Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Kaiser Wins Religion Summary Judgment

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A Kaiser nurse who claimed she was harassed and fired because she is a "born again" Christian has lost her case on Summary Judgment.

In her pro se lawsuit, Bennett stated that Kaiser fired her because of her religion, and that fellow nurses had "hatred against churchgoing believers. Although they tried to complain about [her] being a substandard R.N., their comments and taunting clearly indicated the reason for the harassment."

United States District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, of the Northern District of California ruled that Evelyn R. Bennett did not establish a prima facie case for either religious discrimination in employment or retaliation, and that the co-workers' statements listed as evidence of harassment were not the type of objectively offensive, severe or pervasive behavior needed to show a hostile work environment.

Two of six comments offered as evidence, but not necessarily reported to management at the time, were: "[A supervisor] sarcastically asked "has anyone here converted to Christianity?'" and "A coworker stated she couldn't find someone, and another co-worker laughed and said, "Oh, maybe she was raptured!'"

"The comments were neither severe nor humiliating. At most, they were sporadic utterances made in plaintiff's presence," Judge Rogers found.

Failure to prevent religious discrimination, retaliation or harassment also falls when there is no case stated for discrimination, retaliation or harassment, the Judge said.

Further, Bennett could not show "facts to create a genuine dispute as to whether she was terminated for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons," according to the order.

In fact, the Judge notes, in the nine years prior to plaintiff's employment with Kaiser, Bennett had "held nine full-time, regular, benefited jobs, most for six months or less, and many without meeting performance evaluations," quoting a Kaiser document. "Plaintiff does not dispute that she was terminated from previous employment for performance issues," she added.

To continue, Judge Rogers points out, that in her 16 months of employment with Kaiser, Bennett was the subject of ten disciplinary investigations or proceedings, including one that allegedly substantiated the nurse told a patient to "man up" instead of getting the doctor for acute pain in a timely manner. Her annual performance evaluation indicated she "needed to improve her performance in virtually every area evaluated."

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