·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Bernie Sanders Campaign Hit with Lawsuit for Demoting Staffer After Cancer Surgery

— July 14, 2020

After being demoted a day after her cancer surgery, a former staffer with the Bernie Sanders’ campaign in suing.

Bernie Sanders is in hot water after a former California political director accused him of demoting her after she underwent cancer surgery. According to the suit, Susie Shannon claims she was eventually forced to quit “after the campaign ignored her harassment and discrimination complaints.” The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday. Shannon said it was “the Sanders’ campaign’s outrageous and compassionless conduct that resulted in her forced resignation solely because she had the misfortune of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer that required major surgery to treat the disease.”

Image of a Workplace Discrimination Graphic
Workplace Discrimination Graphic; image courtesy of mohamed_hassan via Pixabay,

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Sanders’ campaign then tried to Shannon to “sign a non-disclosure agreement in return for money.” Her lawyer, Micha Star Liberty, added that the campaign “also offered her client two months of health insurance if she signed. Shannon refused.” Liberty added, “It’s so disappointing that a political campaign that purported to stand for so much, including access to healthcare and workers’ rights, would behave this way.”

According to the suit, the official that demoted Shannon was Rafael Navar. In response to the allegations, he said they are “completely false.” He added that “Shannon’s position never changed.” However, the suit alleges Navar ended up bringing on a second political director that was eventually assigned to take on Shannon’s work.

Shannon joined the Sanders’ campaign as the political director in May 2019. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with cancer that September, and informed the campaign that she had to “undergo surgery and would be on medical leave for two to six weeks.” According to the suit, she had “approximately 15 inches of tumors from the ovaries that extended into her abdominal area that was removed in the Oct. 7th operation.” A day after her surgery, “Shannon got a phone call in her hospital room from Rafael Navar, the campaign’s state director, telling her she was being demoted.” The suit further stated, “Navar bluntly stated that he had no confidence in her ability to do her job given her cancer and surgery and that he was bringing in someone else to do her job.”

Devastated by the news, Shannon immediately reached out to Chuck Rocha, a campaign adviser and Navar’s supervisor. According to the suit, he “casually responded that he supported Navar in whatever decision he decided to make.”

Concerned about losing her health insurance, Shannon planned to get back to work as soon as possible. On October 10th she was released from the hospital and began working again that morning instead of taking time to rest and recover. The suit states:

“Because Shannon had open surgery, she had hundreds of stitches inside and outside the abdominal cavity. She was not able to pick up anything, not even pots or pans. Shannon’s friends and family took shifts helping to prepare food, clean the house, and take her daughter to and from school, and had to help her move her laptop around and get to and from work events.”

Eventually, Shannon notified the campaign’s human resources director about what was going on. Even though she was assured that her complaints would be addressed, they never were. As a result, Navar, “continuously scolded, undermined, criticized and ostracized Shannon, despite her continuing to perform her duties fully and successfully.” Shannon continued to file complaints with HR, but they were ignored. In the end, Shannon “felt she had no choice but to resign.” She is now seeking unspecified money damages.


‘Compassionless’: Lawsuit says Bernie Sanders campaign demoted staffer day after cancer surgery


Join the conversation!