Poster Boy Psychologist Says Kaiser Retaliated

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Kaiser fired a psychologist for speaking up about alleged deficiencies in its mental health care, he claims in Alameda County Superior Court.
     Alex Wang, whose firing ignited a strike across California protesting Kaiser’s mental health care, claims in the suit that the HMO fired him for writing what they called “political statements” on patients’ charts.
     Those statements included a note indicating that Wang had encouraged a patient to consider filing a complaint with Kaiser’s member services for appointment delays, as well as a note that a patient needed to be seen sooner than the earliest available appointment.
     Wang says that, after California’s Department of Managed Health Care levied a $4 million fine against Kaiser for “serious deficiencies” in providing access to those services, Kaiser began retaliating against employees who had been vocal advocates for patient access to mental health services.
     The fine came after the National Union of Healthcare Workers of which Wang was a representative filed a complaint against Kaiser in 2011, claiming the HMO regularly forced patients to endure illegally lengthy waiting times for appointments.
     The union picketed Kaiser’s California facilities in May 2015 to protest Wang’s firing.
     Following the DMHC’s fine, Wang said, Kaiser began “closely monitoring, scrutinizing and nitpicking” Wang’s patient charts, called him into periodic “coaching sessions” and made other retaliatory criticisms of his work.
     Kaiser eventually fired Wang, he says, on the pretext of “unsatisfactory job performance.”
     The psychologist sued The Permanente Medical Group on Wednesday for unlawful termination and wrongful termination, seeking injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees and special, general and punitive damages.
     He is represented by Jonathan Siegel, with Siegel Lewitter in Oakland, Calif.
     A Kaiser representative declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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