EXCLUSIVE: Jewish Cancer Counselor Sues Former Employer Over Racial Slurs, ‘White Privilege’ Claims, Retaliation

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FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—A veteran social worker who says she was fired for expressing concern over racial harassment against her as a Jewish woman and political harassment over her ties to the Trump administration is suing for wrongful termination.

Tammy Weitzman last week sued her former employer, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, now known as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, for racial and political discrimination and for retaliating against her when she spoke up about it.

“I was called a white k–e, and I was harassed over knowing a high-ranking Cabinet member in the Trump administration,” Weitzman told The Daily Signal in an exclusive interview, using an offensive term for Jewish individuals.

She had helped care for a daughter of the Trump administration official, Weitzman said.

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Weitzman’s attorney, Coalition for Liberty President Doug Turpin, recounted how the Seattle cancer center responded when his client expressed concern to her boss about the harassment. Weitzman herself, not those harassing her, ended up in hot water. The cancer center forced her to take “racial equity” training.

When Weitzman later spoke about her experiences facing harassment as a Jewish woman, the “equity” facilitators told her that she was white.

According to the lawsuit, Weitzman’s coworkers often sent her unsolicited emails condemning the Trump administration and blaming her for Trump’s policies. When she reported the harassment, the suit says, the director of the center’s human resources office told her to simply “deal with it” and warned her that she likely would face retaliation if she filed a formal complaint.

Weitzman worked as an oncology social worker, providing counseling and therapy services for cancer patients and their families.

“While other folks on the team were able to ensure that these patients had enough resources, a place to stay, and gas money to get to the clinic, my role was very clinical,” Weitzman told The Daily Signal.

Weitzman said she had wanted to work with cancer patients since her childhood because her father died of cancer when she was 5. Until her firing, she told The Daily Signal, she had been a social worker specializing in cancer patients for “almost 23 years.”

Weitzman worked at the Seattle cancer center from January 2016 to February 2021, receiving a raise and many favorable commendations for her work, but got fired abruptly Feb. 5.

Other employees repeatedly used racial slurs against her, and her supervisors ignored them or “told me [it] was no big deal,” she recalled.

An Anti-Trump Article

Nidhi Berry, who supervised “Race and Allyship” training sessions at the Seattle cancer center, had sent an anti-Trump article as a follow-up to a racial sensitivity training that Jan. 21, the day after Joe Biden became president, according to the lawsuit. That article made generalizations about Jewish people that Weitzman found offensive.

Weitzman told The Daily Signal that the article contained instructions to lecture those around her, including her cancer patients, about Trump. She said Berry asked her to use the article “to talk about racism with patients and families.”

The social worker found that highly unethical, she said, not in the least because such political posturing isn’t remotely of interest to cancer patients:

They’re concerned about their lives. Caring for cancer patients, receiving cancer treatment, working in a cancer hospital, working in any cancer facility or any medical institution should be an apolitical matter. Period. End of story.

I should not be compelled to talk to patients about politics and about President Trump and how evil the Left thinks that he is. This is wrong—and yet this is happening everywhere.

When Weitzman complained about the article to Tiffany Courtnage, her direct boss, Courtnage told her to bring up the issue directly with Berry. Weitzman objected to that approach, but ultimately followed that instruction from her boss and spoke over the phone with Berry on Jan. 21.

Although that phone conversation proved “relatively pleasant,” according to the lawsuit, one week later Berry sent an email berating Weitzman.

The Racist Email

In that email, Berry wrote to Weitzman that she was “flabbergasted that you, a white woman and fellow social worker, would choose to burden me, a woman of color, with your feelings and triggers around this post.”

Berry asserted that “Trump’s administration did inspire hate speech and violence —this is a non-negotiable fact.”

“It is the essence of white privilege to be able to focus on a tree at the expense of seeing the forest,” Berry added in the email to Weitzman. “It is the essence of white fragility to claim victimhood when you are definitely not the victim. I’m disturbed that a white woman on a social work team at a major institution like [Seattle Cancer Care Alliance] would try to play these games, would claim the status of victimhood, in the face of a woman of color, after the years of the era of Trump.”

Berry also wrote: “You’ve mentioned to me previously that you identify as Jewish, which makes this interaction from last Thursday all the more bewildering to me, considering the anti-Semitisim [that] is stoked by the hate speech and violence Trump’s administration inspired.”

Weitzman’s lawsuit argues:

In Ms. Weitzman’s view, it is the essence of racial discrimination to assume that an individual must or should hold certain political or social views, based on his or her race. Moreover, to be lumped in with members of the white race, despite her Jewish heritage, and to be told that her views on the matter of racial discrimination did not matter because being Jewish was equivalent to being white for purposes of racial discussions, was deeply offensive and disconcerting.

Berry copied Courtnage on her email, along with HR. The cancer center’s training supervisor explicitly rejected Weitzman’s request for mutual understanding and tolerance, stating: “I will not privilege you or any other white person’s comfort over the safety of people of color and Black people, and I certainly won’t privilege your comfort over equitable patient outcomes.”

An Abrupt Termination

A little over one week after Berry’s email, Weitzman met with Courtnage and Courtnage’s boss, James Jorgenson, who fired her.

According to the lawsuit, Jorgenson said the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance fired Weitzman because her “ethnicity sensitivity” and her core values did not align with the values of her employer, and Courtnage was unable to discuss the issue with her.

The cancer center’s lawyer reiterated this basis for termination, stating that “SCCA is an anti-racist organization, committed to Workplace Respect. SCCA considered the fact and substance of Ms. Weitzman’s phone call to Nidhi Berry in January 2021 to be antithetical to those values.”

The cancer center appeared not to have any other concerns with Weitzman, according to the lawsuit. Her employer tasked her with giving a presentation for an entire division, which was supposed to take place on the Monday after she was fired. And two days before Weitzman was fired, Courtnage asked her to take on two additional clinics.

Weitzman sued the cancer center along with Courtnage as her direct boss, Courtnage’s boss Jorgenson, and Berry. She argues in the suit that the cancer center and her former supervisors violated federal law, Washington state law, and the Seattle Municipal Code by discriminating against her on the basis of race and retaliating against her on the basis of race and political views.

She seeks compensatory damages of at least $75,000, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.

Weitzman and Doug Turpin, president of the Coalition for Liberty, joined The Daily Signal for an exclusive interview delving into the events surrounding her treatment and firing by the cancer center.

Turpin said that the Coalition for Liberty, which opposes cancel culture and advocates free speech, is determined to right this wrong: 

Tammy, in my mind, is a true hero because she’s standing up to try to prevent this kind of thing from happening to other people. They took away her dream since she was a little girl, after seeing her father suffer from cancer. [The dream] was to help cancer patients, and that’s all she ever wanted.

[The cancer center] should pay for what they’ve done, but we’re also looking to send a message out there that this is wrong. This type of behavior is not going to be something that organizations and individuals can get away with. They can’t practice cancel culture and expect that they’re going to be getting away with it without consequences any longer.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle didn’t respond to The Daily Signal’s Dec. 27 request for comment on the case before publication time.

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