Kaiser Sanctioned Retaliation on Whistleblower, Action Alleges
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – A plant engineer was threatened, assaulted and fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on supervisors, and Kaiser did not keep the reports confidential and did nothing to protect him, according to a lawsuit filed in Riverside County Superior Court.
Andrew C. Johnson sued Kaiser Permanente, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Richard Smith, John Meyer and John A. McNulty for wrongful termination, retaliation and failure to investigate retaliation, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and unfair business practices.
Johnson says he was hired as a Plant Engineer III in defendant Kaiser’s Riverside Facility Maintenance Department in March 2012. In October of that year, Johnson reported that defendant Richard Smith, “who functioned as the plant lead,” was selling prescription drugs, such as Xanax, Vicodin and Cialis, to other Kaiser employees and “offering pills and marijuana for sale to Johnson,” according to the action.
The report was not handled confidentially, and Johnson says it caused harassment and retaliation. Despite Kaiser’s claim of being a drug-free workplace, the action notes, Johnson’s report was ignored, Smith was informed of the report, and “the retaliation was swift and dangerous.” Johnson says he was threatened and constantly harassed and badgered at work.
In 2015, Smith asked Johnson multiple times to access confidential files at the Kaiser HR building and get copies of the engineering department entrance exam so that Smith’s son could review the test before taking it. Johnson says he reported the coercion confidentially, but once again the report “leaked out,” and “Smith and his cohorts at Kaiser, including defendants Meyer and McNulty, made plaintiff’s work life miserable,” his lawsuit states.
Smith threatened Johnson, telling him “snitches get stitches,” and that he better “watch his back for ‘ratting’ Smith out,” the action alleges.
Johnson says that defendant Meyer, “Kaiser’s Lead Engineer,” fostered a “locker room” atmosphere that included inappropriate “profane, sexual and racist” texting and “dry-humping” interactions and horseplay.
In September 2016, Johnson says Meyer grabbed and squeezed his testicles, and it was witnessed by another employee “who unfortunately was too intimidated by Meyer and Smith to respond accurately to the inquiry by HR,” the complaint charges. Johnson had complained about the assault, but, again, it was not kept confidential, according to the action.
Johnson says he started seeing a counselor and taking anti-anxiety medication to deal with the hostile work environment. The counselor had encouraged him to report the assault, but the retaliation only increased after he did, the suit states.
Though Johnson asked to be transferred to the graveyard shift, and he “won” the graveyard shift in the union bidding process, “McNulty refused to permit the transfer,” the action alleges, so Johnson’s doctor put him on medical leave, and Kaiser fired him the following day, according to the complaint.
Andrew Johnson seeks economic and non-economic damages, punitive and exemplary damages, and legal costs. He is represented by William E. Stoner of Stoner & Grannis, LLP in Los Angeles, California.