March 30, 2015 - Belinda Branch worked as a medical assistant for Kaiser until her termination after 34 years on the job. In a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Ms. Branch claims that she was fired in retaliation for reporting HIPAA violations on the job. Kaiser claims the woman is not trustworthy.
Ms. Branch started work at Kaiser’s Parkview Building in 1978. In regular performance reviews over the course of her 34 years on the job with Kaiser, she was given “exemplary” status. In 2014, after reporting another Kaiser employee for HIPAA violations, Branch became the focus of an investigation.
According to allegations made by Branch, the medical information that was unlawfully released contained private and sensitive medical data (some of which came from the patient’s “General Surgery File.”) Branch claims she was called in to three separate meetings. At the first two, she was confronted by what she described as hostile “compliance” officers intent on an interrogation. In the third meeting in June of 2014, Branch was terminated. She claims she was given an ultimatum: either resign and be allowed unemployment benefits or be fired without access to unemployment benefits.
Branch also claims that the HR department advised her that she should write her resignation letter immediately. She was required to use the exact wording they provided her with or she would be fired on the spot with no chance to access unemployment. Branch claims that she did as requested, but only under what she described as “coercion and manipulation.”
To date, no known action has been taken against the employees who Branch reported as violating HIPAA by sharing patient information without consent. Branch noted in her complaint that all three of the employees involved in the act are younger and that they were treated more favorably.
Branch claims she was fired in retaliation for her whistle-blowing as well as age discrimination.
Branch sued for age discrimination and wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She is seeking general and special damages for loss of earnings (past and future), loss of benefits, damage to professional reputation, failure to advance, and loss of privileges on the job.
If you have questions regarding what constitutes wrongful termination or age discrimination according to California state labor law and federal employment law, contact the experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.