing allegations that he prescribed his wife a weight-loss drug for sleep apnea in Washington in 2019, according to the state.

In January 2020, publications began reporting that former patients and employees were leaving negative comments on review sites and social media about Wise. They accused the dentist of unprofessional, discriminatory behavior; having questionable ethics; and engaging in mental abuse. One patient created a petition to prevent Wise from mentally or physically harming others.

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