Kaiser Fired Manager Because of Fibromyalgia, She Claims
11-11-2014 00:18:00

DENVER (CN) - Kaiser wrongly denied a manager a promotion because of her fibromyalgia, and then fired her, she claims in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

     Lisa Bland sued Kaiser Permanente Insurance Company under the Family Medical Leave Act.
     According to Bland’s lawsuit, she was a senior manager for Perinatal Hospital and Home Care Services from March 2009 to December 2013. Her performance reviews had rated her performance as excellent or successful, according to her complaint.
     When Bland was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2012, she applied for and received intermittent FMLA leave, according to her complaint.
     In August and September 2013, Bland applied for four promotional positions, according to the complaint. “Even though Kaiser internal candidates who qualify for the position would normally be granted an interview, Ms. Bland was not granted an interview. Ms. Bland was qualified for all four positions and should have been interviewed for all four positions,” the complaint states.
     In October, when Bland raised the issue with her supervisor’s supervisor, who had been the one deciding whom to interview, that supervisor said Bland had not been interviewed because of negative staff reports about Bland’s performance.
     “This was the first time that Ms. Bland had heard anything about her performance being less than excellent or successful,” the complaint states.
     Neither Bland’s immediate supervisor nor her supervisor’s supervisor could give Bland any specifics on the supposed performance issues, according to the complaint. Bland contends it was “an excuse to build a case against Ms. Bland,” because of her FMLA leave.
     That same month, “Ms. Bland was assigned an additional department to supervise, increasing to 34 the number of employees that reported directly to her. According to Kaiser’s organizational effectiveness department, 12 direct reports was the maximum that any manager should supervise,” the complaint states.
     Bland told her supervisors that supervising the new department was too much on top of her commute, according to the complaint. “Her supervisors did not change the assignment because they wanted to overload Ms. Bland with work so that she would fail,” the complaint states.
     Bland used some of her intermittent FMLA leave that month, and when she got back “she was presented with an action plan stating that her performance was sub-standard, primarily because she was missing work,” the complaint states.
     The next day, Bland says, an HR consultant “told her that the action plan was not an appropriate action plan and he advised her to develop one of her own,” the complaint states. She did so, she says, and also had her attorney send Kaiser’s attorney a draft complaint alleging FMLA violations.
     In November, Bland met with her supervisor, her former supervisor, her supervisor’s supervisor and an HR representative to talk about her new action plan, according to the complaint. “All in attendance stated that it was a good start on action plan,” it says.
     Bland says that she believed the action plan “would constitute her verbal warning and, as long as she improved, as a verbal warning it would not go into her formal record,” but her supervisors said they intended to put it in her file anyway. Bland says they intended to count her January 2013 performance evaluation as a verbal warning, “notwithstanding the fact that it was a successful evaluation.”
     “The supervisors were bending the rules in order to build a case upon which to terminate Ms. Bland,” the complaint states.
     After that, Ms. Bland had weekly meetings with two supervisors, according to the complaint.
     At her Dec. 5 meeting, the supervisors arrived 45 minutes late, according to the complaint. “For the first time, they told Ms. Bland that they had not seen any improvement in her performance,” gave her a performance improvement plan, the last step before termination, and put her on administrative leave until 3:00 p.m. the next day, according to the complaint.
     “Because of the late start, the meeting on Dec. 5 ran until 5:30 at which time Ms. Bland had to leave to pick up her daughter at school,” the complaint states.
     The next afternoon, two hours before her administrative leave was supposed to end, Bland discovered she no longer had access to Kaiser’s e-mail system. When she came to work, she was fired for “walking out of the meeting,” and not complying with the action plan “although there was no example given of her alleged poor performance,” the complaint states.
     Lisa Bland seeks lost wages, benefits, interest, costs and attorney’s fees. She is represented by Robert M. Liechty of Greenwood Village, Colo.