Kaiser Worker's Retaliation Case Needs Work
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A social worker who says Kaiser Permanente fired her when she wanted help with a death threat must present more facts, a federal judge ruled.
Robin Love is suing Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and The Permanente Medical Group.
The licensed clinical social worker claims to have been working at a Kaiser facility in San Francisco in 2011 when she learned from another therapist that one of her patients in couples counseling had told his wife that he wanted to "murder Robin Love."
When Love asked Kaiser to get a restraining order against the patient, identified in her lawsuit only as J.H., it ignored her request and told her to "let it go," according to the complaint filed pro se in November.
Love said the medical provider took disciplinary action based on the claim that she had violated J.H.'s privacy by looking at his medical records. The provider later falsely charged her with allowing a suicidal patient to go to hospital unattended, according to the complaint.
She said Kaiser used the guise of disciplinary action to fire her in May 2012 for reporting a dangerous workplace environment.
Jenny Chi-Chin Huang with Justice First of Oakland, Calif., now represents Love, but U.S. District Judge William Orrick on Wednesday dismissed her claim for retaliation under California's Whistleblower Protection Act.
Huang did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Love has 20 days to file an amended complaint, but the judge found little evidence that Love explained to Kaiser her "specific concerns" about how the lack of a restraining order could create a dangerous environment for staff and patients.
"While Love alleges that her complaints 'related to unsafe conditions and patient safety,' she provides no facts to support this assertion," the seven-page order states. "Without more than conclusory statements, Love's factual allegations are inadequately pleaded."
In its motion to dismiss, Kaiser insisted that Love's wrongful termination claim is "fatally flawed." It also said Love had not taken "advantage of administrative remedies," nor had she tried to overturn the disciplinary decision before filing suit.
Judge Orrick disagreed, writing that Love's "hospital privileges were revoked and she was terminated without notice or a hearing."
"Defendants did not offer Love a hearing on her termination or inform her that she had any right to a hearing," he wrote. "While the parties disagree whether Kaiser was required to give Love a hearing, for exhaustion purposes that issue does not matter. Based on the factual allegations in the FAC [first amended complaint], Love was never afforded the process that notice and a quasi-judicial hearing would have provided. Because of that, Love was not required to obtain a writ of mandamus before instituting her tort action."
Named defendants are Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and The Permanente Medical Group.