Kaiser Tech Fired for Using FMLA Leave, She Claims
12-26-2013 23:57:00

     ROSEVILLE, Calif. (CN) - A Kaiser employee was fired, her insurance canceled and her workman’s compensation claim denied because she took time off from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a woman alleges in a Placer County Superior Court complaint.
     Patricia Arciniega began working as a Patient Care Technician (PCT) at Kaiser’s Roseville facility in 2001. She says she enjoyed working with telemetry and stroke patients on the hospital’s second floor and maintained a great working relationship with supervisor Susan Brendon.
     At one point, she became the primary caregiver for her mother, Esther, who suffered from kidney disease and required dialysis. Arciniega was granted intermittent leave under the FMLA to care for her mother and to deal with her own emotional issues after her mother passed away in February 2010, according to the complaint.
     The certification for leave was signed by Dr. Mihir Amin, Arciniega’s primary care physician, according to the complaint.
     In early 2010, a reorganization of the hospital sent her from the second floor to the first floor where she began working for Maria Camacho.
     Camacho was resentful because her own “handpicked” PCT lacked seniority and was passed up to fill the first-floor position.
     Arciniega says the retaliation started from day one, adding to the anxiety and depression that lingered from the passing of her mother.
     “Plaintiff was under stress from the hostile environment on the first floor. Camacho routinely used vulgarities and obscenities when talking to the plaintiff,” the complaint states.
     Arciniega once again consulted with Dr. Amin, who certified intermittent, ongoing FMLA leave, which was approved by Kaiser, according to the complaint.
     The approval didn’t go over well with Camacho, who made derogatory remarks about Arciniega’s Mexican ancestry, stating, in her presence, that Mexicans born in the U.S. were lazy and got paid too much.
     Arcinieda said she was also falsely accused of tardiness, absences and other lapses.
     In January 2011 she was injured while rushing to assist a co-worker with a combatant patient. She says she tripped over a hose and fell violently on her knees and hands, prompting her to apply for Workers Compensation.
     It was the last straw for Camacho, who fired Arciniega on Jan. 7, only three weeks after she was granted FMLA leave.
     “The unlawful and retaliatory termination was devastating to plaintiff. She was unable to afford health insurance. She was destitute and had to move out of her house. Plaintiff’s daughter had to leave a mental health program due to lack of funds. Plaintiff’s son was unable to obtain prescription medication for his serious health condition, due to plaintiff’s lack of medical insurance,” the complaint states.
     Kaiser also disputed her Worker’s Compensation claim, which was ultimately denied. Arciniega has been working as a caregiver at a senior facility, but only part-time, and sees a doctor for continued anxiety and depression.
     She is suing for retaliation under the FMLA and seeks an award of punitive damages, on top of lost income and other economic damages.
     The plaintiff is represented by David Graulich of Fair Oaks.

SCV 33905