Concern Over Safety Gets Nurse Berated and Canned, He Claims
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (CN) – A former Kaiser nurse claims the company fired him to avoid dealing with patient care, training, and wage problems he brought up, in a complaint filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Andrei Belorousou sued Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, alleging disability discrimination, and discrimination based on national origin, harassment, retaliation, defamation, and health and safety code violations.
“Within the Kaiser system, being ‘Kaiserized’ is a type of fraternity initiation process,” Belorousou says in his 44-page complaint. “This initiation essentially guarantees Kaiser medical staff will obey instructions, even if that means placing patients’ safety at risk, cutting corners, or adhering to the code of silence. Behind the scenes, being ‘Kaiserized’ is very dark. It’s manipulation and threats, and encompasses a hostile work environment where nurses, at least the good ones, are told to keep their mouths shut when it comes to patient safety violations."
While working as a nurse at the Kaiser hospital in San Jose, Belorousou says he "discovered dangerous practices that created and environment in which patients receive unsafe medical care. Plaintiff complained of a lack of proper training and equipment, unsafe nursing practices, and a toxic culture of blame and prioritizing appearance and petty concerns over education and patient safety."
Instead of listening to a nurse who had “thrived” at his job for the past 20 years, Kaiser chose to retaliate against him, assassinate his character, and ultimately fire him, he claims.
He first started working for Kaiser in 2005. During his time at Kaiser he earned several awards and promotions for his skills, industriousness, and service as a mentor for other nurses, according to the complaint.
Everything changed in 2015, when Kaiser hired a new staff nurse, I Hung Liu, who snapped at other nurses and patients. Given her attitude, Belorousou says he quickly determined that Liu was a threat to patient safety and, when asked by his manager, agreed that she needed to go.
In the months after this conversation, Belorousou made several payroll complaints with HR, including lack of overtime payment and vacation accrual, and raised training issues with his manager, such as inadequate education on how to handle patients or use various equipment.
Instead of taking his complaints seriously, Belorousou says, his manager punished him for speaking up by, among other things, removing him from a patient to berate him, almost costing the patient his life; refusing to let him work extra shifts; suspending him for no reason; demoting him from his role as nurse-leader; and assigning him extra-long, back-to-back shifts in patient care.
These changes were not only humiliating for Belorousou, they were also “dangerous for patient safety as it required him to carry a heavier and more disruptive workload than other nurses for a longer period of time and thereby increased the chances of him making a mistake, which in the ICU is extremely dangerous and risky as it could lead to catastrophic health outcomes for patients,” the complaint states.
Things came to a head soon after he filed a legal complaint with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement over unpaid overtime and vacation accrual issues when his managers suspended him in the middle of treating two critically ill patients. After he left the hospital, the ICU’s service line manager told everyone that he had been caught with a drug bottle in his pocket and was fired despite knowing this was not true, Belorousou says.
The false accusation spread like wildfire throughout the hospital and to Kaiser’s upper echelons. During a meeting six months after he was suspended, Kaiser representatives told him he could either voluntarily resign or be fired for drug diversion. Before he had a chance to think about it, Kaiser fired him while he was at a doctor’s appointment – and drug diversion was not listed anywhere as the reason for his termination, the complaint states.
Belorousou claims the real reason Kaiser fired him was for complaining about health and safety code violations, which Kaiser wanted to sweep under the rug and ignore.
He seeks compensatory and punitive damages, prejudgment interest, attorneys’ fees, and all other relief deemed proper by the court.
He is represented by Lawrance Bohm of Sacramento.