Black Former Kaiser Employee Alleges Discrimination
7-15-2016 02:53:00

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Kaiser systematically discriminates against black employees and retaliates when they complain, a black woman claims in Alameda County Superior Court.

     Sheila Kennedy sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Inc. and The Permanente Medical Group all doing business as Kaiser Permanente Medical Care, for employment discrimination.

     “Plaintiff Sheila Kennedy is an African American woman who was employed at Kaiser for more than 18 years. Throughout her employment, Ms. Kennedy was subject to systemic discrimination and retaliation due to her race and disability, including hostile work environment and denial of numerous employment opportunities, in the Chemical Dependency and Rehabilitation Department (CDRD) where she had worked since 2002, and throughout the Kaiser Northern California organization,” (Pg. 1, No. 1) the lawsuit states.

     Kennedy claims that although she went back to school to obtain three progressively higher chemical dependency counseling certifications, she was denied promotions that were given to less qualified non-black employees. Kaiser would not allow her to fulfill her internship requirements within the CDRD, saying it would be “confusing” (Pg. 11, No. 19a) to patients to have employees or patients in an internship role, according to the complaint. Yet Kaiser allowed non-black former Kaiser patients to do their internships there, it says. Kennedy taught a domestic violence class at Kaiser for six years, but Kaiser told her she could no longer teach it, and instead made her train a white employee to do the class, according to the complaint.

     Kennedy contends Kaiser systematically discriminates against black employees generally, not just herself. Although Kaiser employs a high numbers of black people, they are rarely promoted to management, according to the complaint.

     “Because of its discriminatory polices and practices, Kaiser retains, promotes, disciplines and terminates African Americans and African American women in statistically significant disproportionate rates, based on the proportion of qualified African Americans and African American women. This in turn has the effect of diminishing the pool of eligible African Americans and African American women for promotion to supervisory, management and executive positions. Kaiser’s pattern and practice of discrimination is so pervasive and entrenched throughout that race and race-gender discrimination can be said to be its modes of operations,” the complaint states.

     “The hostile environment grew so intolerable that plaintiff suffered mental distress leading to a psychological disability, requiring plaintiff to take a medical leave from Kaiser. Plaintiff and her treating psychologist informed Kaiser of the psychological disability, and requested reasonable accommodation, including assignment to a department which did not reflect Kaiser’s culture of race discrimination. Kaiser refused to accommodate, and it denied Ms. Kennedy access to its internal employment application process,” the complaint states.

     Sheila Kennedy seeks general, special, punitive and exemplary damages, back pay and lost benefits, injunctive relief, statutory interest, damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress, attorney fees and a jury trial. She is represented by Jeremy L. Friedman in Oakland.