Blacks Work More, For Less, at Kaiser, IT Worker Claims
11-5-2013 23:54:00

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A black Kaiser data consultant maintained an entire department by himself, then was forced out when additional employees were hired, he says in a California Superior Court complaint.
     Etienne Ndedi is a black man born in Cameroon, Africa, and later lived in France, but earned his master’s degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.
     He has worked as a data consultant at Kaiser headquarters since 2000, but says he was a target of discrimination from day one, starting with his direct supervisor, Michael Emery.
     “From the beginning, Emery was unfriendly, reluctant to answer his questions about the computer system and programming in that language, and complained that, in his opinion, Ndedi made too much money,” according to the complaint.
     Ndedi tried to talk to the man who hired him, Dale Harrington, but was told to address his complaints directly with Emery. He was replaced, however, by Thomas Billings, who did not treat Ndedi much different than Emery did.
     Ndedi received negative work reviews and comments despite successfully developing a program with specific, requested characteristics, he claims.
     “In late February, Billings and Harrington offered Ndedi the choices to (a) apply for other jobs at Kaiser, (b) accept a lower position while he received training to return to being a data consultant in a few months, or (c) be fired,” the complaint states.
     Ndedi was being discriminated against based on his race and French accent, Ndedi says, but was nevertheless compelled to accept a lower position and take classes he was overqualified for, believing he would be re-instated afterward.
     Ndedi says he was actually forced to take a substantial pay cut, causing him to send his family back to France, near relatives, and was never returned to his former pay scale after taking a C++ class he had already taken as a graduate student.
     “For the past seven years, until recently, Ndedi essentially single-handedly reengineered an adequate process to meet Kaiser’s data quality and quantity obligations vis-à-vis the Medi-Cal plan partners and the State of California, despite serious resource constraints that were well-known to individuals at the highest levels of the organization. The process involved collecting, digesting and presenting data to secure public funding for healthcare of patients who cannot afford to pay full rates,” according to the complaint.
     Ndedi has been expected to run the Medi-Cal process by himself and was forced to work long hours, including weekends, skip lunch and rest breaks, and spend a significant time traveling to meet with other Kaiser personnel around the state. In addition, Kaiser managers have forced him to used unethical practices in his data figures.
     “At times, Ndedi’s managers’ unethical demands regarding data integrity severely stressed [him], as he sought to stay compliant with federal and state rules pertaining to data processing and submission for capital payments,” the complaint states.
     Ndedi said he wanted to remove the rules violations from the system, but was opposed by managers who were inexperienced and “misguided by their motivation for self-promotion.”
     In 2006, Ndedi began working with a new director, Gwendolyn Isaac, who he claims became romantically interested, but retaliated professionally when he did not reciprocate. Ndedi concedes leading her along “to an extent,” but only in hopes she would hire employees to help him and give him a much-deserved raise.
     That didn’t happen.
     Isaac hired more employees, but forced Ndedi to pass his knowledge on to them with the intent of eventually replacing him.
     “Ndedi was not promoted or given a pay increase. Instead, he was ordered to transfer all his knowledge, methods, contacts, etc. to other personnel. He was also told that for ‘political’ reasons, he would need to have a less prominent role in the Medi-Cal process in terms of communications with other people at the Kaiser organization and the government. The individuals hired into the process area were not as educationally or experientially qualified as Ndedi, yet they were expected to assume essentially the same role,” the complaint states.
     He later discovered that he was being paid less than the people hired to take over the Medi-Cal process and alleges he spoke to a former Kaiser employee, a black man, who said he had been discriminated against for his race and was ultimately forced to quit.
     The last straw, Ndedi says, is when Kaiser supervisors forced him to check in every day and continue working during his paid time off, to help his ailing father. He filed the Department of Fair Employment and Housing complaint and received his right to sue letter on Oct. 21.
     Ndedi is suing for discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment and unpaid wages in violation of state law. He is seeking general, compensatory, special and punitive damages, on top of payment of his full salary.
     Cody Jaffe, in San Francisco, represents the plaintiff.