Fired for Reporting Blood Safety Violations, Woman Claims
SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – A phlebotomist claims Kaiser fired her for taking disability leave and reporting safety concerns regarding blood handling, in a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.
Maria Cervantes sued Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Lisa Parker, her supervisor, for race and disability discrimination, failure to accommodate disabilities, interference with leave rights, hostile work environment, retaliation and wrongful termination.
Cervantes says she started working for Kaiser in August 2004 and received excellent performance reviews until she asked for time off to heal from several disabilities, including shoulder pain from a rotator cuff impingement and severe headaches.
Though she qualified for leave under California Family Right Act (CFRA) guidelines, Kaiser refused her request and "ordered the plaintiff to work without any accommodation," according to the complaint.
Kaiser also did not designate all of her CFRA leave as protected or give her all proper notices related to the leave, including guarantees of reinstatement, to discourage her from taking it, the complaint states.
Cervantes claims Kaiser denied her CRFA leave because she is Latina. Kaiser also harassed her for complaining about the discrimination by, among other things, giving her false disciplinary write-ups, denying her requested shifts, assigning her routes with the longest drive times, and ultimately firing her for pretextual reasons, according to the complaint.
Cervantes says she also reported several safety and patient care violations, including the falsification of patient records, not using proper protocol or equipment when drawing blood, improper storage of contaminated needles, and people drawing blood at patients’ homes without authorization or supervision.
Under the law, phlebotomists must minimize splashing or spattering of blood droplets during blood withdrawal procedures, wash their hands with soap and water immediately after coming in contact with blood and other bodily fluids, and store contaminated needles in special puncture-resistant and leak-proof containers affixed with warning labels, according to the complaint.
Though retaliating against an employee who reports violations of these safety procedures is illegal, Kaiser did it anyway, with her ethnicity and disabilities as motivating factors, Cervantes says.
After firing her, Kaiser replaced her with able-bodied non-Latinos who were not as qualified to fulfill her duties and responsibilities, the complaint states.
Cervantes seeks special, punitive, and exemplary damages for disability discrimination, race discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, and refusal to accommodate her disabilities.
She also wants reimbursement for lost wages and employment benefits, a declaration that Kaiser violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and injunctions preventing it from further violating the act.
She is represented by Scott Cummings with Cummings & Franck of Gardena.