NEW YORK, N.Y.—A dietitian at senior centers run by the Archdiocese of New York was suspended indefinitely after she posted on social media denouncing Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s celebration of the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade.
“I am ashamed to be employed by and disappointed in @archcare and @NY_Arch, a company that devalues women as they do not support abortion,” Lara Cemo posted on Twitter June 24. “I see where I and my fellow uterus-having coworkers stand.” It was in response to Cardinal Dolan’s statement “We give thanks to God for today’s decision of the United States Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This just decision will save countless innocent children simply waiting to be born.”
Cemo told LaborPress that she had made similar posts on Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Reviews, and ArchCare 360, the private social-media platform run by ArchCare, the Archdiocese’s agency that runs nursing homes and senior centers.
When she tried to post a message about a fund to aid women seeking abortions on ArchCare, she said, the administrator blocked it, but she posted it in the comments, she said. She also posted a comment angry about the Archdiocese’s support for Witness for Life, a group that holds monthly protests at abortion clinics in the city, “harassing patients,” she says. On Twitter, she reposted a message from NYC for Abortion Rights for a July 2 counterprotest at Planned Parenthood’s Lower Manhattan clinic: “Join us for our monthly clinic defense and help block Witness for Life/@NY_Arch from harassing patients + abortion providers.”
“I was upset about the Archdiocese’s being happy about Roe v. Wade being overturned,” Cemo says. “It makes me feel less human as a woman, as a person with a uterus, so I called them out on it.”
On June 28, Cemo found that she’d been blocked from ArchCare 360. The next morning, she was on her way to work when a woman from Human Resources called her and told her she’d been suspended pending an investigation of her posts. She says the woman told her, “It’s not what you said, it’s that you did it on company time.”
But a copy of the disciplinary notice that she provided to LaborPress said that her “unacceptable conduct” was that she had “used ArchCare’s equipment to inappropriately post and incite protests against the organization and the Archdiocese of New York.”
Cemo said she had made the posts while on break, not when she was working. “I’ve never gotten in trouble for using ArchCare 360 on the clock,” she says. She’d been working there since October as a nutrition coordinator at clinics and senior centers in the Bronx and Westchester County, assessing people’s diets, prescribing nutritional supplements, and counseling people with diabetes.
However, when the woman from Human Resources was vague about what the consequences of the investigation might be, she says, “that felt like I was probably getting fired,” so she decided to quit before that could happen.
All the coworkers she talked to supported abortion rights, she said.
Cemo, 29, says she’d never been involved with politics or activism before, but that the Supreme Court decision had affected her “in the worst way.” She’s now going to abortion-rights protests regularly.
“I stand by my decision to call them out,” she says. “I think people should be able to speak up about their values at work and hold their employers accountable without fear of being retaliated against.”
But her job, unlike some of ArchCare’s nursing homes, did not have a union.