Understaffing Endangered Patients, Fired Pharmacist Claims
11-3-2017 23:59:00

     SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – Kaiser fired a pharmacist on a pretext because of her age and her complaints about understaffing, she claims in Orange County Superior Court.
     Hieu Nguyen-Hazama sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Southern California Permanente Medical Group and her former supervisor Anne Hook, for health and safety code violations, hostile work environment, failure to prevent discrimination or harassment, retaliation, age discrimination, wrongful termination and defamation.
     “Plaintiff was hired by Kaiser as a pharmacist on June 16, 1982. During the intervening years, she rose through the ranks as a Kaiser pharmacist becoming, at the time of her termination, the Pharmacist in Charge of the Outpatient Pharmacy Department at Kaiser’s Yorba Linda facility. Over the entire 34 years of plaintiff’s tenure, she was consistently rated as one of the best performing pharmacists in the Kaiser system. At the time of the events leading up to her wrongful termination, she was one of Kaiser’s oldest pharmacists and at the top of the Kaiser pay scale for pharmacists,” the complaint states.
     “Prior to the events at issue herein, plaintiff had never been written up or disciplined for any misconduct in her entire 34 years as a Kaiser pharmacist,” it says.
     As Kaiser’s patient volume grew, pharmacy staffing did not grow accordingly, Nguyen-Hazama claims. Kaiser responded to complaints by providing “floater” pharmacists whose performance was inadequate, Nguyen-Hazama claims.
     Friction began between Nguyen-Hazama and her supervisor, the complaint says.
     “Plaintiff’s supervisor, defendant Hook, began a campaign of mental harassment and verbal abuse intended to inflict pain and embarrassment on plaintiff. Hook would repeatedly blame plaintiff for things she had no control over or didn’t do. When plaintiff needed help, Hook would ignore her requests for assistance or delay getting help unreasonably so as to impose additional stress and burdens on plaintiff. These are but a few examples of Hook’s intentional infliction of emotional distress in a campaign to set plaintiff up for failure or to force plaintiff to quit. The abuse became so regular and so pervasive that plaintiff was reluctant to report anything to Hook for fear of being chastised,” the complaint states.
     One day in Nov. 2015, Nguyen-Hazama made a mistake and gave a patient the wrong medication, according to the complaint. She discovered it and got the medication back, but was fired anyway, according to the complaint.
     “In 34 years of dedicated and committed service to Kaiser she had never made any errors of this type whatsoever. Notwithstanding her exemplary record over 34 years, Kaiser purported to do an ‘investigation’ and then fired plaintiff destroying her career and reputation and causing her enormous emotional and financial harm,” the complaint states.
     Nguyen-Hazama contends she was fired because of her age and because a younger, less-experienced pharmacist would be less likely to complain about the understaffing.
     Hieu Nguyen-Hazama seeks compensatory economic and non-economic damages, interest on lost earnings, deferred compensation and other benefits, a $25,000 civil penalty, punitive damages, restitution, injunctive relief, reinstatement and a jury trial. She is represented by Charles T. Matthews of the Matthews Law Group in Arcadia.