Mom Says Kaiser Fired Her for Caring for Kids
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A woman was forced to provide doctors' notes when taking time off to care for her sick children and supervisors intimidated her by saying that "people were watching" for "patterns" in her leave requests, she claims in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Micaiah Tafai, 32, is an African-American mother of five and a licensed vocational nurse first employed at Kaiser's Inglewood hospital in November 2010. She transferred to the pediatric department at Kaiser's Harbor City location in May 2011.
While there, Tafai says there were times she needed to take days off from work under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for her one-year-old son who suffers from asthma and her three-year-old who was diagnosed with diabetes. In addition, her husband suffers from chronic back pain from years of working in the construction industry. Tafai and her family were members of Kaiser Permanente's health plan and patients of doctors at her hospital's location.
Despite FMLA certification for her two sons, Supervisor Phyllis Harris routinely interrogated Tafai and denied requests to take time off for doctor's appointments or to care for her family, she alleges in her complaint. When she did take time off, Harris asked to see her doctor's note in violation of state law, according to the complaint.
"Harris would question plaintiff about her children's illnesses and their conditions . . . would sarcastically say, 'What's going on today? Which one are you calling out for, your diabetic son or the one who has asthma?'" according to the complaint.
Harris said she denied requests for time off due to "staffing reasons," even when time off was scheduled far in advance, according to the complaint.
Tafai added that Harris also liked to criticize her husband for not caring for the children, when he had his own serious health conditions that prevented it.
Harris and Clinical Supervisor Sandra Romero told Tafai that if she took a day off after her request was officially denied, she would be classified as "insubordinate" and subject to discipline, Tafai said.
The situation worsened in May 2012 when doctors put her 14-year-old son on scabies watch, which required her entire house to be sanitized, and in June 2012, Tafai became ill herself and underwent emergency surgery for appendicitis. Through it all, Harris and Romero continued to harass Tafai, denying her the two weeks she needed for recovery under the California Family Rights Act and forcing her to use her accumulated paid sick leave.
Tafai made a formal complaint to her union, and was then fired for an alleged "time card violation," the supervisors bypassing Kaiser's own corrective action policy, according to the complaint.
She is suing for discrimination, harassment and retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the California Family Rights Act and California labor code.
Twila S. White, of Culver City, represents Tafai.