Kaiser Made False Promises & Didn't Accommodate, Suit Claims
3-22-2019 23:59:00

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Kaiser broke verbal promises made to a therapist being recruited for a new program, thereby causing so much work-related stress that his disability flared up, which led to his firing because Kaiser would not provide accommodations, according to his suit filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

Brent Batter sued The Permanente Medical Group, Inc. for promissory fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful termination, and for violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, including employment disability discrimination, and failure to accommodate or to engage in the interactive process. 

Batter says defendant Kaiser recruited him from his secure position as a licensed mental health clinician with Solano County. He interviewed for the position at Kaiser as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in its Napa Solano Chemical Dependency Recovery Program in Vallejo, California, according to the action.

After the series of interviews, Batter says he declined the job offer, expressing concerns over whether an inflexible schedule would interfere with seeing his son and over the stressful work environment. In response, Kaiser “made inducements,” including a promise of a flexible schedule and assurances that the recovery program was an “empathetic” and “constructive” work environment that would provide Batter with “structure, teamwork and guidance to integrate” him into the Kaiser workplace, according to the action.

After these assurances, Batter says he accepted the position in January 2017, and began work the following April. He did not learn his schedule until he started work, the suit states. 

Batter has a rare, long-term skin condition that causes pain, swelling and draining wounds. The condition, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, can result in extreme pain, sleep deficiency, fatigue, weakness, depression and anxiety, according to the action. Batter says that while he worked for Solano County, his disability was accommodated, which “minimized stress and permitted him to manage his symptoms and work productively,” the suit states.

Once Batter began working for Kaiser, he quickly noticed that the workplace was chaotic and disorganized, that there was “tremendous dissention” between the supervisors and clinical staff, and that the staff was “fractured into several cliques,” the action alleges. In addition, his schedule was inflexible, and he was told that there was no time to take breaks, and he was expected to be at work 15 minutes early or he would be deemed to be “late,” the suit states.

Batter says he often was not even allowed to take a lunch break, even during shifts that were nearly 12 hours long, and it was extremely difficult for him to complete his administrative duties due to the tight schedule of back to back therapy, and multi-group and assessment appointments throughout the day, the complaint claims.

In addition, Batter says there was no meaningful training or supervision, and Kaiser provided no accommodations or interactive process for his disability, the symptoms of which were at “the worst since he was 20 years old,” due to the stressful work conditions, the suit states.

After plaintiff asked for meetings to discuss his need for accommodations, his Kaiser supervisors began to make accusations of “ostensible errors by plaintiff Batter in his prior interactions with two patients,” the complaint charges. Batter says he was given  a written feedback that was “rife with outright falsehoods and misleading statements, as well as gratuitous attacks on his character and credibility,”  the action alleges.

Batter says he was fired on Aug. 30, 2017 without an opportunity to discuss his rights with his union representative. 

Batter seeks a permanent injunction stopping Kaiser’s unlawful conduct, economic damages for lost past and future wages, benefits and other compensation, special, consequential and punitive damages, interest and legal costs.

The plaintiff is represented by Martin M. Horowitz and Stephanie Rubinoff of Horowitz & Rubinoff in Oakland, California.