Health Giant Kaiser to Pay $11.5 Million to Black Employees

The settlement addresses claims of unequal pay and improper promotion schedules within the Oakland, California-based hospital system. 

A Kaiser Permanente building near its headquarters in Oakland, Calif. (Coolcaesar via Wikipedia)

(CN) — Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest health care entities in the United States, agreed to pay Black employees $11.5 million Thursday to settle claims of unequal pay and a lack of promotions, according to two law firms.  

Medina Orthwein and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein announced the settlement Thursday afternoon, bringing to close a two-year negotiation process that will bring relief to more than 2,200 Black employees in two of the health care giant’s divisions — administrative support and consulting services. 

“As an African American current employee, I have come forward to raise issues of racial equity to make our workplace stronger,” said plaintiff Charleta Dabrowski. “I support new programs dedicated to ensuring equal pay and fair opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and people of color at Kaiser Permanente.”

Dabrowski has worked for Kaiser for 15 years and currently holds the title of operations specialist. 

Kaiser Permanente senior vice president Christine Meisner said the organization was and is committed to advancing racial justice, noting the company voluntarily participated in the negotiations in the interest of racial equity. 

“As a mission-driven organization, we hold ourselves accountable for living our values by strengthening our inclusive culture and expanding our work to address any disparities and their root causes,” Meisner said. “That is why we invited plaintiffs to participate in a negotiation process that led to this settlement.”

Along with the monetary portion of the settlement, the organization will undertake additional measures to ensure fairness across the board, the lawyers said. 

Kaiser agreed to hire an independent consultant approved by all parties who will be tasked with developing and managing a job analysis review to be completed within a year. The process will include the creation of a career development guide and developmental resources guide for roles within administrative support and consulting services. 

Kaiser Permanente has also agreed to conduct an annual pay analysis for employees in both job classifications for a three-year period with an eye toward addressing race-based disparities within the system. 

The health care system will appoint an internal compliance officer that will continue to analyze pay disparities within the system on an annual basis. The company has also pledged to invest in leadership training for historically underrepresented groups while training employees on racial bias and equity. 

“Across Kaiser Permanente we are increasing our efforts to advocate for fair and just treatment, opportunity, and advancement as well as embedding accountability for equity at all levels of the organization,” Meisner said. 

Felicia Medina, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the settlement was a testament to the hard work of the plaintiffs and their willingness to speak up and tell the truth. 

She also praised Kaiser Permanente for its openness during the process. 

“The settlement reflects Kaiser Permanente’s willingness to listen to its employees, and should serve as a model for other corporations that truly desire to reckon with this country’s racially unjust past and ongoing systemic issues,” she said. 

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