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Ex-epidemiologist sues New Mexico Department of Health, claiming discrimination

January 4, 2019

A former epidemiologist at the New Mexico Department of Health is suing the agency over allegations she was discriminated against because she is Syrian and faced retaliation after she complained.

Diana Wilkerson was hired as the asthma program manager epidemiologist in December 2016, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in state District Court in Santa Fe. She was born in Syria, the lawsuit says, and became a U.S. citizen in 2012.

Her lawyers allege in the complaint that Wilkerson had been working at the agency for only a month before she started to experience a “hostile work environment.” During 2017, the lawsuit says, Wilkerson was embarrassed during meetings, physically assaulted, threatened and coerced “to sign off on plagiarized material for work.”

The lawsuit alleges Wilkerson’s supervisors refused to pay her for working the program’s on-call phone, while her “supervisor reimbursed her non-Syrian coworkers.”

After Wilkerson complained to human resources about the way she was treated, the suit alleges, both her supervisor and human resources staff harassed her.

As a result of her work environment, the lawsuit says, Wilkerson had to take sick and vacation leave between January 2017 and January 2018.

The lawsuit does not specify when Wilkerson left the Department of Health or the circumstances of her departure. She now lives in Fort Worth, Texas, the suit says.

Neither Wilkerson’s lawyers nor spokespeople from the New Mexico Department of Health could be reached for comment late Wednesday. Wilkerson is suing for lost earnings, including wages and pension, attorney fees and “damages for her mental anguish and humiliation,” the suit says.

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