Fired after maternity leave, local eye doctor sues surgery clinics

Alana Curatola is suing Northwest Eye Surgeons, saying she was abruptly fired in Everett when she returned from unpaid leave.

Alana Curatola with her medical scribe Kevin Nguyen on last day of work prior to maternity leave on April 2022. (Photo provided by Alana Curatola)

Alana Curatola with her medical scribe Kevin Nguyen on last day of work prior to maternity leave on April 2022. (Photo provided by Alana Curatola)

EVERETT — An eye doctor was fired from her surgeon’s office the day she returned from unpaid maternity leave, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court.

Alana Curatola alleges, leading up to her abrupt firing in 2022, her workplace at Northwest Eye Surgeons became hostile when she got pregnant with her first child.

On Friday, Curatola’s attorney Beth Bloom said the lawsuit filed this month was for “women everywhere” facing discrimination in the workplace.

“There’s this stereotype that women can’t really be dedicated employees and also dedicated mothers,” Bloom told The Daily Herald. “We gotta break this stereotype.”

Reached by phone for comment on the lawsuit Friday, an attorney for Northwest Eye Surgeons, Adam Pankratz, laughed and said he would check with his clients. He didn’t provide comment before The Daily Herald’s deadline.

In 2017, the clinic hired Curatola as an optometric physician, primarily working in Renton and Northgate for the next five years.

In the months leading up to her maternity leave, Curatola “led the charge” advocating for a new wage scale for optometrists, she told The Herald. She believed the salary proposed by the company did not properly compensate doctors for the amount of patients they saw.

“I wasn’t shy about voicing concerns,” Curatola said. “It felt like I always had a target on my back for being this assertive female employee who was voicing concerns about the work environment and the lack of resources and wages.”

Her supervisors at Northwest Eye Surgeons got upset with Curatola, surprised she had the “audacity” to advocate for a raise before going on leave, the complaint alleges. The physician alleged management made other hostile comments to her before she left, reportedly telling her to “keep her baby inside” due to a heavy workload.

In May 2022, Curatola went on her scheduled 18-week leave, as required by state law, the complaint read. The plaintiff arranged for a reduced schedule upon her return and other accommodations, like time for breast pumping breaks.

When she returned in September 2022, her supervisors had canceled her first clinic, Curatola said.

Regional Clinic Director Mary Napolitano instead set up a meeting in the company’s Everett office to talk about an “overpayment of salary,” according to the complaint. In the meeting, Curatola was abruptly fired for allegedly mistreating her coworkers. Leadership reportedly did not provide any further details on the allegations.

“The only thing that changed from when I left for maternity leave to when I was terminated was the fact that I had a baby,” Curatola said. “It sent a clear message they didn’t value me as a person, as a new mom. … It was shocking.”

The plaintiff accused the company’s CEO Spencer Michael and CFO Lance Baldwin of making the decision to fire her.

Clinic Administrator Cristina Lynn announced Curatola’s termination to staff, reportedly emphasizing she was not fired because of her leave.

“Everyone was SHOCKED and SHOOK,” a coworker reportedly texted the plaintiff.

“It’s a disgrace, and I can’t wrap my mind around it,” another wrote. “No one can frankly.”

Prior to her termination, Curatola said her collegues and patients made her office a “home away from home.”

“I have so much support and such close relationships with my collegues,” Curatola said. “So it just was like a knife in the (chest).”

Curatola said the firing has taken a mental and financial toll on her, at a time when she is trying to focus on her child. The plaintiff and her lawyers are demanding damages for emotional harm and lost wages.

“I want to hold the company accountable for what they did and what they took from me,” she said, “but also I want to prevent this from happening to other women in the future.”

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434;; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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