Pharmacy Manager Fired Because of Cancer, She Claims
ALEXANDRIA (Va.) – Kaiser fired a pharmacy manager because she took time off for cancer and anxiety treatment, she claims in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia.
Besime D. Brierton sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc., dba Kaiser Permanente for violations of the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to Brierton’s lawsuit, she started working for Kaiser in 1997. She began suffering from anxiety following the death of her father in 2003 and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, she says. Over the course of that nine-year period, Brierton moved into a management position, and a man who had competed against her for the position eventually was promoted above her, she says.
During the two years after Brierton’s cancer diagnosis, she occasionally reduced her work hours as directed by her doctor, according to the complaint. Brierton’s boss expressed frustration with her reduced hours and continued to give her new projects, it says.
“Despite plaintiff’s disabilities, between 1997 and 2017, plaintiff effectively managed her department and helped her staff as evidenced by plaintiff’s long tenure at Kaiser as well as her excellent performance evaluations,” the complaint states.
In 2016, the boss informed Brierton and other managers that Kaiser would no longer allow overtime or vacation coverage for non-exempt staff, which violated the non-exempt staff’s union contract, according to the complaint. Several employees filed grievances with their union, and Brierton learned that the boss believed she was behind their complaints, it says. He began finding fault with her staffing decisions, no matter what she did, it says.
Brierton says her anxiety and stress-related cancer symptoms became worse as a result of her boss’s increased scrutiny, and her counselor recommended a two-week intensive program. Brierton took nine days off in June 2017 but was afraid to complete the entire program because she expected a bad reaction from her boss, she says.
In Aug. 2017, Brierton’s boss and a human resources representative met with Brierton for her mid-year review, she says. Her rating was unexpectedly low because of her boss’s negative comments, although the HR rep said it should have been higher, Brierton claims.
After that, Brierton’s boss put her on a performance improvement plan, Brierton says. Kaiser ultimately fired Brierton in Feb. 2018, she says.
Brierton contends the performance plan and her termination were not based on her performance. She claims she was fired because of her medical problems.
Besime Brierton seeks $300,000 in lost wages, $300,000 in punitive damages, $1 million for emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience and mental anguish, attorney fees, court costs and a jury trial. She is represented by John C. Cook, Broderick C. Dunn and Philip C. Krone of Cook Craig & Francuzenko in Fairfax, Virginia.