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Queens Senator Calls for Blood Lab Probe After Discrimination Claims Revealed

A BioReference lab on Centre Street, in Lower Manhattan
A BioReference lab on Centre Street, in Lower Manhattan
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A state senator from Queens is calling on state officials to investigate BioReference Laboratories, following THE CITY’s story about six employees — all women of Chinese descent — alleging years of unequal pay and discriminatory work conditions.

Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, whose district stretches from Woodside and Elmhurst to Flushing and Bayside, sent letters Monday to Attorney General Letitia James and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli requesting a thorough review of BioReference’s tens of millions of dollars in government contracts and the firm’s employment practices.

“On BioReference’s website, they list a detailed code of conduct and business ethics that they are clearly ignoring,” Stavisky said in a statement. “We should not be conducting business with a company that fails to treat their employees equally and fairly.”

The company’s Code of Conduct and Business Ethics includes nine practices, such as “lawful and ethical behavior” required at all times, “good employee relations” and a commitment to “provide a work environment free from harassment.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky speaks at the Capitol Building in Albany, June 1, 2021.
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky speaks at the Capitol Building in Albany, June 1, 2021.
New York Senate Media Services

The six women in THE CITY’s story published Sunday are current and former phlebotomists who conducted blood and COVID tests for BioReference, who worked at branches in the city’s Chinatowns in Lower Manhattan, Flushing and Sunset Park.

The women have retained The Legal Aid Society as counsel and recently filed federal discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

They allege they were paid much less than non-Chinese colleagues, despite performing myriad responsibilities like janitorial work outside of their job description, and were routinely treated inhumanely — including one woman who says she was told she shouldn’t get pregnant.

The employees also say they were made to test patients for COVID-19 without being given adequate safety protections.

State Contracts Eyed

Legal Aid’s Carmela Huang, supervising attorney with the Employment Law Unit, welcomed Stavisky’s call for an investigation.

“No New Yorker should have to suffer from this kind of racism at work — especially by companies that contract with New York State,” Huang said. “BioReference must be held to account, and we urge Attorney General James and Comptroller DiNapoli to launch respective investigations at once.”

Medical workers Yan Ling Xu, left, and Huimin who asked that her last name be withheld, say they were discriminated against by the lab that employed them, June 17, 2021.
Medical workers Yan Ling Xu, left, and Huimin who asked that her last name be withheld, say they were discriminated against by the lab that employed them, June 17, 2021.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

In her letter to the attorney general, Stavisky noted “BioReference has millions of dollars in contracts with both New York City and New York State,” including with the state Department of Corrections.

The New Jersey-based laboratory services company has two active contacts with DOCCS, amounting to more than $56 million dollars for lab services, records show.

BioReference also has an active $73,000 contract for blood storage with the FDNY.

The company declined comment for Sunday’s story and did not respond Monday to questions about Stavisky’s letters.

Representatives for James and DiNapoli weren’t available for comment.

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