Kaiser Refused to Address Bad Behavior, Employee Says
11-23-2013 02:53:00

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - Kaiser refused to address a black employee’s hostile behavior, ostensibly to avoid a racial harassment complaint, a white employee says in a racial harassment complaint filed in Sacramento County Superior Court.
     Valerie Kerste sued Kaiser Foundation Hospital aka Kaiser Permanente for violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of wage and labor statutes and unfair competition.
     Kerste says she had worked for Kaiser for eight years and, at the time of the incidents spurring her lawsuit, was an Administrative Nursing Supervisor and Bed Flow Director, an hourly position. According to Kerste’s complaint, the trouble began around Dec. 2008 with the creation of her current work department, the Bed Hub. It was at that time that an African-American employee, referred to in the complaint as “Clerk,” started engaging in “disruptive, insubordinate conduct in the Bed Hub which became so pervasive that it created a hostile work environment,” the complaint states.
     According to the complaint, Clerk “was disrespectful in her demeanor and/or abusive in her verbal responses to Kerste, ignored and/or failed to follow instructions, and refused to look at or speak to Kerste and other Nursing Supervisors so as to obstruct Kerste’s ability to work . . . failed and refused to respond to Kerste’s requests for assistance, disappeared from her duty station for lengthy periods of time without explanation requiring Kerste to perform Clerk’s tasks in addition to her own, slept during her shift, intimidated Kerste by making audio tape recordings of Kerste’s discussions with other supervisors, removed and hid personal items belonging to supervisors, continually complained that she did not know how to do required duty tasks she had previously been trained to perform, was deceitful in the workplace regarding tasks she allegedly completed or regarding instructions she received, hung up the phone whenever Kerste called her, told Kerste that she was not permitted to speak to Kerste by upper management and made snide remarks about Kerste to other employees in Kerste’s presence . . . threw items across the room and against the wall, slammed furniture around in the office and engaged in annoying conduct such as soiling official hospital paperwork by throwing it onto Kerste’s open food containers, snapped chewing gum, drummed her fingers on the desk, crunched ice and hummed or sang in the workplace . . . performed excessive cleaning in the Bed Hub with non-authorized toxic cleaning chemicals that made Kerste, during a period of pregnancy, and other employees physically sick.”
     But when Kerste, who was not Clerk’s direct supervisor, and others complained to management, “Kaiser did nothing to eliminate the hostile work environment,” the complaint says. Instead, “Kaiser required Kerste to work remotely from a waiting room on her cell phone,” it continues.
     “On information and belief, a member of Kaiser’s upper management who attempted to address the hostile work environment claims was advised not to get involved and/or transferred to another facility,” Kerste alleges.
     In her complaint, Kerste says management made “comments that Kaiser could not eliminate the hostile environment and concurrent harassment by Clerk for fear that Clerk, who is African American, would make claims against Kaiser for racial discrimination.” According to the complaint, management retaliated against Kerste by subjecting her to unwarranted surveillance and reprimands, denying her bonuses and overtime and making defamatory comments about her, including that she had a “bad attitude” and was “not a team player.”
     Kerste says that Clerk’s behavior and Kaiser’s inaction and retaliation have given her “physical illness, hair loss, shock, worry, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, fear, loss of sleep, depression, mental anguish, angst, uncertainty, nervousness, damage to her nervous system, loss of emotional tranquility, related mental and physical injuries and mental distress.”
     Kerste seeks punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs of suit. She is represented by Patricia Kramer of Neasham & Kramer in Gold River.