Older Female Manager Fired on a Pretext, She Claims
7-27-2018 23:59:00

    FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – Kaiser wrongfully disciplined an older, female manager and fired her on a pretext, she claims in Fresno County Superior Court.

     Melissa Russell sued The Permanente Medical Group for discrimination, retaliation, wrongful discharge and failure to prevent discriminatory practices.
     Russell received excellent performance evaluations during her 13 years at Kaiser, according to the complaint. After a new Assistant Medical Group Administrator was promoted, two levels above Russell, the culture became hostile to older workers and women, according to the complaint.
     “For example, younger male doctors initiated a program of complaints about older, female workers who they perceived as slower and less desirable than younger and/or male workers. Kaiser management was complicit in this pattern and practice by disciplining older women unfairly and by resisting plaintiff’s efforts to develop these workers instead giving them discipline,” the complaint states.
     “In about July 2015, plaintiff was disciplined for a routine business e-mail to a coworker concerning staffing changes. However, plaintiff believes that her male counterpart sent a threatening email to an employee. He was not disciplined and in fact was given development opportunities,” the complaint states.
     Kaiser excluded Russell from meetings and ignored her requests for paid time off and additional staff support while responding promptly to similar requests by male managers, Russell claims. She complained to Human Resources when she learned that her younger, male counterpart was making $6,000 a year more than herself, she says. Over a year later, Russell followed up on that complaint, and HR said it was still investigating, and then said it would begin investigating, Russell claims. She learned shortly before she was fired that HR had closed its investigation, she says.
     Russell claims she was wrongfully disciplined for showing compassion to an employee under her supervision who was being investigated for a potential privacy violation.
     “During a disciplinary meeting for that employee that took place on about Oct. 23, 2017, plaintiff shared that she regarded the employee warmly in part because he reminded her of her son who had passed away at a young age. At the conclusion of the meeting, the employee was upset and tearful about the investigation, so plaintiff consoled him by giving the employee a hug,” the complaint states.
     “As a result, on Dec. 8, 2017, Kaiser gave plaintiff a final written notice for expressing compassion. This notice was retaliatory and was intended to create a false record of discipline against plaintiff,” it continues.
     Around the same time, Russell learned that a three-year-old had possibly been illegally turned away from emergency care without treatment, she says. She complained to her supervisor and then to the Compliance Department, and was unfairly disciplined for that as well, she says.
     In late December, a patient fell from a gurney and the staff member in charge called for help getting the person back onto the gurney, according to the complaint. Although 19 nurses were on duty and did not respond, and they were supervised by two charge nurses who were under Russell’s supervision, Kaiser fired Russell for not personally responding, according to the complaint.
     Russell contends this was a pretext, and the real reason she was fired was because of her age, her gender, her complaints and her whistleblowing.
     Melissa Russell seeks general, special, statutory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, interest, costs of suit and a jury trial. She is represented by Daniel J. Cravens of Cravens & Associates in Fresno.