Nurse Triumphs in $41 Million Lawsuit Against Kaiser Permanente for Discrimination and Wrongful Termination

Oakland, California – A nurse has been victorious in her discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit against health care provider Kaiser Permanente, winning a staggering $41 million in a jury verdict. The former charge nurse at Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Medical Center in Los Angeles brought the suit against Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, alleging age and disability discrimination, as well as other violations.

The charge nurse was fired in 2019 after enduring multiple comments about her age from a supervisor and other employees. The comments included remarks about retirement and insinuations that she was taking advantage of younger colleagues. Kaiser Permanente argued that these remarks were isolated and insufficient to constitute harassment. The company also claimed that the plaintiff’s termination was justified due to her unsatisfactory job performance and unrelated to her age and disability.

In response to Kaiser’s arguments, the plaintiff contended that her age and disability did play a role in her termination. She maintained that the decision to terminate her was made after she suffered a workplace accident that resulted in her disability, despite Kaiser’s assertion that the termination decision was made prior to her disability leave.

Kaiser Permanente expressed disappointment in the verdict and plans to appeal the decision. The company stands by the termination, emphasizing the plaintiff’s alleged violations of infection control policies and standards, such as using her personal cellphone while sitting in a patient chair in the NICU and placing her bare feet on an isolette holding a sick newborn baby.

The charge nurse was awarded $11.49 million in compensatory damages, which includes $9 million for emotional distress, along with $30 million in punitive damages. The jury’s decision was based on the verdict forms submitted during the trial.

The plaintiff raised additional concerns about the quality of care and patient safety at Kaiser, citing understaffing issues. Witnesses during the trial supported the plaintiff’s claims of understaffing at the Woodland Hills facility. According to court documents, the charge nurse reported instances where two nurses did not know how to use a catheter on a critically ill baby and another nurse failed to properly feed an infant. The plaintiff also reported a staff member who violated patient privacy laws by disclosing a baby’s information to an unauthorized individual claiming to be the child’s father.

California law strictly prohibits retaliation in employment, including whistleblower retaliation, as outlined in the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Under the FEHA, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on various protected characteristics, including age and disability, are prohibited. This law applies to employers in California with five or more employees.

This landmark verdict highlights the significance of addressing age and disability discrimination in the workplace. It serves as a reminder to employers of their responsibility to maintain a fair and inclusive environment for all employees.