Nurse Claims Kaiser Fired Her Because She Is Black
LOS ANGELES (CN) – A nurse claims Kaiser fired her because she is black, in the Central District of California.
Lena Williams sued Kaiser Permanente Medical Center for wrongful termination, racial discrimination, age discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Williams, a black woman over 50, says she started working for Kaiser in 1999 as a registered nurse until she resigned in 2006 to have breast cancer surgery. A year later, she interviewed to return to Kaiser after her treatment was complete and got her job back in the Step-Down Unit.
But when she returned, she noticed that almost all of the other black employees had either been fired or reassigned to other hospitals and replaced with mostly Filipino nurses, as well as whites and Hispanics, the complaint states.
Williams says she was the only black nurse left, and as such “was subjected to a campaign of surveillance, heightened scrutiny, threats of firing, isolation, false complaints of negligence, and secret documents placed in her personnel file.”
She claims one of the charge nurses, Antonio Ruvalcaba, constantly yelled at her in front of patients and other nurses and threatened to fire her. He also brought a knife and sharpener to work each day, making her fear for her safety.
Believing her professional reputation was being ruined by those who wanted her gone, Williams filed a complaint with Human Resources in 2010. Though she met with them twice, they never launched an investigation of her claims of harassment, according to the complaint.
When her coworkers found out she complained, they ramped up the harassment and refused to help her with her patients, which ultimately led to her termination, according to the complaint.
In July 2011, Williams says, she had two high-risk patients: a man on a narcotic intervention for post-surgery pain who kept trying to get out of bed and defecating everywhere, and an insulin-dependent patient whose hypoglycemia worsened their condition.
She went to the break room and asked the other nurses for help, but they refused because they were eating lunch or heating up food. A month later, Kaiser suspended Williams for three-and-a-half years for incompetence and gross negligence and ultimately fired her, denying her request for reinstatement though all the accusations against her were false, according to the complaint.
She claims Kaiser willfully ignored its policy so it could get rid of her, a black nurse over age 50.
“Defendant even took advantage of the fact plaintiff has cancer, which has been exacerbated,” the complaint states.
Williams seeks an injunction directing Kaiser to reinstate her, a declaration that its retaliatory conduct violated her civil rights, monetary damages to compensate her for the unequal treatment and emotional trauma, and punitive damages.
She is represented by Gloria Dredd Haney of Orange, Calif.