Doctor claims her activism got her fired
Packard Community Clinic says Catherine Wilkerson refused to sign contract
Thursday, February 14, 2008
BY JO COLLINS MATHIS The Ann Arbor News
Ann Arbor physician Catherine Wilkerson says she's been fired from the Packard Community Clinic for her political activism.
Officials with the clinic insist that's not the case and say she was dismissed for refusing to sign an employee contract.
Wilkerson said she refused to sign the contract because it included a vague clause that violates her freedom of speech and is unlike anything she's seen in a contract in her 30 years in medicine.
"I think the clause was put in as a tool to force me out of the clinic,'' she said.
Jim Frenza, chairman of the clinic's board of trustees, said the contract is among the standard papers given to all clinic employees.
"Obviously, we're concerned because there are two stories out there,'' said Frenza. "One I think is factual, and the other is the story she's providing people.''
Frenza said several weeks ago Wilkerson was offered a contract identical to the one the clinic's other two physicians were given, and she failed to sign it within the required four weeks. She also refused to sign a letter of acceptance that went along with a new employee manual. Signing the letter is a condition of employment, he said, and others signed it.
"We obviously take a very, very strong exception to what she's saying on her Web site,'' he said, referring to www.defendwilkerson.org, which is organizing an online petition drive in support of Wilkerson.
Wilkerson, who has worked at the clinic for five years, is an outspoken critic of the local Jewish community's support for Israel.
Last December, she was found not guilty in a trial after she was charged with interfering with police and emergency responders during a disturbance at a guest lecturer's speech at the University of Michigan in November 2006.
Wilkerson claims that last October, before the trial, clinic medical director Ray Rion told her she was not a good fit for the clinic because of her political activities, citing the publicity surrounding the approaching criminal trial and her human rights activities on behalf of the Palestinian people.
Three weeks after a jury found her not guilty on Dec. 3, Wilkerson said Rion gave her a contract requiring her to refrain from conduct, both at work and outside of work, which reflects negatively on the reputation and public image of the clinic; which negatively affects the ability of the clinic to retain current patients, attract new patients or attract donations; or which may otherwise in Rion's judgment reflect poorly upon the public image of Wilkerson or the clinic.
Calls to Rion were referred to Frenza.
The clinic has offered Wilkerson a severance agreement and a letter of recommendation related to her clinical skills.
Wilkerson said she wants a contract, not a severance agreement.
Wilkerson said she's exploring her options for the future, but is still willing to sit down and negotiate a fair contract with the clinic.
Frenza said two other employees have also resigned, including her nurse and a care provider who worked one day a week. He said he's concerned about the clinic's reputation because of the controversy surrounding Wilkerson, but noted that the clinic has a 35-year history in the area with many loyal patients.
The clinic, at 3174 Packard Road, is a primary and mental health care practice that serves patients regardless of ability to pay. More than 50 percent of patients are uninsured.
Jo Mathis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-994-6849.
This was my Doctor & was 1 of the best I have ever had. She went out of her way to find out what was wrong with me. 4 years & a lot of pain. The other doctors at PCC would just give me a pill. Dr. Wilkerson would even do follow up calls to make sure I was doing ok! It seems that
McCarthyism is alive & well & is practiced at Packard Community Clinic.