Fired For Workplace Injury, Lab Worker Alleges
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - A Kaiser lab employee warned her supervisors a high, rolling chair could get her hurt, and was fired when it happened, she says in a Sacramento County Superior Court complaint.
began working for Kaiser as a laboratory assistant in May 2000. In January 2011, she complained to laboratory supervisors about a high, rolling chair she was forced to use at her newly designed workstation, she claims. She explained the chair could potentially "topple over" on the hard tile surface and cause her injury, according to the complaint.
Green was provided a "heavy industrial" mat to cure the problem, but says it was too "heavy and unwieldy for plaintiff to lift," and therefore she was unable to use it, according to the complaint.
About a month after complaining about it, the chair toppled over, and Green injured her knee and low back when she grabbed the counter to stop herself from falling to the floor, she says in her complaint. She filed a workers' compensation claim and was diagnosed with patellar tendonitis in her left knee that prevented her "from being able to do any kneeling, squatting, twisting or climbing, or engage in any prolonged walking or standing," the complaint states.
Green was ultimately placed on temporary disability until Sept. 12, she says.
A doctor's "reasonable accommodation" prescription allowed Green to return to light duty work on Sept. 13, but she reported to supervisors she was still in significant pain, according to the complaint. Her doctor once again put her on temporary disability, this time through Nov. 19.
Green's supervisors, however, "delayed" her return to work, she claims.
On Jan. 27, 2012, they called her in to be evaluated by Disability Case Manager Heather Hiatt, who later said she "could not understand Dr. Ashby's recommendations regarding reasonable accommodations," the complaint states.
Hiatt said Kaiser could not provide the requested accommodations and Green was not allowed to return to work, according to the complaint.
Green alleges she called her supervisors at least three to four times per week, through August, leaving voicemails asking if Kaiser changed its position on her request for reasonable accommodation and workstation modifications, but never got an answer, according to the complaint.
She says she was constantly hounded to provide "verification of treatment" (VOT) documents, proving she was still receiving treatment for her injuries, and was ultimately fired for getting a VOT to her supervisors a few days late.
Then, in a meeting with Green and her union representative, Doris Horn, Hiatt gave a bogus explanation about her confusion over the reasonable accommodation request, Green says.
"Hiatt told plaintiff and Horn that Dr. Ashby's notes recommending reasonable accommodations were not clear as to how to accommodate and should be more specific in his request. In response to Hiatt's response, plaintiff and Horn asked defendant's management staff in the meeting: 'how more specific?' In response to this inquiry ... Hiatt told them that 'it just needs to be more specific,' without further elaborating on what she meant by that," according to the complaint.
Green says another likely reason her supervisors retaliated against her stems from 10 sick days she took off in January 2011, under the Family Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, to take care of her sick children.
"During the 10-day period ... Webber began demanding that plaintiff provide VOTs the day after any and all medical appointments when plaintiff took her children to be treated by a health care provider," the complaint states.
Green says Kaiser illegally harassed, discriminated and retaliated against her.
"This hospital and its managing agents disregarded laws intended to protect employee rights to take medical leave, discriminated against the employee because of her disability, and wrongfully terminated her in retaliation for taking statutorily authorized medical leave," the complaint states.
Green is suing for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of state and federal law. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys' fees and costs.
The plaintiff is represented by Lawrence Bohm and Erik Roper, in Sacramento.