Fired Worker Says Kaiser Backed Drug User

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Kaiser Hospital fired a longtime employee after she complained about her drug-using boss, whom the fired worker says she saw with a rolled-up bill in her nose, “snorting a white powdery substance” at work, the worker claims in a federal lawsuit.
     Kristinna Grotz sued Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, the Permanente Medical Group, and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, which allegedly failed to stick up for her.
     Grotz claims she worked in Kaiser’s admitting department from 2002 until she was fired in the summer of 2011.
     She says that from early 2008 department manager (nonparty) Debbie Taylor used drugs – “in all likelihood methamphetamine” – at work, and that Taylor retaliated against her for reporting it.
     Grotz claims that in early 2010 she joined six other employees and wrote a letter complaining to Kaiser about Taylor’s alleged drug use and acts of retaliation and favoritism.
     Kaiser then allegedly launched an investigation headed by Taylor’s superior and friend Diane Keefer and human resources manager Alan Burnett, neither of whom are parties to the lawsuit.
     Grotz say that though Kaiser told her and the other employees that they would be “immune” from retaliation, that “proved to be untrue.”
     “Thereafter, plaintiff and others were called in one at a time and were interviewed by Ms. Keefer and Mr. Burnett. During her interview, plaintiff informed Ms. Keefer and Mr. Burnett about Ms. Taylor’s ongoing substance abuse problem in detail. She informed them that she had personally observed Ms. Taylor and another employee, Terry Caballero, an employee from another Kaiser department, in Ms. Taylor’s office, with rolled up bills in their noses snorting a white powdery substance. Plaintiff also said she was aware that Ms. Taylor’s apparent drug use had been observed by at least two other individuals who signed the October 15, 2010 letter, Amber Rhodes and Janelle Soriano. Plaintiff stated that she believed that Ms. Taylor received most of her drugs from other employees within the facility,” the 14-page complaint states.
     Kaiser’s “investigation” was bogus, Grotz says, because Keefer helped Taylor cover up her drug use and dismissed the allegations for lack of evidence, despite “contrary eyewitness testimony of Ms. Taylor’s drug use from plaintiff and other staff.”
     Grotz claims Kaiser then turned the matter over to an employee assistance counselor. She claims that during a meeting with that counselor, “Debbie Taylor looked plaintiff right in the eye while mouthing the words, ‘You fucking bitch.’ The EAP counselor quickly closed the meeting. Only one meeting took place after this aborted meeting and only the admitting staff was in attendance, but not Ms. Taylor. In fact, none was ever scheduled again with Debbie Taylor present. To plaintiffs’ knowledge, employer did nothing further to remedy the hostile working environment or address the illegal use of drugs by Taylor and others in the workplace. Instead, plaintiff and the other employees remained in constant fear of retaliation by Ms. Taylor and Ms. Keefer, which did not take long to materialize.”
     Beginning in late 2010, Grotz was falsely accused of timecard fraud, threatening Taylor and acting unprofessionally, the complaint says.
     Finally, Grotz claims, Keefer, Burnett and two union representatives told her to sign a “last chance” agreement which included “false and inaccurate information” about to those allegations. She says that when she refused to sign the agreement she was fired, on July 7, 2011.
     Grotz says Taylor was fired the same day.
     Grotz seeks a jury trial and damages for unlawful discharge and breach of the union’s duty of fair representation, wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
     She is represented by George Camerlengo with Camerlengo & Johnson of Redwood City.
     Neither Kaiser nor SEIU-United Healthcare workers immediately responded to requests for comment.

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