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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Kaiser Cleared of Discrimination Complaint

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge tossed an employee's discrimination complaint alleging that a Kaiser supervisor told him he is lazy because he is black.

Sam Chiles sued Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in 2011 for racial and age discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment. He claimed that after he transferred to the hospital chain's Santa Rosa facility, supervisors made racial comments to him, bullied him, and treated him differently from other employees.

One supervisor said that he "felt African-Americans over here are lazy and do not take advantage of what the state offers to them, I guess, as people," according to Chiles' complaint.

Kaiser sought summary judgment on Jan. 30 this year, claiming that its supervisors had legitimate reasons for employment actions the hospital chain says Chiles interpreted as discriminatory.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James, ruled on Sept. 30 that Chiles presented evidence that could support his claims of racially motivated actions, successfully establishing a prima facie case.

She added, however, that Kaiser provided "legitimate" and "non-discriminatory" reasons for the alleged adverse employment actions.

"With respect to the bidding process for transfers to other positions, it is undisputed that this aspect of plaintiff's employment was strictly governed by the terms and conditions of the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement], which is based on seniority," James wrote. Her 13-page order adds that Chiles does not dispute that he was later hired at Kaiser's Oakland facility based on his seniority.

The court also found that Kaiser was right to hold Chiles to his assigned schedule.

"Defendant has asserted a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for maintaining plaintiff's schedule," James found. "Defendant presented evidence that the CBA governed plaintiff's shift schedule while working at the hospital. Defendant presented evidence that plaintiff was awarded a position at the Santa Rosa hospital with specific days and hours."

She added that under the CBA, Chiles was not eligible to work at his desired outpatient facility because he was the "least senior tech in the MRI department" and that rescheduling patients from the outpatient facility to the hospital where Chiles worked was a business decision to provide "continued coverage" for patients, not to disparately load him with extra work.

"With respect to the denial of training, defendant asserts that the only evidence plaintiff presented was that his schedule was not compatible with the training dates, which is a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason," James wrote.

Chiles was unable to show discrimination, and James granted Kaiser's motion for summary judgment on all claims.

"The court finds that plaintiff has failed to produce sufficient evidence to overcome defendant's showing that the proffered reason for its actions are false or that the true reason is discriminatory based on plaintiff's race," James wrote. "Thus, plaintiff has not raised a triable issue with regard to discrimination sufficient to survive summary judgment."

James also granted summary judgment on Chiles' age discrimination claim, citing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects employees older than 40, but does not "protect workers over age 40 from favoritism toward older workers."

As for the racially charged comment made by a supervisor, James said, the comment "appears to have been an isolated occurrence."

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