Retaliation and Wrongful Termination: California Family Physician Sues Major Health Organization

A retaliation and wrongful termination suit was filed by a prominent California family medicine physician against one of the largest health maintenance organizations in the nation, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center. Jay Espejo, M.D., M.P.H., claims he was fired in retaliation after he reported a colleague’s, John Miguel, M.D., pattern of misconduct, i.e. unnecessary prescriptions, and the clinic’s alleged long term pattern of providing medical treatment and prescriptions according to patient demand rather than what is actually medically necessary. Dr. Espejo was employed at the medical center since 2011 and was promoted to partner in June.

According to the suit, Dr. Espejo was fired only two weeks after his promotion to partner. He filed suit for wrongful termination and retaliation claiming that his firing was a result of his reporting that his fellow doctor exhibited a disturbing pattern that enabled “doctor shopping” and involved the prescribing of narcotic drugs without medical need apparent in the patient requesting the prescription. Dr. Espejo claims he saw his fellow physician, Dr. Miguel, provide prescriptions for patients who had histories of suspected drug abuse and who were also exhibiting easily identifiable drug-seeking behavior.

Dr. Espejo claims that Dr. Miguel’s behavior was in direct violation of the Controlled Substances Act on multiple occasions. Espejo’s legal counsel cites emailed responses from Kaiser Permanente regarding the violations as evidence that they created a culture in the workplace that both enabled and supported physicians catering to their patients’ demands, which enabled drug-seeking behavior and abuse, doctor shopping, etc. rather than providing the quality (and necessary) medical care that they should have been offering.

For questions or more information regarding wrongful termination as a result of speaking out against improper conduct in the workplace, please contact the southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.