Kaiser Trumped-Up Reasons to Fire Her, Programmer Says
11-5-2013 23:48:00

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – An IT programmer’s supervisor called her into his office and began an improper conversation about religion, after which his behavior toward her began to deteriorate, culminating in her termination on trumped-up charges that she violated policies, she claims in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
     Laima Baltrenas sued Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and her former supervisor, Dennis S. Long, for breach of implied contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and unfair business practices.
     The complaint says Baltrenas had received over 20 merit awards during her 26 years at Kaiser. In annual reviews her performance was rated “outstanding” or “very good,” it says.
     In 2007, Baltrenas moved into the Core Finance Systems department under Dennis Long, the complaint continues. In Jan. 2010, Baltrenas “was called by Long into his office wherein he initiated a conversation on religious beliefs. Plaintiff became very uncomfortable with this conversation because Long held very different beliefs than plaintiff. Plaintiff made it known to Long that she disagreed with his beliefs. Thereafter, Long engaged in unprofessional, rude, arbitrary, unreasonable, wrongful and outrageous conduct toward plaintiff,” the complaint states.
     Complicating matters, Baltrenas was asked to participate in a “360 degree Evaluation/Appraisal” of her supervisor the following June, by filling out a form stating any criticisms she had of him. “Plaintiff disclosed her opinion that Long conveyed extreme favoritism toward his fellow Chinese staff in detriment to Kaiser since these particular employees spoke and wrote English as a second language and were deficient. Plaintiff disclosed that Long rated their communication skills as excellent when that was false. Plaintiff’s 360 degree Evaluation of Long was used by Kaiser on his mid-year review causing Long to become aware of Plaintiff’s criticism,” the complaint states.
     Then in Jan. 2011, according to the complaint, Baltrenas was lent to the Medicare Information Billing System (MIBS) department, where Long did not directly supervise her but was still responsible for her performance review. Baltrenas alleges that even though her immediate supervisors in the MIBS department were pleased with her performance, “Long intentionally ignored and suppressed the performance evaluations of her direct supervisors in the Medicare Information Billing System Department and thereby issued false evaluations.”
     During 2011, the complaint describes various written warnings Baltrenas received from Long, including warnings that she had been “argumentative and disruptive” during a meeting that had taken place 47 days prior, that she had improperly copied an e-mail to a manager, that she had taken unauthorized time off and that she had refused to follow the department’s Sarbanes-Oxley policy. Baltrenas says Long did not name any specific violations of the policy. Baltrenas contends that she rebutted the accusations and informed Human Resources that she believed she had been harassed because of her ethnicity and religion.
     Baltrenas goes on to describe her mid-year performance review, in Aug. 2011, in which Long rated her performance “unsatisfactory” in eight categories, including, again, unspecified violations of the Sarbanes-Oxley policy. Baltrenas says she responded to this review by submitting an addendum in which she “notified Long and Kaiser in writing of the 2010 religious conversation Long initiated with her and stated to Kaiser her devout religious beliefs, indicating the offensive nature of Long’s communication with her that day. Plaintiff provided this writing to Kaiser to explain why Long made unreasonable, unwarranted and unjustified comments about her in that 2011 Mid Year Performance Review." According to the complaint, Baltrenas made efforts to have Kaiser remove the inaccuracies from her performance review, but Kaiser did not do so.
     The complaint goes on say that Baltrenas was again lent to another department, in the fall of 2011, to develop a project. Because it was a test project, Baltrenas used fake data, with the knowledge of others in the department, to do her testing, she says. Nonetheless, the complaint says, Long again accused Baltrenas of violating the Sarbanes-Oxley policy by using the test data, and she was put on administrative leave, and then fired.
     Baltrenas says Kaiser violated its own policies regarding progressive discipline, non-retaliation and accurate performance evaluations, falsified reasons to fire her, and forced her to notify future employers of the false reasons for her firing.
     Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, consequential and incidental damages, economic and non-economic damages, exemplary and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and cost of suit.
     She is represented by James R. Balesh of the Balesh Law Group in Los Angeles.