MADELIA — A former employee is suing Madelia Community Hospital and Clinic alleging she was fired in retaliation after she and her son questioned the former hospital CEO’s ownership in a brewery with a controversial name.
The hospital’s attorney says the plaintiff’s position was eliminated due to budget cuts.
Deidre Hruby filed a civil employment lawsuit against the hospital earlier this month in Watonwan County District Court. The suit claims the hospital violated the state’s human rights act and seeks financial damages.
According to Hruby’s complaint and the hospital’s response:
Hruby worked at the hospital from 1991 through May, most recently as director of patient care. In 2015 she started a community mental health task force along with hospital CEO Candace Fenske.
Hruby shared concern with co-workers after Fenske’s family opened Lost Sanity Brewing in Madelia in 2018. She was worried the name of the brewery and the names of its beers, such as Hopzophrenia IPA and Personality Disorder Porter, were inflammatory.
Hruby claims Fenske learned of the conversation and reprimanded her but not any of her co-workers. The hospital denies that.
Hruby’s son, Michael Hruby, also worked at the hospital as a dietary aide and served on the task force. He wrote a letter critical of the brewery’s names that was published in the Madelia newspaper.
Hospital board Chairman Dennis Arduser sent a text to Fenske that used a homophobic slur, lamented that Michael Hruby was “spouting off again” and said he wished Michael would quit.
The hospital admits that such a text message was sent.
“Defendant understands the text message was inappropriate,” the hospital’s written response acknowledges. The hospital reportedly “took appropriate action to address these matters, including extensive training conducted by reputable employment attorneys.”
A few months later, Deidre Hruby applied to become CEO after Fenske announced retirement plans. Hruby was not selected for an interview.
Hruby later talked to new CEO Jeff Mengenhausen about the text message and hospital administrators’ response and other concerns she claimed were creating a hostile working environment.
In early 2019 Hruby filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It was dismissed last March.
On April 30, Mengenhausen told Hruby her position was being eliminated, effective the next day.
Her position was cut as part of “an ongoing effort by the hospital to address a substantial budget deficit,” according to the hospital’s written response. Other positions also were cut, the response noted.
Hruby’s attorney did not respond to an invitation to comment.
Mengenhausen provided the following statement:
“Madelia Community Hospital & Clinic has been, and continues to be, committed to a working environment that respects the rights of all employees.
“We dispute the allegations in the complaint. In fact, many of those allegations were already considered and dismissed by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. We look forward to the opportunity to present the facts and we believe that the Court will ultimately dismiss the complaint.”