Muslim Fired by Kaiser Claims Discrimination
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Kaiser did nothing to stop racial and religious harassment against a Muslim supervisor, she claims in a Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuit.
Kaiser ultimately fired her on a pretext of alleged "improper timekeeping entries," she says. But the real reason was her report that a Human Resources manager was sexually harassing a woman on the staff, she says.
Fahima Dalie sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. for hostile workplace harassment, racial and national origin discrimination, religious discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, whistle-blower retaliation, wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and illegal eavesdropping.
According to Dalie's lawsuit, she worked as Patient Business Services Collections Supervisor at Kaiser's Pasadena office from sometime in 2010 to March of 2013. "Her job duties were to oversee the daily operations of the Collection Department, trying to ensure that the staff efficiently collected and maximized Kaiser's revenues," her complaint states.
Dalie says she is a Muslim of Palestinian descent. After taking the supervisory position, in which her manager called her performance "successful" and "excellent" in performance reviews, "she began hearing other employees make racially derogatory comments about Middle Easterners and Armenians," the complaint states.
She told her manager, but the racial comments continued, according to the complaint. After about a year of it, Dalie tried to address the conduct of an employee named Rosa, according to the complaint.
"Rosa had been making comments about plaintiff's nationality and how she must be Armenian if she lived in Glendale. Rosa liked to call plaintiff 'shish kabob.' Rosa liked to speak in some imaginary foreign language, asking plaintiff if she understood her and then laughing," the complaint states.
At a meeting to address Rosa's behavior, "everyone argued, then the shop steward made the unworkable suggestion that Rosa not speak to plaintiff again, which was impossible since plaintiff had to supervise Rosa's work," the complaint states. After the meeting, a manager told Dalie not to bring up any more race-related complaints, Dalie says.
Throughout the following year, there was a series of similar incidents involving two other employees, Linda and Mary, according to the complaint.
Initially, Linda began by asking Dalie, repeatedly, questions such as where she was from, where her family was from, whether she was from the Middle East and whether she was Muslim, according to the complaint. Dalie says she rebuffed these inquiries, but Linda continued.
According to the complaint, Linda asked Dalie if she was having an affair with a married co-worker. Dalie says she denied it and Linda said, "Wow, what do they do to a Muslim if they catch her having an affair with a married man?"
Another time, while Linda was joking with the staff, she "suggested the staff throw holy water on plaintiff, since plaintiff needed to be saved. Plaintiff asked why anyone would sprinkle holy water on her. Linda came near plaintiff and said because being Muslim was the worst sin of all," the complaint states.
According to the complaint, Mary also began by pressing Dalie with questions about her birthplace and her family's origins. Although Dalie rebuffed Mary's questions, Mary followed up with, "So you're a rag head," and asked her if she knew where Osama bin Laden was, the complaint states.
"Mary and Linda then laughed hysterically," the complaint states.
The next week, Mary offered Dalie half a ham sandwich and when Dalie declined, Mary said, "You are a Muslim! I knew it!" and "Your 'Allah' doesn't allow you to eat ham, huh?" according to the complaint. Mary called Dalie a "non-believer" and told her she was going to hell, the complaint states.
The following month "Mary told plaintiff that, to win her staff's trust and make them more productive, she planned to bring in saint medallions and scripture on little cards and give them to her staff," the complaint states. "She said that many of the staff are Catholic, as she is, and perhaps she can establish trust with the staff based on their shared faith," the complaint states.
Dalie says she told Mary this would violate Kaiser's policy.
"Mary replied that she could spread the word of Jesus Christ if she wanted to. Later that day, several staff members showed plaintiff saint medallions and cards with scripture that Mary had given them," the complaint states.
According to the complaint, Mary made comments such as "Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, so the Arabs should leave," and "Middle Easterners have no fear and hide behind Islam when they commit terrorism."
Once when Dalie was talking to a staff member in her office, "Mary put a scarf over her head (as if she were Muslim), came into plaintiff's office, and stuck her tongue out and in," then laughed when Dalie said she was out of line, the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
"Plaintiff repeatedly complained to her supervisors about the harassment, hostility, and discrimination she was experiencing, but her supervisors ignored it and turned a blind eye to it," the complaint states.
One day, a staff member named Anita told Dalie the HR manager had been "trying to force himself on her," the complaint states. He had been coming to her office to sit and stare at her while she worked, standing too close to her, showing up at her car after work and asking her out despite her repeated refusals, according to the complaint.
The complaint says Dalie passed this information along to the department director.
A few days later, her immediate supervisor and the HR manager came and took away the binder she used for staff attendance notes, according to the complaint. They "falsely accused her of making improper timekeeping entries on the computer system. Plaintiff denied doing so and said that her binder showed why each adjustment was made," the complaint states. Because she refused to confess to something she hadn't done, the HR manager suspended her for three days, according to the complaint.
Three days later, when she came back to work, her supervisor said the binder had "magically disappeared" and fired her, the complaint states.
Dalie alleges she was fired in retaliation for her report that the HR manager was harassing Anita.
Dalie also accuses Kaiser of eavesdropping, in violation of California law.
"Throughout plaintiff's employment at Kaiser's Pasadena office, Kaiser secretly and illegally tape-recorded plaintiff's private phone calls, on plaintiff's direct phone line. ... Kaiser did so contrary to its own policies, which were to record only employee calls using Kaiser's toll-free business lines," the complaint states.
Dalie seeks general, special and punitive damages, interest, attorneys' fees, costs of suit and $5,000 per eavesdropping violation or treble her actual damages, whichever is greater.
She is represented by Kenneth G. Ruttenberg of Tesser Ruttenberg & Grossman of Los Angeles.