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; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Everett
Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
On Juneteenth: ‘We can always say that there is hope’

The Snohomish County NAACP is co-sponsoring a celebration Saturday near Snohomish, with speakers, music and food.

Rep. Rick Larsen speaks at the March For Our Lives rally on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Larsen kickoff in Everett canceled over fear of pro-Palestinian protesters

The event had been scheduled to take place at the Scuttlebutt Brewing Taproom on Monday night.

After 3 years in jail, Camano murder suspect’s trial delayed again

In February 2021, prosecutors allege, Dominic Wagstaff shot and killed his father, shot his brother’s girlfriend and tried to shoot his brother.

The access loop trail on the Old Sauk Trail on Monday, May 27, 2024 in Darrington, Washington. (Ta'Leah Van Sistine / The Herald)
10 accessible trails to explore this summer in Snohomish County

For people with disabilities, tree roots and other obstacles can curb access to the outdoors. But some trails are wheelchair-friendly.

Everett NewsGuild members cheer as a passing car honks in support of their strike on Monday, June 24, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett Herald newsroom strikes amid layoffs

“We hope that people who live in these communities can see our passion, because it’s there,” said Sophia Gates, one of 12 Herald staffers who lost jobs last week.

A person wears a pride flag in their hat during the second annual Arlington Pride at Legion memorial Park in Arlington, Washington, on Saturday, July 22, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Judge blocks parts of Washington’s new parental rights law

The South Whidbey School District is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the law giving parents access to counseling records for their children.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Gold Bar in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Fire destroys Gold Bar home along U.S. 2

The sole resident was not home at the time of the fire. No one was injured.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.