NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York State will pay $1.5 billion to settle a federal lawsuit seeking to restore a medical assistant’s retirement benefits, state officials said on Thursday.
The settlement agreement between the state of New York and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) came after the state and a union that represents health care workers, the Association of Medical Assistants (AMA), agreed to resolve a class action lawsuit filed by the AMA.
The state, which is seeking $4.7 billion, will pay the state’s former medical assistant, Deborah Smith, a total of $1,942,813.
The state is also paying the union $1 million in damages.
Smith was a medical aide for the state for about a year in 2011 when she was fired after reporting a medical condition to state health officials and being refused benefits, the state said in a statement.
The medical assistant is the first member of the medical staff to be fired since a federal law took effect on Jan. 1 that prevents employers from firing workers for medical conditions.
The agreement will also ensure that the state will continue to reimburse the AMA for expenses incurred in defending the lawsuit.
Smith and other medical assistants will receive a combined $5.9 million in retirement benefits for the next 30 years, state Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Carolyn Loughlin said in the statement.
Smith’s attorney, Stephen Frupp, said the settlement does not change the scope of the suit and that the attorney general is still reviewing the settlement agreement.
Smith will receive $7.3 million, and the state is providing $4 million in payments for other state employees, Loughin said in an email.