Whistleblowing and Gender Got Him Fired, Male Nurse Says
By Ramona Young-Grindle
FAIRFIELD, Calif. (CN) – A male nurse claims he was excluded from working in clinics at the Fairfield Kaiser facility and was fired after complaining about gender discrimination and the numerous health violations he witnessed, according to a Solano County Superior Court complaint.
David Gutierrez, a Licensed Vocational Nurse, sued The Permanente Medical Group Inc. on June 8 in Solano County Superior Court for sex discrimination, disability discrimination, health and safety violations, and labor code violations including retaliation for making protected complaints.
The 66-page suit details allegations spanning a five-year period in which Gutierrez claims he was systematically passed over in favor of female LVNs for work in the Fairfield nurse clinic despite his seniority. When he was assigned to work in that clinic, a supervisor would switch him to another clinic and replace him with a female LVN, the suit states.
“In or about December 2013, Gutierrez was told by members of the Kaiser RN staff and supervisors at the Vallejo location that in order to work in the Fairfield nurse clinic (which was staffed only by female RNs) that he had to have ovaries and male reproductive parts were not allowed. Gutierrez asked if they were joking and they told him they were not,” according to the complaint.
In 2015, after yet another instance of a lower-seniority female LVN being given a nurse clinic assignment instead of Gutierrez, a supervisor told him, "'You are in a woman's career field, so put your big girl panties on and deal with it,'" he alleges.
When Gutierrez complained, and was subsequently placed temporarily in the nurse clinic, a supervisor said, "'I'm tired of management telling me who the fuck will work in the Nurse Clinic!" She then made conditional threats to Gutierrez, saying, "If anybody messes with my girls, I will mess with them! And they will never forget it. I will take care of them. My brother's a Fairfield cop and my dad is retired CHP,'" according to the action.
Gutierrez said that same supervisor also made inappropriate sexual advances to him, and followed him in her car. She also made other verbal threats about him and his family and physically intimidated him at work, he claims. When he complained, nothing was done, he said. Also, this supervisor and another in the nurse clinic repeatedly refused to provide required training to Gutierrez, but would provide it to female LVNs of lower seniority. Training certifications create more opportunities for promotions, Gutierrez says.
The Human Resource Department also frequently gave female nurses of lower seniority work assignments ahead of Gutierrez in other clinics, such as the Pediatric Department, according to the suit. This resulted in Gutierrez missing opportunities to secure his on-call hours at the clinic closest to his home in Fairfield, the suit says.
The gender discrimination complaints Gutierrez made to management and to his union representatives sometimes resulted in short-lived changes, according to the suit. However, his complaints regarding improper procedures were not investigated, he says. Gutierrez claims that he witnessed nurses combining chemotherapy medication from two different patient syringes into one syringe, switching medications without doctor’s orders, incorrectly lancing a wound causing injury to the patient, applying Lidocaine solution to a patient without doctor’s orders, administering the wrong medication then covering it up, misdiagnosing a MRSA infection, falsifying logon information in a patient file, and dangerously mishandling chemotherapy drugs. The response to his reporting of these and other health and safety incidents was an increase in intimidation and other hostile behavior, Gutierrez claims.
As part of the retaliation, at various times when Gutierrez had health issues, he was refused time off to see his doctor. He also was threatened and intimidated regarding workplace accommodations, he was suspended, and then he was fired from the Fairfield facility, though he was later reinstated.
Unfortunately, conditions for Gutierrez were not improved on his return, and the hostility and intimidation escalated. He was fired from Kaiser a month later, according to the suit.
Gutierrez seeks compensatory damages, including lost wages and economic damages, as well as attorney’s fees and cost of suit, punitive damages or penalties, and interest.
He is represented by Kelsey Ciarimboli of Bohm Law Group, and Justin Ward, both of Sacramento.
Kaiser did not respond to a request for comments.