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Shocking treatment, retaliation against nurse with cancer alleged

In a case almost too shocking to comprehend, a veteran nurse is suing Kaiser hospitals over how the company dealt with her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. According to her complaint, Kaiser fired her after subjecting her to hostile mockery and took actions that directly put her health at risk.

Kaiser hired the 25-year veteran nurse in 2009. The following year, she was promoted to an assistant department administrator and given a significant raise, she says in the lawsuit. Unfortunately, in Oct. 2010 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and took medical leave for a double-mastectomy.

According to her lawsuit, when she returned her supervisors openly belittled her cancer and immediately subjected her to micromanagement and hostile criticism of her job performance. Moreover, Kaiser made no effort to accommodate her illness but scheduled her for the usual 60 hours per week almost right away.

In Feb. 2011, her cancer metastasized and she took an extended medical leave for chemotherapy. When she returned in August, she found herself forcibly transferred to a less prestigious position. Her new supervisor made it perfectly clear that she wanted the plaintiff to quit, even threatening to make her “hate her life” if she stayed.

She still needed weekly chemotherapy, but this supervisor found that inconvenient. Amazingly, the supervisor ordered her to work through her meal and rest breaks and take extra hours to “make up” the time spent in chemo.

Next, Kaiser transferred her to its flu program -- although it surely knew that chemotherapy weakens the immune system. In her case, exposure to infections like the flu could be catastrophic or even deadly and, indeed, her white blood count dropped. Her doctors warned her she could die if she continued working in the flu program, and she was forced to take yet another medical leave to get additional chemo and surgery.

When she returned this time, her supervisors called her into a meeting in which they repeatedly rolled their eyes at her, ridiculed her appearance and threatened her in a transparent effort to pressure her into quitting. When she didn’t, Kaiser again transferred her against her will.

Finally, when she requested more time off for chemotherapy, Kaiser denied the request and fired her.

She is suing for disability discrimination, denial of meal and rest breaks, retaliation and wrongful termination among other claims, and is seeking compensatory, punitive and exemplary damages, interest, and fees.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Kaiser Won't Let Nurse Get Chemo, She Says," Barbara Wallace, Oct. 29, 2013

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