Kaiser Fired Lab Assistant on Trumped-Up Charges, She Claims
OAHU, Hawaii (CN) - Kaiser managers harassed a lab assistant who reported ethnic bias and a co-worker’s drug use, she claims in Hawaii’s First Circuit Court.
Valerie Arakaki sued Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and human resources supervisor/manager Josie Idica.
According to Arakaki’s complaint, her immediate supervisor, who is of Filipino descent, passed her over for a promotion, giving it instead to a less-qualified candidate whose ancestry was also Filipino. She says he told her the other person was “a better fit” for the open position, at a lab “where there were ‘more Filipinos.’”
Arakaki says she has "Portuguese and Puerto Rican ancestry.”
When Arakaki complained to Kaiser’s human resources department, Kaiser admitted that she was the more-qualified applicant and should have been selected for the position, she says. But, “while defendant hospital reversed its decision after plaintiff’s complaint, the incident engendered such hostility toward plaintiff that she was forced to undergo counseling to deal with the stress,” her complaint states.
Later that same year, Arakaki says, she and her co-workers “believed that a co-worker was abusing powerful prescription pain medication at work, and that she might be obtaining the medication illegally.” They complained about it for several months before Kaiser investigated and decided they were right, Arakaki says.
After that, Arakaki’s supervisor and human resources supervisor/manager Josie Idica, who is also of Filipino ancestry, Arakaki says, “initiated groundless investigations" of her. Arakaki says these included investigations that she had committed “time fraud, waste and abuse” and vague compliance infractions, and that she had performed lab tests on herself.
The co-worker who accused her of doing lab tests on herself, Arakaki’s complaint states, was the same one she had reported for drug abuse. The complaint also states that these accusations were based on illegal recordings the co-worker had made of her conversations with others.
Arakaki’s complaint says that she denied the charge and cooperated with the investigation, and that she was exonerated.
Nonetheless, Idica continued her investigation into Arakaki’s supposed lab tests on herself, and then fired her for “giving herself a ‘flu test.’ Plaintiff unequivocally denied improperly giving herself a flu test,” her complaint states.
Arakaki seeks back pay and future loss of earnings, special, compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, prejudgment interest and costs of this action. She is represented by Roman F. Amaguin of Honolulu.