Employee Fired Twice for Requesting Leave, Suit Claims
12-12-2018 21:55:00

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Kaiser fired an engagement specialist for taking maternity leave and then asking for medical leave, according to her lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.

Jessica Perez sued Kaiser Foundation HP, Inc. for violations of the federal Family Medical Leave Act and of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Perez says she started working for Kaiser in 2014 as a part-time sales associate. She got her Master’s Degree in counseling and was promoted to a full time position in 2015.

Perez was approved for family leave in November 2016 and her son was born the following month, according to the suit. On Feb. 3, 2017, Kaiser phoned Perez while she was on leave and told her she would be terminated. This was done in retaliation for exercising her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, the suit alleges.

Perez says she was told to return to work on Feb. 15 so she could pick up her severance package. On the same day, she interviewed for a position as an Engagement Specialist at Kaiser’s facility in Oakland, which she was offered in April, according to the suit.

On April 12, Perez says her four month old baby was hospitalized with a serious condition. Perez asked for medical leave to care for her son but was denied on the basis that she did not have enough hours in her new position, according to the action.

Perez made an internal complaint to Kaiser’s Human Resources, claiming the denial was improper. “Immediately thereafter, plaintiff was the subject of retaliation in the workplace,” the suit says. Her work was questioned in front of other employees, she was placed on an unjustified Performance Improvement Plan and she was given a written warning, the action notes.

The harassment and retaliation increased over the next five months, Perez says, and nothing was done to stop it. As a result, Perez began to drink heavily and was diagnosed with alcoholism, “a disability/medical condition under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act,” according to the action.

Perez sought treatment and rehabilitation from October through December 2017, but was fired in January 2018, “in direct retaliation for making internal complaints, including asserting her rights under the [Family Medical Leave Act],” the suit states. 

Perez seeks general and special damages, interest, equitable and injunctive relief, penalties or liquidated damages, punitive damages and legal costs.

The plaintiff is represented by David Poore Turner of Brown Poore LLP in Walnut Creek, California.