Worker Claims Kaiser Stepped on Protected Leave, Then Fired Her
4-23-2020 04:09:00

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Kaiser interfered with an employee’s medical leave rights and fired her in retaliation without engaging in a meaningful interactive process or providing reasonable accommodations, her lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, District or Oregon Portland Division, claims.

Angela Schultz sued NW Permanente Physicians & Surgeons P.C., an assumed business name of NW Permanente P.C., for wrongful discharge, disability discrimination, failure to accommodate disability, retaliation, denial of medical leave, and retaliation for taking protected leave.

According to the action, plaintiff Schultz worked as a program coordinator for Kaiser defendants for nearly 18 years, being consistently promoted with positive feedback on her performance up until February 2019, when she informed her manager that she needed to take medical leave in July 2019 for foot surgery. She requested one week of leave, followed by being allowed to telecommute for seven weeks, because she would be unable to drive or put weight on her foot. This was reportedly verbally agreed to by her manager, Lucy Anderson.

However, after making this request, Schultz “was subjected to heighten scrutiny and criticism of her work performance from both Anderson and April Rice who was plaintiff’s ‘lead,’” the suit states.

On June 18, 2019, the complaint notes that Schultz filed two separate requests for protected medical leave, one for intermittent Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for her depression, and a second FMLA request for the foot surgery scheduled in July.

The action alleges that at the beginning of July, Anderson and Rice held a meeting with Schultz “where once again they subjected plaintiff to heightened criticism and assigned her an extensive and unreasonably burdensome list of tasks for her to complete prior to making medical leave.” 

One week after her surgery, Schultz contacted Anderson to let her know she was ready to begin telecommuting, but was reportedly told that she would not be allowed to do so, but would have to take medical leave for the remaining seven weeks.

On her return to work in September 2019, Anderson and Rice told her she would be put on a corrective action and a meeting was scheduled with human resources in November. At that meeting she was given a four-page write up and told “she had one year to improve her work or would be terminated,” the suit states. “Prior to requesting medical leave, [Schultz] had never received any corrective action.”

By December, Schultz’ depression worsened and her doctor put her off work for five weeks, then extended the leave for another month. The action alleges that in response to the requests for medical leave and accommodations, “defendant refused to provide any such accommodation or engage in a meaningful interactive process to explore other possible reasonable accommodations. Instead, defendant informed plaintiff it planned to terminate her.”

When Schultz contacted human resources regarding the threatened termination, she was reportedly told to “get her doctor to release her to return to work right away or resign her position. Otherwise, defendant’s human resources representative threatened, it would consider her to have abandoned her position and cut off her health benefits.”

Schultz’ complaint notes that she responded that she was not abandoning her position, but that she was medically not released for work until Feb. 21, 2020, but defendant fired her anyway on Feb. 3.

Schultz seeks economic damages in the amount of $250,000, non-economic damages of $300,000, punitive damages, injunctive relief, lump sum tax relief, interest and legal costs and fees.

She is represented by Robert K. Meyer and Ashley Bannon Moore of Meyer Stephenson in Portland, Oregon.